First Came the Thunder, then Came the Lightning

Courtesy+of+Quad+Cities-+Online

Courtesy of Quad Cities- Online

Dominique Bates, Staff Writer

Last week the Big Blue battled the Thunder, and this week they battled the lightning.

Literally.

The Millikin football team traveled to Augustana College to face off against the Vikings.

What started off as a fight against just the Vikings, turned into a battle against the weather as well.

Millikin had to fight through three lightning delays, pouring rain, and a resilient Augustana football team in order to gain their fifth win.

Trailing late in the second quarter, Millikin put together a scoring drive that cut the Augustana lead to 10-7.

Augustana kept that lead heading into the locker room.

Millikin was not deterred, as they had been in this spot before, down at the half, and have proven to be a team that excels when their backs are against the wall.

When Millikin returned, they tried to pick up where they left off, but a weather delay forced the Big Blue back into the locker room.

Due to a field goal early in the third, Augustana led 13-7 at the first delay.

Forty minutes later, the teams returned to the field. But due to the delay, the momentum was shifted back in Augustana’s favor.

This was partially due to the fact that the Big Blue were plagued by special teams miscues in the game.

A blocked punt led to a touchdown for Augustana, leaving Millikin trailing 20-7

But they answered right back.

On the ensuing drive, freshman Jazontae Howard ran the ball down the throats of the Vikings and took it deep into Augustana territory with a 55 yard run. Sophomore Antoine Scott then pounded the ball into the end zone for a one yard score.

After a failed point after, the Big Blue still trailed by seven.

The Blue got even closer to tying the game after junior quarterback Nicco Stepina found freshman Tyrice Hines for a 22 yard touchdown. However, another failed extra point kept Augustana on top by a score of 20-19.

Augustana extended their lead with another touchdown.

Trailing 27-19, Millikin began to drive down the field, only to be stalled by a second lightning delay.

With 8:10 remaining in the game, the game was at a stand still once again.

After a 2 hour delay, and talks of suspending the game until Sunday, Millikin went back to work, picking up where they left off.

Stepina connected with his favorite target, sophomore receiver Jordan Smith, for a 27 yard touchdown. After struggling on extra point attempts, coach Dan Gritti decided to go for two.

Unfortunately the result wasn’t any better, as they could not convert the two point conversion.

Augustana led 27-25.

Just when the Big Blue thought the weather had subsided, Mother Nature decided to throw one more curve ball.

Another lightning delay was issued, and the teams headed back into their respective locker rooms with 3:54 left on the game clock.

When the Big Blue returned, Stepina managed to drive his team down the field. But, it wasn’t an offensive player that capped off Millikin’s final drive.

It was a special teams leader, senior kicker Ben Spelman.

After Augustana forced the Big Blue into a fourth down situation, Gritti went to his kicker.

A senior who had spent all his life on the soccer field, the weight of the entire Millikin squad was on his shoulders.

There was much hype surrounding him, after hitting field goals from over 50 yards in practice, but the only time he was ever called upon in a game before to put three up on the scoreboard, he could not convert.

It was time for redemption.

Spelman capitalized on the opportunity, drilling a 27 yard field goal to put the Big Blue up 28-27.

With 1:01 left in the game, Augustana put together an impressive drive of their own. They drove all the way down to Millikin’s five yard line. But a personal foul call costed them fifteen yards.

With seven seconds left on the clock, Augustana’s field goal unit trotted out to attempt a 40 yarder.

And five seconds later, two words echoed through the heads of the Big Blue.

No good.

The missed field goal, missed wide right, gave the Big Blue the ball with two seconds remaining, and Stepina took the snap and took a knee.

The Big Blue were finally able to walk off the field, seven hours later. But this time, the clock read zero, and they were walking off to the locker rooms for the first time all game on top.

Spelman’s first career field goal just so happened to be a game winner.

This win has proven that Millikin is a team that shines when the pressure is on.

“We think less and go out and play,” Gritti said. “Rather than worrying about all these extraneous factors, when the pressure is on, it forces us to focus.”

Millikin improves to 5-1, and 3-1 in conference play. Next week, they will take on Carroll University at Frank M. Lindsay Field, with kickoff scheduled for 1 pm.