The Big Blue Take One Step Back


Millikin won their season opener against Greenville last week, and was looking to stay perfect with a win against Rose Hulman in their home opener. The game started with a Chase Volpert penalty on the opening kickoff. This penalty began what became a game of continual penalties. 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. Coach Gritti said he didn’t want his quarterback to run unless necessary, but it ended up being necessary; it’s a good thing Stepina did run, because he went 72 yards to the end zone to score. With a Volpert extra point, Millikin led Rose Hulman 7­0 early in the first.

This is where things started to turn for Millikin. On a bad exchange between Stepina and his Running Back George Jimmerson, the ball was fumbled. Rose Hulman recovered deep in Big Blue territory. Rose Hulman couldn’t get their offense going, and Millikin held them to a field goal. The Big Blue offense continued to struggle, and a few dropped balls forced Millikin to punt. Rose Hulman eventually scored on a Swenson quarterback draw, giving them a 10­7 lead.

After a big passing play, the Big Blue was penalized for a delay of game; the penalty squashed a gain in momentum from Millikin. Coach Gritti was not happy.

On Rose Hulman’s next drive, Millikin defender Mykal Neal intercepted a pass, but defensive pass interference was called. Rose Hulman and Millikin went back and forth for a while before Rose Hulman scored on a safety.

The next Rose Hulman drive was atrocious, for Millikin that is. Things were starting to look up when Millikin forced a 4th down, but a call of unsportsmanlike conduct negated it. A barrage of penalties then lead to an easy touchdown for Rose Hulman. There six penalties against Millikin on that one drive alone. Gritti probably had a lot to say at halftime about his team’s loss of composure. Regardless of how one feels about the calls from officials, the important thing is to keep your focus. It was highly evident that Millikin’s focus was lacking. At the half, Rose Hulman lead 19­7.

The second half was not much better. Rose Hulman tacked on another touchdown. Millikin managed to answer back with a shovel pass to David Jackson. But Millikin’s efforts weren’t enough, as Rose Hulman stuck it out to win with a final score of 26­14.

Stepina finished the day with 257 yards passing and a touchdown. He also had 83 yards rushing with one touchdown. David Jackson lead all receivers with 133 yards and a touchdown. 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.” 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 the team can definitely learn from their mistakes and gain the maturity needed. Many coaches and teams may lose confidence with a tough loss like this, but it is clear that that is far from the case. After speaking with the coach, it was evident that mental mistakes factored into Millikin’s poor performance. “It wasn’t so much the big picture, but the small things that gave wayside, and lost us the ball game,” Coach Gritti said after the game.

This loss has just motivated Millikin, and the Big Blue are hungrier than ever. They will face North Central on Saturday September 24 at 6 p.m.