Western Michigan rows the boat over Illini, run game nonexistent

Illinois+running+back+KeShawn+Vaughn+%285%29+tries+to+run+the+ball+down+the+sideline+during+the+game+against+Western+Michigan+at+Memorial+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+September+17.+The+Illini+lost+34-10.

Quentin Shaw

Illinois running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn (5) tries to run the ball down the sideline during the game against Western Michigan at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 17. The Illini lost 34-10.

By Cole Henke, Staff writer

The Western Michigan football team entered the game Saturday with the same defensive philosophy as it does every game: Stop the run.

With just three Illini rushing yards, the Broncos’ succeeded in their plan on the way to a 34-10 win over the Illini.

Western Michigan threw an extra defender in the box in the first half, clogging up all running lanes for Illini running backs Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Kendrick Foster.

Vaughn and Foster were non-factors in the game, running the ball a combined 10 times. In their first two games, the two combined for 48 rushing attempts.

“Going into the football game, we all knew that, like it is in most games, but more so this game, (would rely) on how our lines did,” Smith said. “On how our offensive line blocked them, and how our defensive line stopped their running attack. I don’t think we did either of those.”

The Illini offensive line struggled all day trying to contain the Broncos’ defense, which recorded nine tackles for a loss. Quarterback Wes Lunt was sacked four times on Saturday.

The extra player in the box combined with an offensive line that wasn’t at full strength proved too much. Freshman Gabe Megginson sat out with a leg injury he suffered in the game against North Carolina. Tackle Austin Schimdt was injured in the first quarter, but later returned to play.

“We gave up too many sacks,” offensive lineman Joe Spencer said. “I don’t know the exact numbers right now, but we just never got it going. We have to take that personally. We had some lanes open up, and Wes threw the ball really well today, but when our numbers called (as a line) we have to step up, and I am not sure that we did that.”

With the running game never taking off, the need for offense fell to Lunt. The captain threw for 312 yards, going 29-for-42. The most completions he had so far this season was 17 against North Carolina,

According to Lunt, when Western Michigan threw an extra player in the box, it made it easier to find his 42 passes, which were more than he threw in either game this season.

“That was emphasis this week, taking shots down the field,” Lunt said. “We took more shots this week than we did in the past two weeks. I thought our guys did a good job of running down field, and a lot of it was man to man, so it is just you versus them, and you just got to win it.”

After starting the season with a 52-3 win over Murray State, the Illini have only scored 33 points in their last two games.

The offense has not been able to sustain consistent drives in its last two games. In the game against North Carolina, the Illini were forced to punt on seven straight possessions. While the Illini didn’t have to punt on seven straight possessions, they did punt on eight of their 14 drives.

The fans were not happy with the offense either. They booed the team when Lunt threw a sweep pass and the Illini failed to complete a first down.

“You go into the season expecting to win every game,” Smith said. “You know nonconference football games, I think most people expect to win games at home. We have had three nonconference home games now, yes the plan was to win more than one.”

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