On a perfect autumn afternoon in Kenosha, Wis., the Carthage College football team (4-1, 1-1 CCIW) scored 34 unanswered points to upend CCIW-opponent and No. 40 Millikin University (3-2, 0-2 CCIW), 48-24, on Saturday, Oct. 9 in the Red Men's homecoming game at Art Keller Field.
Millikin had a 24-14 lead midway through the second period. Carthage struck first when defensive back Brian Hipchen returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown on the Big Blue's opening drive. Millikin came right back with a 52-yard scoring drive that quarterback Luke Hockaday capped with a one-yard carry at 9:16. The Big Blue took a 14-7 lead at 6:06 on a 63-yard scoring drive that ended with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Hockaday to Erik Tobey. A 26-yard field goal by the Big Blue's Chris Hunt at 2:13 gave Millikin a 17-7 lead, and a two-yard TD carry by Hockaday at 2:46 second period gave the Big Blue their 10-point lead, 24-14.
The game turned around on the next Carthage drive. On fourth-and-16 on their own 28-yard line, Millikin was whistled for a roughing the kicker call on a Tyler Funk punt. The Red Men retained possession and moved the ball all the way to the Millikin 10-yard line, where Funk converted a 27-yard field goal as time ran out in the first half to narrow the gap to 24-17. Millikin tailback Dion Wilson fumbled on his own 15-yard line early in the second half, and three plays later, Carthage running back Jake Smith scored on a five-yard carry, and the Red Men tied the game, 24-24.
Brian Hipchen's second interception return for a touchdown, this one a 48-yard effort at 9:47 third period put Carthage up to stay, 31-24. Quarterback Evan Jones hooked up with Chris Schulz on a 67-yard touchdown pass at 1:25 third period to put the Red Men up, 38-24. Funk's second field goal, a 26-yarder, at 11:44 fourth quarter made it 41-24, and a 12-yard TD run by Marty Dwyer at 2:52 closed out the scoring at 48-24.
Millikin gained 404 total offensive yards, 146 rushing and 258 yards passing, while Carthage had 349 total yards, 186 on the ground and 163 in the air. Red Men quarterback Evan Jones completed just eight-of-18 passes for 163 yards, with Chris Schulz catching four passes for 119 yards. Jake Smith ran for a career-high 155 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Millikin quarterback Luke Hockaday completed 16-of-33 passes for 258 yards, and Dion Wilson, the NCAA Division III leader in rushing at 200.5 yards per game, was limited to 134 yards on 22 carries. Carthage middle linebacker Josh Brennan collected a game-high 12 tackles, including three tackles-for-loss. Brian Hipchen had the two interception returns for touchdowns, along with one other pass break up. Carthage plays host to CCIW-opponent Augustana College (Ill.) on Saturday, Oct. 16 in a 6 p.m. game at Art Keller Field.
"This was a huge win for us," said Carthage coach Tim Rucks. "Things were going south on us early in the game, and we made it a one-score game at the end of the first half. In the second half, we just sort of kicked them around. We didn't do it the way we normally do. We actually ran the ball and tried to eat up some clock. We don't care about the stats—we just wanted to win the game. Our defense did a great, great job., and we had some big plays by Brian Hipchen and a few others. We thought about going for the touchdown at the end of the first half, but we have an All-American kicker, and that's what you do. The momentum from the scoring drive was huge. After that we forced Millikin into long-yardage situations. Hopefully, our defense gained some confidence from this game, because they've really played well this year, except for some big-play-type missed assignments. I told our guys last night that I wanted this game to be the start of our season. We're not just trying to save anything."