Millikin football falls to Elmhurst, moves to 2-3


Caleb Buehrle

The Millikin football team suffered its worst loss of the season, dropping a road contest at the hands of Elmhurst by a score of 28-7. The Big Blue were blanked in the first half, and went into the locker room trailing 7-0 after the Blue Jays found the end zone on a 37 yard touchdown pass from Noah Henkel to Winston Brown with 2:54 to play in the first half, the first of 2 touchdown connections for the pair. 

The 2nd half was no kinder to Millikin. The first play Millikin ran ended in QB Cal Pohrte’s 2nd turnover of the day, this time a costly fumble that turned into a 23-yard scoop and score for Bryce Gable, his 2nd defensive touchdown of the season. 

Millikin’s lone touchdown came on a pass from backup QB Aidan Lombardo to Antonio Brown, when a tipped ball ended up in the freshman wideout’s hands and he took it the rest of the way home for a 75-yard score. 

Credit where it’s due

Elmhurst, to this point in the season, has played subpar football, to say the least. The Blue Jays had notched just 3 offensive touchdowns in 4 games on their way to an 0-4 record. On paper, this looked like a safe bet for a Big Blue victory. 

“That’s why they play the game,” as the saying goes…

The entire Elmhurst defense earns MVP honors for their performance this week in shutting down a Millikin offense averaging 33.5 PPG through the first 4 weeks. 

A rushing attack going for about 130 yards and 2.5 touchdowns a game was absolutely silenced, totaling just 47 yards and no scores on the ground, despite 32 attempts. The Big Blue passing attack was not halted as greatly, but Elmhurst picked Millikin’s quarterbacks off twice, and forced 2 fumbles, recovering the aforementioned return for a touchdown. 

Playing without its best weapon in wide receiver Colton Lockwood, Millikin was going to need to rely on its running game to pick up the slack. Elmhurst took the offense completely out of its rhythm and very well could have shut Millikin out had that tipped ball not fortunately found Antonio Brown’s hands. 

Bryce Gable registered 2.5 of the team’s 10 TFL’s, picked off Aidan Lombardo late in the 3rd quarter, and recovered a fumble at the start of the quarter, taking it to the house to make it 14-0 Elmhurst. Corner Jeremy Inniss broke up 2 passes and registered his first interception of the season at the end of the 1st quarter. Tanner King also had 2 TFL’s on the day, including 1.5 sacks, part of the team’s 4 on the day, the most Millikin has given up in a game thus far in the season. 

Turnovers killing the Big Blue

What was a slight concern at the beginning of this season has turned into a glaring problem plaguing this year’s team. Millikin has out-gained opposing offenses 2524-1944, out-rushing them by 275 yards, and out-passing them by 305. The reason, however, that they are still getting beaten, is that they have turned the ball over so many times. 10 interceptions and 7 fumbles have halted way too many drives for the Big Blue. If Millikin can just hold onto the football and so much as slow down the rate they’re giving it away, they will find the end zone at a higher clip. These giveaways are the difference between wins and losses for Millikin. 

Big plays hurt Millikin again on defense

Allowing big pass plays over the top of the Big Blue defense has been the Achilles heel of the defense this season. As usual, the defensive front neutralized Elmhurst’s run game, holding them to just 50 yards. For the most part, the pass game was silent, too. But explosive plays hurt Millikin again, with the 2 passing touchdowns coming from 37 and 23 yards out, and Elmhurst’s first rushing touchdown of the season came from 19 yards out. 

When Millikin is able to force opposing offenses to drive all the way down the field to score, more often than not they are successful. But when they allow big plays to beat them, these are the types of results that happen.

A damaging loss

The goal for this team to start the season was to finish above the .500 mark. Halfway through the season, however, Millikin has fallen short of where they realistically needed to be in order to make that happen. They just finished the “easier” part of their schedule, and now sit at 2-3. With Wash U, North Central (#1 in the nation), and Wheaton (#6 in the nation) left on the schedule, not to mention arch-rival Illinois Wesleyan, Millikin has their work cut out for them in order to reach their goal. With the recent trend of how this team is looking, it does not look optimistic that they will take out one of those first 3 teams, and there don’t appear to be any more games on the schedule one would be able to call easy wins anymore.