Millikin Big Blue Game 2 Recap

The day started off with high hopes for the Millikin football team. Coming off a win at Greenville College, the Big Blue were looking to stay perfect with a win against Rose Hulman in their 2016 home opener.

The game started with a Chase Volpert penalty on the opening kickoff. This penalty set the tone for the rest of the game. Rose Hulman drove down the field on their first possession, but did not score. On Millikin’s first drive, they struggled in the passing game. Quarterback Nicco Stepina was missing his receivers. With the passing game failing, offensive coordinator Brent Barnes took a risk. He designed a quarterback draw. It’s a good thing Stepina did run, because he went 72 yards to the endzone on that run. With a Volpert extra point, Millikin led Rose Hulman 7-­0 early in the first.

Rose Hulman got the ball back, but they didn’t do much. They had to punt the ball away. This is where things start to turn for Millikin. On a bad exchange between Stepina and his running back, George Jimmerson, the ball is fumbled. Rose Hulman recovered the ball deep in Big Blue territory. Rose Hulman couldn’t get the offense going, and Millikin held them to a field goal. On Millikin’s next drive, the offense struggled again. A few dropped balls forced Millikin to punt. Drops hindered Millikin’s offense. There were more than five dropped passes from the receivers. Rose Hulman would eventually score on a Swenson quarterback draw, putting them up 10-7.

The Big Blue defense was wide awake in the second quarter. Rose Hulman missed a field goal on their first drive. Stepina fired a pass to his receiver Gerald Perry, but the Big Blue were then penalized for delay of game. Coach Gritti was not happy, and he blamed it on their mental mistakes, claiming “it wasn’t so much the big picture, but the small things that gave wayside, and lost us the ball game.” Millikin turned the ball over on downs, after a bad snap led to a Volpert miss. This was yet another missed opportunity.

Millikin’s defense was not impressive on Rose Hulman’s next drive. Things were starting to look up when Millikin forced a 4th down for Rose Hulman, but an unsportsmanlike conduct negated the stop. Then, a barrage of penalties would lead to an easy touchdown for Rose Hulman. A multitude of yellow flags covered the green turf. This meant six penalties on Millikin on that drive alone. Dan Gritti had made it clear he wanted his team to make aggressive mistakes, but he didn’t mean getting kicked out of the game. Gritti probably had a lot to say at halftime about his team’s lack of composure. Regardless of how one feels about the calls from officials, the important thing is to keep your focus. It was very evident that focus was beginning to falter.

The second half was not much better. Rose Hulman tacked on another score with a Kevin Dufauchard touchdown run. Millikin scored again on a Stepina shovel pass to David Jackson. Rose Hulman won by a score of 26-14.

Stepina finished the day with 257 yards of passing and a touchdown. He also had 83 yards of rushing with one touchdown. David Jackson led all receivers with 133 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps the biggest stat of the day was not a good one. Millikin had 12 penalties for a total of 95 yards. Although Coach Gritti was unhappy with the penalties, he did like the fight he saw in his guys. “I thought we fought and played well til the end.” They never gave up, even when things weren’t going their way. They were in it until time ran out. As far as penalties go, Gritti believes the mental mistakes have a lot to do with his team’s lack of maturity due to their young age. He does believe that his team can definitely learn from these mistakes and gain the maturity needed. Many coaches and teams may lose confidence with a tough loss like this, but it is clear that is far from the case. This will motivate Millikin, and the Big Blue are hungrier than ever.

They will face North Central on Saturday September 24th at 6 p.m., which will be anything but a walk in the park.