On a cold, crisp, breezy and sunny afternoon in Decatur, Ill., the Carthage College football team (3-5, 2-3 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin) overcame a 15-point deficit to beat CCIW-opponent Millikin University (2-6, 0-5 CCIW), 28-22, on Saturday, Nov. 1 at Frank M. Lindsay Field. The Red Men trailed, 22-7, in the second quarter.
Millikin took a 6-0 lead on its initial possession with an 11-play, 83-yard scoring drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Nick Pippin to Taylor Sanders at 11:28. The Big Blue scoring drive was aided by a pair of 15-yard personal foul calls on the Red Men, but the point-after failed. The Red Men came right back with a touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Nick Anzelmo to wide receiver Marcus Hines Jr. at 9:33 to take a 7-6 lead. The key play in that scoring drive was a 57-yard pass from Anzelmo to tight end Javier Rhoades.
The Big Blue re-gained the lead early in the second period with a four-play, 74-yard scoring drive that ended with 14-yard carry by Justin Brooks. A 46-yard pass from Pippin to Brady Cufaude set the Millikin touchdown. The point-after was blocked, and the Big Blue led, 12-7, at 14:37 second period. Pippin, after scrambling in the backfield, connected with Cufaude again at 11:07 second period on a 26-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was good this time, and Millikin upped its lead to 19-7. The Big Blue drive covered 43 yards in four plays.
A Mykal Neal interception return for 29 yards set up a 27-yard field goal by Chayce Volpert at 10:05 second quarter, and Millikin led, 22-7. Carthage attempted a 38-yard field goal late in the half, but lost the opportunity on a high snap. Millikin returned the favor on its next possession by snapping the ball over the punter's ahead, and Carthage took over at the Big Blue 14-yard line at 3:51. Six plays later, Anzelmo scored on a one-yard keeper with just under a minute to go. The point-after was good, and the Red Men cut the lead to eight points, 22-14, at halftime.
An interception by Greg Money, along with a 15-yard face mask penalty, gave Carthage good field position midway thru the third period, and Thomas Brannen drilled a low line drive kick into the wind for a 42-yard field goal at 6:33 that closed the gap to five points, 22-17. Brannen connected on a 28-yard field goal at 14:44 fourth period, which narrowed the margin to two points, 22-20.
Zak Pallissard intercepted a Pippin pass at 12:22 and returned it to midfield. Five plays later at 10:16, Tristan Peterson scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 32-yard carry. Anzelmo carried the ball in for a two-point conversion, and the Red Men led, 28-22. Carthage's Eddie Cardenas stopped the next Big Blue drive with an interception at 7:20, Carthage's third of the game, all in the second half, at the Red Men's 34-yard line, but Carthage had to punt.
Millikin took over at its own 18-yard line with 5:10 remaining, but back-to-back sacks by Will Fairchild and Lucas Kailing forced the Big Blue to punt at 2:26. The Red Men proceeded to run out the clock for the win.
Carthage collected 325 total offensive yards, 172 yards rushing and 153 yards passing, while Millikin had 368 total yards, 114 on the ground and 254 in the air. The Red Men had a 28-21 edge in first downs and a 32:40-27:20 margin in time-of-possession. Tailback Tristan Peterson (Fr., Crown Point, Ind.) ran for 121 yards on 16 carries, and Derek Bellamy (Sr., Sacramento, Calif./Monterrey Trail) rushed for 56 yards on 12 carries. Peterson is the first Carthage running back to rush for 100 yards this season. Red Men quarterback Nick Anzelmo (So., Schaumburg, Ill.) completed just 11-of-33 passes for 153 yards. Big Blue tailback Justin Brooks collected 116 rushing yards on 16 carries. Millikin quarterback Nick Pippin completed 17-of-35 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, with Brady Cufaude catching seven passes for 119 yards. Middle linebacker Greg Money (So., Palatine, Ill./Fremd) led the Carthage defensive effort with 10 tackles, four solo, and one interception.
"We didn't play very well at the start," admitted Carthage coach Mike Yeager, "but we played very well over the last three quarters. I hope we can find a formula to play well for 60 minutes. The touchdown pass to Javier Rhoades was a bit of trick play with two quarterbacks on the field that we've been working on all year and practice every week—we just haven't had an opportunity to use it. We have a lot of depth at running back, and when you have depth, it allows you to rotate players in and out if a guy goes out. I thought all of our running backs played well today. It was great to see the running game finally come around. Nick Anzelmo had a tough time today adjusting to the wind. He hit a couple of key passes, but he also missed a couple of key ones. We've told our guys over and over that nothing that happens at the beginning or the end of the game is necessarily going to change the outcome—keep playing. They've taken that to heart. I knew it was going to be huge challenge for Thomas Brannen on the 42-yard field goal, but he did a great job."
Carthage is on the road again next week, traveling to Chicago on Saturday, Nov. 8 to play North Park University (1-7, 1-4 CCIW) in a 1 p.m. game at the Holmgren Athletic Complex.