Big Blue Football 2018 Season Recap

After finishing with one of the best records in more than a decade,  7-3 in 2017, the Big Blue were looking to pick up where they left off.

The season started off on a positive note. Just like last season, the Big Blue won their first two games, to kick off the season.

It all started with a 25-21 win, against non-conference, Hope College.

The following week, the Big Blue was on a bye. After the bye, Millikin started conference play. The Big Blue rolled North Park University, 48-27. While the Big Blue won by three touchdowns, the score was deceiving. The Millikin football team did not play to its’ potential, and it showed.  The Big Blue knew that they would have to kick it up a notch the next week, if they wanted to come away with a victory.

The third game of the season proved to be Millikin’s toughest match up. Last season, Millikin shocked everyone when they defeated 13th ranked, Wheaton  College. The loss ultimately ended Wheaton’s season. This season, the Big Blue knew they had a target on their backs. From the start of the game, it was obvious that Wheaton was ready to go. The Thunder came out of the gates, with a fire in their eyes. They controlled the game from start to finish. Wheaton College dominated Millikin in all three phases of the game. Offense, defense, and special teams. The Big Blue just didn’t have an answer. Wheaton went on to beat Millikin, 63-6, thus handing the Big Blue their first loss of the season.

After their poor showing against Wheaton College, the Big Blue took on Augustana College. Last season, the Big Blue clawed their way to a 28-27 victory. This season, Millikin would be face to face with déjà vu. The two teams battled for 60 minutes, and in the end, it was Millikin who ended up on top. The Big Blue won by a score of 28-27.

Game five, proved to be Millikin’s best game, in terms of score. The Big Blue dominated Carroll University, and went on to win 55-10. The highlight of the game, was senior quarterback, Nicco Stepina’s performance. Stepina played lights out, and tied his own record for touchdown passes in a game, with seven. Three of those touchdowns were on connections from Stepina to junior receiver Jordan Smith. The victory, pushed Millikin’s record to 4-1, and 3-1 in conference play.

The following week was all about overcoming adversity.  In the past, the Big Blue had fallen short to Carthage College.  The last time they beat Carthage, was in 2013. This season, they were hoping to rewrite the script. The team would have to rewrite it without its’ leader, as Stepina went down with an injury, at the end of the first half. Sophomore quarterback, Cal Pohrte would enter the game, and would step up in a big way. Pohrte threw the winning touchdown to Smith. The touchdown reception led to Smith breaking Jeff Query’s record for touchdown receptions in a career, with 30.  Pohrte helped lead the Big Blue to a 32-29 win, against Carthage College, thus keeping Millikin’s playoff hopes alive.

The Big Blue defeated Elmhurst College, 14-13, in a freezing cold, windy battle. Once again, Stepina was out, and Pohrte was forced to step up. The win, extended the record to 6-1, and 5-1 in conference play.

The remaining three games would prove to be the toughest games, and  would all end in losses. First, Millikin lost to rival Illinois Wesleyan, 49-32. Then, they fell in a nail-biter to Washington University, 49-42. Lastly, the team lost to North Central College, 55-12.

The Big Blue finished the season, with a record of 6-4, and 5-4 in conference play.. Not where the Big Blue wanted to be, but they certainly have a lot to be proud of.  The team faced a lot of adversity this year, as it was riddled with injuries. But, they battled through, adopted the next man up mentality, and never gave up.

The Big Blue had three players honored by the CCIW.  Stepina and junior offensive lineman ,Jackson Delfosse, were named to the All-Conference Second Team. Smith was named to First Team.

Smith ended the season with 60 receptions for 1,044 yards. He is the first Millikin receiver to reach 1,000 yards in a season. Smith also finished with 17 touchdowns, making his career total 37.

Stepina ended the season with 2,519 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Delfosse proved to be a key blocker for an offense that averaged 442 total offensive yards. He also served on a line, that ranked second in the conference in sacks allowed, at 18.