Millikin Goes Back to Work

Sometimes, winning isn’t enough. It’s not just about the win. It’s about how you achieved the win.

That was the case Millikin’s football team. The Big Blue won their season opener against non-conference Hope College. The game was a back and forth game, that resulted in a come from behind win by Millikin. The Big Blue defeated the Flying Dutchmen 25-21.

Having had a couple days to let the win sink in, head coach Dan Gritti is ready to share his thoughts on the outcome and game as a whole.

While Gritti was pleased with the result, he was not content with the execution.
Mental errors had been prevalent throughout the preseason, and once again appeared in the season opener. Gritti believes that the mental mistakes played a role in the team’s struggles against Hope College.

“It was disappointing from that standpoint,” Gritti said. “Some basic stuff that we just mentally weren’t able to execute the way we were supposed to do.”

The offense played well, but still dealt with a fair share of problems. There were two fumbles on the offensive side of the ball, and several dropped balls by receivers. The offensive mistakes came in critical situations that prevented the Big Blue from putting the game away.

“I think we had seven or eight drops by our wide receivers,” Gritti said. “Especially in some critical situations that could have put the game away.”

From a defensive standpoint, the Big Blue struggled early on. But when their backs were against the wall in the second half, they stepped up and made some big plays that ultimately sealed the victory for Millikin.

With that being said, the defensive mistakes could have created a bigger deficit, and hurt the team in a significant way.

“The mistakes the secondary made, directly related to 14 points,” Gritti said. “And really could have related to 28 points. But we were able to be lucky on a couple of the plays where we escaped without too much damage happening to us.”

Although the team didn’t play to its potential, Gritti appreciated the fight and the team’s resiliency throughout.

“I appreciated the fight of the team, and being able to keep fighting so we could come back late,” Gritti said.

Gritti attributes the team’s strength to tenacity, and believes one of the biggest plays of the game came on a blocked extra point.

“The play of the game, we get that first extra point blocked, and Marcus Hayes runs 70 yards to tackle the guy, so they don’t get another two,” Gritti said. “If they had gotten the two, they would have been in position to kick a field goal to beat us in the end.”

There is not doubt that the team played hard. Unfortunately, playing hard, doesn’t guarantee success.

“Playing hard is just the ticket for admission,” Gritti said. “We need to be able to do everything mentally right to make it worthwhile.”

With the CCIW being one of the toughest conferences, Gritti knows that the team’s performance on Friday, won’t cut it, as the season continues. And with the CCIW only having lost one game, he believes that his team has to improve immensely, if it wants to be a contender.

“We are nowhere near where we need to be, Gritti said. “We got a lot of room where we need to improve.

Fortunately, the Big Blue have a bye week this week, and can iron out all of their issues before they kick off against North Park. Kick off is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 15.