Millikin Football Homecoming Preview

Caleb Buehrle

The Millikin football team hosts Carthage this week, looking to make it 3 straight wins and a
homecoming victory. In the home opener last week, the Big Blue took down Carroll to move to
2-1 on the season, riding the momentum of an overtime victory at Augustana. Jahlil Lipkin and
Marion McGhee stole the show on offense, with Lipkin turning in the best performance of his
collegiate career with 8 catches for 164 yards, and McGhee reaching the end zone 5 times in
the contest. The defense also allowed an eye-popping -4 yards on the ground (sacks included),
forcing Carroll to beat them through the air, which led to freshman Vincent Perkins’ 4th quarter
interception, and a 32-25 Millikin victory.
A Team On The Rise
Carthage’s team is certainly on the upswing. After suffering a blowout 46-7 loss at the hands of
#4 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, they have rallied back to take 2 in a row from Elmhurst
and then Illinois Wesleyan, scoring 96 points between the 2 games.
They’ve found success under Freshman quarterback Bryce Lowe. He was not the starter for
game 1, but earned playing time and eventually took the reins in the 2nd quarter against
Elmhurst, and never gave them back. Last week against Illinois Wesleyan, the Florida native
threw for 301 yards and 4 touchdowns, en route to CCIW Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“He’s a really good quarterback who’s mobile, but more importantly delivers the ball on time and
where it’s supposed to go in an accurate manner,” said Millikin head coach Dan Gritti.
The Big Plays
The Carthage team is characterized by an ability to create explosive plays. Lowe plays a big
part in that, but there are players all over the field that can create big plays by themselves too.
Receivers Eddie Ell III and Sylvere Campbell are prime examples of this. Ell III, a 5’9 junior, has
3 touchdowns in his last 2 games, and is also an electric kick returner, taking one 94 yards to
the house this past spring against the Big Blue. Campbell had a huge breakout game last week
against Wesleyan, bringing in 7 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown, including a 60-yard
bomb. The freshman’s performance has caught the eye of coaches around the league. “He’s
going to be a stud,” said Gritti. “He reminds me of a young [Colton] Lockwood.” Running back
Noel Wright II has also been a big part of the offensive push. The sophomore has run for 237
yards and 2 touchdowns over the last 2 games. As a whole, the Firebird offense has tallied 884
yards of total offense against Elmhurst and Wesleyan, and will look to continue that this week
against the Big Blue.
Cooling down the Firebirds
Stopping a red-hot offense is never an easy task, but the Big Blue are tasked with it this week in
front of a homecoming crowd looking to push the team to a 3-1 record.
At the core of Millikin’s defensive success this year has been a run defense that allowed -4
yards last week, and only 66 against Augustana the week before. Making a team
one-dimensional and forcing them to pass has been a focus for the defensive line, a group that
has also started to put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks as of late, led by reigning CCIW
defensive player of the week Quinton Miller. Limiting the big plays that Carthage has been so
good at early on in this season has also been a focus. “We want to really make them drive the
field,” said Gritti. “If we make them do that, then they aren’t going to be as successful.”
Despite 2 huge offensive performances last week, Vincent Perkins may have made the play of
the game. As Carroll was driving down the field trying to tie the game in the 4th quarter, the

freshman defensive back stepped up and got the pick Millikin needed. “If there was one play
that really won us the game, it was that one.” Even bigger was the fact that Perkins was playing
due to an injury, and still didn’t let the moment get too big for him, something Gritti attributed to
the team’s “next man up” mentality.
Building on offense
The last 2 weeks have shown a Big Blue offense with multiple facets. In years past, Millikin has
been a team that has relied on skill positions to make big plays in order to score points, and
they had the personnel to do it. This year, Millikin has been a “ground and pound” team, led by a
veteran offensive line and the ability to run the football down a team’s throat. This adds another
dimension to their offense Gritti says has not been there in the past, and allows the Big Blue to
do so much more in the pass game. At the head of the RB room is the aforementioned McGhee.
“[He is] such a natural running back,” Gritti said. “He just sees things that only a natural running
back can see.” Tyson Roedl has shown well for the Big Blue as well, chipping in about 200
yards on the ground this year, including 134 and a touchdown against Augustana when
McGhee was sidelined.
The receiving corps is led by a strong top 2 in Colton Lockwood, a senior and 2021 spring
All-American who even after registering 23 yards last week, has 303 yards on the year, to go
along with 4 scores (2 each in the first 2 games), and Jahlil Lipkin, a Moorpark CC transfer who
had a breakout game last week, racking up 164 yards on 8 grabs.
Beating the Firebirds
To beat Carthage, the game plan will be more of the same.
The Big Blue will look to continue to run the football effectively and repeatedly, wearing down
the Carthage defense and giving their own time to rest. One area that could be in play this week
more than in past weeks is the big pass play. Over the last 3 games Carthage has allowed 9
touchdowns through the air, 6 of which were for 20 or more yards, and 3 that were 45+ yards.
Big plays will be available for Millikin’s receivers to take advantage of. Carthage has also
allowed 408 rushing yards this season. The Big Blue offense is sure to take advantage of these
holes in the Firebirds defense.
Stopping the run as usual will be big this week. Carthage has a good passing attack, but taking
the run out of the equation and making the Firebirds exclusively pass the ball will make things a
lot tougher to take down the Big Blue.