Western Illinois lost 42-25 in the opener at nationally ranked FCS foe UT Martin, the first game under head coach Myers Hendrickson. The Leathernecks, who went 4-25 over the last three years, were picked in the Missouri Valley preseason poll to finish last in the stacked 11-team league. Hendrickson played wide receiver for Western Illinois from 2009-11.
The Gophers, after dominating New Mexico State during their opening 38-0 victory over New Mexico State, will have another opportunity to maintain that momentum against an overmatched opponent in every way. The defense could use more work, actually, after a program-record-low 33 plays were run by the Aggies, whose 91 total yards were the fewest by an FBS team in a game so far this season.
Western Illinois WR Naseim Brantley vs. Minnesota CBs Justin Walley, Terell Smith and Michael Dixon. Brantley had six catches for 171 yards and three TDs against the Skyhawks in his Leathernecks debut. The fifth-year player transferred from Sacred Heart.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Western Illinois: Anthony Quinney, who’s listed on the depth chart at the rover position, a linebacker-safety hybrid, had a team-high 15 tackles (one for loss) against UT Martin in his Leathernecks debut. He’s a junior college transfer.
Minnesota: TE Brevyn Spann-Ford, who’s primed this season for his most prominent role yet both as a receiver and a blocker, had two receptions for 29 yards in the opener.
Minnesota beat Western Illinois 29-12 at home on Sept. 14, 2013, in the only previous meeting between the two schools. … The Gophers are 15-1 in nonconference and bowl games under coach P.J. Fleck, the fifth-best record in the FBS during that span behind Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma State and Iowa. … Illinois accounts for the most out-of-state players (12) on Minnesota’s roster. Fleck and three of his assistant coaches are also Illinois natives. … The Gophers are 60-4 all-time against programs currently in the FCS. Their last such loss was to North Dakota State in 2011. … Minnesota RB Mohamed Ibrahim has a school-record streak of 10 straight games with 100-plus rushing yards.
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