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Western Illinois QB raises bar with stellar senior campaign
Leathernecks’ Matt Barr will be among school’s best when his career is done
Eight of the top 11 quarterbacks in Western Illinois history have played in the era of the FCS playoffs.
Matt Barr, the eighth, steadily climbed the charts and will finish his career in second place in career passing yardage whenever this season ends for the Leathernecks.
The key phrase there being whenever this season ends. The Leathernecks play Coastal Carolina in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs on Saturday.
Western’s at-large selection to the 20-team field will help keep the senior from being a mere footnote in Western’s history.
Only two of those quarterbacks failed to make a postseason appearance during their collegiate careers at Western.
“What has happened in 2010 is that you can say it will bump his status up once season comes to an end,” Western coach Mark Hendrickson said. “People want to talk about Leatherneck football and quarterbacks, Matt has distinguished himself in the difference he makes in a ballgame.”
Hendrickson points to last season as evidence when Barr suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth game of the season.
“We lost several games when Matt on sideline,” Hendrickson said. “It’s evident to see his leadership and playing ability.”
Barr threw for 1,300 yards as a redshirt freshman and sophomore, but has really blossomed this year in the no-huddle offense under new offensive coordinator Doug Ruse.
Barr’s confidence in the offense has shown all season.
“It’s a feeling that comes from preparation in practice,” Barr said. “We rep what we think is going to work.
And it has worked.
Barr has thrown for 3,079 yards and 26 touchdowns in 11 regular-season games. He also has completed 62 percent of his passes and has thrown just five interceptions.
“In practice he’s the same way,” wide receiver Lito Senatus said earlier this season. “He’s always able to find the open receiver. He never tries to force it, goes through is progressions and makes the right reads.”
Barr’s numbers were good enough for him to be nominated as a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the nation’s best FCS offensive player.
Barr also could be Western’s first Missouri Valley Football Conference offensive player of the year since 2003, when quarterback Russ Michna last led Western to the playoffs.
“Before and after several conference games the opposing coach paid some real first-class compliments that Matt has earned,” Hendrickson said. “After almost every game, the one player they wanted to shake hands with was Matt to congratulate him on a great season and great career.”
Both aren’t over just yet.
By Kevin Capie, Journal Star