Digging Deep

It’s no surprise that Millikin has faced some distractions in the last week. After being at the center of a controversy surrounding the national anthem, the Big Blue looked to earn their first consecutive win since 2012.

Millikin traveled to face winless Carroll University. With distractions seeming to possibly plague the Big Blue, the Pioneers looked to pounce on a mentally fatigued Millikin team.  

The Pioneers came out fired up. They drove down the field early in the first quarter and scored first. Millikin wouldn’t let this deter them, as they fought back and scored on their opening drive.

After having the game of his life last week, throwing six touchdowns and no interceptions, Stepina struggled a bit. He accounted for three touchdowns but also threw three interceptions.

According to Coach Dan Gritti, the most important play from his quarterback was perhaps not his offensive tactics but his defensive tactics.

After throwing his third interception, it looked as if the defender for Carroll was going to waltz his way into the end zone for a pick six. Because of his tenacious attitude, Stepina was able to make a touchdown saving tackle.

“Nicco’s biggest play of the game is nothing he did effectively as an offensive player. It’s the tackle he makes on the third interception, where he tackles the guy at the three, we hold them to negative six yards on the next three plays to force a field goal,” Gritti said.

This kept the Big Blue on top, leading 13-10. This stop is perhaps the defining point of the game and is what led the Big Blue to victory. Carroll would have a few more opportunities to score, but failed to capitalize. Millikin would tack on two more scores, and the final would read 22-10.

For the most part, this game was somewhat flat, but a win is a win.

“We played well enough to win,” Gritti said

The offense dug deep, and the defense held Carroll to only a touchdown and field goal. Last week Stepina was the CCIW player of the week. This week, linebacker Matt Brown continued the success by earning the CCIW Defensive Player of the Week award. Brown had 11 tackles, three tackles for losses, and two sacks to help the defense hold Carroll to 10 points.

Despite distractions and a slow start, Millikin dug deep and found a way to win their second straight game and move to 4-3.

The Big Blue will face another conference rival in Carthage next, and they look to remain above 500. It’s going to be a tough one, and Gritti is aware of this.

“They are an old school, smash mouth football team. They’re going to line up and try to run the ball down our throats.” Gritti said

Despite all of the controversy surrounding the team, the Big Blue looks to continue their winning streak.