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Road trip: Drake travels to Western Illinois

Story by Austin Cannon

The Drake football team heads to Macomb, Illinois, to play the Western Illinois Leathernecks tomorrow.

Junior Tight End Eric Saubert (left) celebrates with teammate Jack Beck after scoring Drake’s lone touchdown in regulation. Senior Quarterback Andy Rice (right) recieves the snap in the first quarter of Drake’s thrilling overtime win over Truman State on Saturday at Drake Stadium. Drake plays at Western Illinois Saturday.  PHOTO BY JOEL VENZKE

Junior Tight End Eric Saubert (left) celebrates with teammate Jack Beck after scoring Drake’s lone touchdown in regulation. PHOTO BY JOEL VENZKE

Drake (1-1) beat Truman State last week and looks to continue that success against the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s Leathernecks.

“We are very fortunate we get to play a Missouri Valley team,” said fifth-year senior defensive lineman Matt Acree. “They’re the premier conference for our FCS division, so we’re stoked that we get to go into their place and play them.”

While still early in the season, this Week 3 game could have implications for the FCS playoffs.

“So when we make the playoffs,” said head coach Rick Fox, “we will be playing the second-place team in the Missouri Valley Conference because the first place team in the Missouri Valley Conference will get a bye, and the second-place team is going to be close to us.

“That’s what we hope to do. Get into the playoffs and advance in the playoffs, so we’ve got to get used to this kind of competition.”

Western Illinois played Wisconsin last week and held the Badgers to nine points in the first half. Pair that with Drake’s 13-7 overtime victory on Saturday, and it could be another defensive battle.

“It certainly could be,’ Fox said. “Now, offensively, we’re going to do everything to make sure it’s not that, while hoping our defense continues to play the way it did last week.”

While there was no real change in preparation for the trip to Macomb, it’s still the Bulldogs’ first 2014 game away from Drake Stadium. And the WIU crowd will be rowdy after its team’s good first half at Wisconsin.

“I’m sure that got their fan base excited,” Fox said. “I would expect it to be a big crowd, and think we’ll have a big crowd because we always travel really well.”

Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Fans in Des Moines can listen to the action on 1350 AM KRNT.


At a glance: Western Illinois 

Nickname: Leathernecks

Location: Macomb, Illinois

Enrollment: 11,707

Conference: Missouri Valley Football

Coach: Bob Nielsen (175-68-1)

2014 Record: 1-1, lost to Wisconsin last week, 37-3

Record vs. Drake: 6-5, won last meeting in 2002, 64-7

Player to watch: Sophomore quarterback Trenton Norvell. Norvell (6-5, 220 lbs.) completed over 71 percent of his passes in WIU’s Week 1 win over PFL opponent Valparaiso.

Stat to know: WIU is 10-for-23 (43 percent) on third down conversions in 2014. That’s 20 percent better than Drake’s 7-for-31 rate.


Just a friendly reminder

While Drake is in the Missouri Valley Conference for almost every other sport, it is not for football. Instead, the Bulldogs reside in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League.

Drake played in the MVC until 1985, when it left to pursue the current non-scholarship program. Drake won six conference titles, its last coming in 1981.


Drake vs. the MVFC

Since 2000, the Bulldogs haven’t faired too well against its former conference.

Drake is 1-10 against the MVFC in that time, including a 45-14 debacle last season at Northern Iowa.

The Bulldogs will keep at it after this season too, as they agreed to a three-game series with South Dakota State.


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