ELMHURST, Ill. - Vince Gabrys caught a touchdown pass from Joe Furco with just 28 seconds remaining to lift the Elmhurst College football team to a 43-36 come-from-behind win over Millikin University.
Elmhurst (4-3, 2-2 CCIW) scored 37 points in a wild second half that featured a pair of lead changes in the final two minutes.
Trailing 21-6 at halftime, the Bluejays outscored Millikin 29-3 to open the second half, but a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns set the stage for Elmhurst's come-from-behind win.
Elmhurst sliced into Millikin's second-half lead early in the third quarter after Alvin Chackungal picked off Millikin QB Matt Holmes. Chackungal returned the ball to the Big Blue 25-yard line and just one play later, Furco hit Joe St. Peter on a 25-yard touchdown pass to make the score 21-13 in favor of the Big Blue.
Millikin (3-4, 1-3 CCIW) answered back with an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive, settling for an Austin Brettschneider 27-yard field goal and taking a 24-13 lead in the process.
Elmhurst's defense set up the Bluejays' next score as George DeMaria picked off Holmes at the Elmhurst 30-yard line. Six plays later, Fucro capped a 70-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Scottie Williams. Furco hit Rodney Payton for a two-point conversion to make the score 24-21 in favor of Millikin.
The Bluejays' defense forced their fourth turnover of the third quarter on Millikin's next possession as Charlie Roberts intercepted Holmes and returned the ball to Millikin's 22-yard line. Williams completed the Bluejays' five-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run to give Elmhurst its first lead of the game at 28-24.
After a Millikin punt, the Bluejays drove 81 yards in just six plays to take a 35-24 lead. Griffin Gibson delivered the big blow, taking an inside handoff and racing 45 yards to the end zone.
After blocking a Millikin punt, the Bluejays appeared ready to open up a bigger lead, but Williams was stripped at the goal line and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback giving the Big Blue the ball back at their own 20-yard line. Holmes engineered a quick 80-yard scoring drive in just six plays, hitting Erik Tobey on a 40-yard score. The two-point conversion failed making the score 35-30 in favor of the Bluejays.
After an Elmhurst interception, Millikin took over at their own 44-yard line with just 2:58 left to play. Holmes moved the Big Blue down field and put Millikin back on top 36-35 after scoring on a six-yard run with just 1:12 left on the clock.
Elmhurst returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 39-yard line and needed just 45 seconds to move down field and score. Furco hit Rodney Payton for a 21 yard gain to start the drive, then connected with Payton on a 10-yard strike to move to the Big Blue 30-yard line. Furco then scrambled to the Millikin 14-yard line and ran out of bounds with just over 35 seconds remaining. Furco found Gabrys wide open in the corner of the end zone with just 28 seconds left to give Elmhurst a 41-36 lead. Furco connected with St. Peter on the two-point conversion to give Elmhurst a 43-36 lead.
Millikin drove to the Bluejays' 36-yard line with six seconds remaining, but Holmes' hail mary was picked off by Chackungal to end the contest.
Millikin controlled much of the first half, opening up a 21-6 halftime lead after scoring three times in the opening 30 minutes. The Big Blue drove 71 yards on their first possession and grabbed a 7-0 lead on a Holmes 24-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Eichenauer.
The Big Blue made it 14-0 in the second quarter, taking advantage of great field position after pinning Elmhurst in at its own one-yard line. After a Bluejays punt, the Big Blue drove 38 yards in three plays with Holmes capping the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to Tobey.
Elmhurst answered back with a 60-yard scoring drive with Williams bursting through a hole and scoring on a 38-yard touchdown run. The extra point was missed and Elmhurst trailed 14-6.
Millikin tacked on a touchdown just before the half, driving 79 yards in only five plays. Holmes keyed the drive with a 55-yard run down the sideline and then finished the drive with a six-yard touchdown run.
After finishing the first half with just 186 yards, the Bluejays exploded in the second half, totaling 339 yards and finishing the contest with 525 yards of total offense. The Bluejays rushed for 354 yards and passed for 176. Millikin totaled 542 yards of offense, rushing for 348 and passing for 228.
Williams continued his tremendous season for the Bluejays, matching his career-high by rushing for 235 yards on 30 carries. He scored three of Elmhurst's touchdowns in the win. Furco finished 11-of-24 for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Payton was the Bluejays' top receiver, catching five passes for 65 yards.
Holmes accounted for 405 of Millikin's yards, rushing 23 times for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also completed 16-of-29 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted four times in the second half. Sean Dunning added 140 yards on the ground on 23 carries. Tobey caught six passes for a game-high 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Wayne Tuckson led the Bluejays, totaling 15 tackles. DeMaria added 11 tackles and an interception while Dan Vicari finished with nine stops.
Mitchell Caffey led Millikin's defense with 10 tackles.
Elmhurst travels to North Central College next Saturday.