Thunder football fails to get back on track

October 12, 2017

After losing to IWU for Homecoming, the Thunder traveled to Decatur, looking to redeem themselves against the Millikin Big Blue. Wheaton put up a valiant effort, eventually falling to the Big Blue 31-35. This brings the Thunder down to a 4-2 season and 2-2 for CCIW standings. The last time that Wheaton had two regular season losses was in 2013, when the Thunder fell to Illinois Wesleyan and North Central. The Thunder are also on a two-game losing streak, something that hasn’t happened since the 2009 season.

Despite the loss, the Thunder offense seemed to finally regain its step with 409 yards of total offense. Wheaton struck early in the first quarter, scoring within the first three minutes. After Millikin briefly tied the game up, the Thunder pulled back ahead and kept the lead until the fourth quarter.

Senior Curtis McWilliams led the Thunder in passing with 264 yards. He also threw four touchdowns. Sophomore Phillip Nichols received three of McWilliams’ touchdown passes and led the game in receiving with 94 yards. Senior Trey Hanley contributed 30 receiving yards and caught for a touchdown.

Senior Sola Olateju played both running back and receiver on Saturday. He led the game in rushing with 114 yards and also received for 76 yards. Sophomore Spencer Peterson gained 41 rushing yards.

Olateju’s 114 rushing yards earned him 2,540 career rushing yards, making him the fifth player in program history to surpass 2,500 rushing yards. He also moved up to fourth place on Wheaton’s career rushing list. Nichol’s three touchdown receptions are the most received by a Thunder player in a single game since 2014.

Senior Stefan Knoerr had the only field goal of the game late in the third quarter, kicking for 22 yards. Sophomore Griffin Bowes kicked for 357 yards, averaging 59 yards per kickoff. Junior Zach Feddeler punted for 252 yards and had 2 kicks inside the 20 yard line. Returning for the Thunder, Nichols gained 69 yards on punts and 24 yards on kickoffs. Junior Carter Roberts returned two kickoffs for 52 yards.

The Thunder defense gave up 438 yards to the Big Blue offense, which is the most yards an opposing offense has gained over the defense so far this season. Senior Marcus Smith and junior Corey Kennedy led Wheaton’s defense with seven tackles each. Junior Eric Stevenson contributed six tackles and senior Kyle Fox had five tackles with an interception. Senior Chase Greenlee had four tackles with two sacks for Wheaton. Junior Jack Bates and seniors Austin Hoover and Theo Selvaggio all had one sack each.

Wheaton’s defense had held Millikin’s offense to two touchdowns up until the fourth quarter. In 18 plays total, the Big Blue scored three touchdowns on the Thunder. Saturday marked the first time since 2001 that Millikin had toppled Wheaton Football. This week, the Thunder move back home, hungry to end their losing streak. They will kick off against North Central on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at McCully Stadium.

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