Wheaton, Ill. - In its final regular-season game of the season, the Wheaton College football team used a prolific passing attack to defeat Millikin University 49-29 on Saturday.
The Thunder clinched third place in the CCIW with the win, improving their overall record to 8-2 and 5-2 in conference play. Postseason bids will be announced by the NCAA on Sunday afternoon. The Big Blue end the year with a 4-6 mark, including 2-5 in the CCIW.
Wheaton racked up 498 yards of offense (405 passing, 93 rushing) compared to Millikin's 405 yards (263 passing, 142 rushing).
Senior quarterback Garrett Meador established a new career-high with 405 passing yards on 30 of 44 attempts. He totaled five touchdown tosses with one interception. Senior wide receiver Teddy Watkins was the primary target, catching eight balls for 146 yards and four touchdowns. Fellow senior wide out Justin Zeller added seven catches for 85 yards. Sophomore running back Justin Swider paced the rushing attack with 41 yards on four carries.
Thunder defenders picked off two passes, with one apiece for senior safety Jordan Langs and junior linebacker Pat Dansdill. Senior linebacker Jordan Chapman led the way with 10 tackles and senior defensive end Robert Ramsay had eight. Senior defensive end David Seamon added one sack and one forced fumble.
On Wheaton's Senior Day, it was Millikin who took the early lead. A 53-yard pass to running back Sean Dunning set up his two-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game.
The first quarter was forgettable for the Thunder, who only gained 43 yards on their first four drives. But the second quarter was when the offense got rolling to the tune of four touchdowns over a 10-minute span.
After a series of intermediate passes got Wheaton into Millikin territory, the Thunder sold a passing play and handed the ball off to fullback Davis Skinner. The junior powered through the line and sprinted for a 29-yard touchdown with 10:34 remaining in the half.
Wheaton's defense got the ball right back on the ensuing drive. Langs stepped in front of the streak-route pass from Millikin quarterback Matt Holmes to recapture possession near midfield. On the first play, Meador went for the home run and lofted a deep strike to Watkins for the 47-yard touchdown.
The Big Blue answered by driving to the red zone before settling for a 30-yard field goal to make it 14-10. Meador then marched down to the Millikin one-yard-line thanks to a 25-yard pass to Kolby Kemp and a 35-yarder that threaded the needle to Zeller. Tailback Jesse Geary finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge to make the score 21-10.
The Thunder finished off the half by scoring with nine seconds left on a quick shot up the middle from Meador to tight end JJ Clark from eight yards out. Watkins helped continue the drive after snagging a 26-yard completion on 3rd-and-19.
It took less than a minute into the second half for Wheaton to increase the lead to 35-10. Garrett Cook recovered Millikin's onside kick, and three plays later, Meador hooked up with Watkins for a 40-yard touchdown pass.
Millikin's sack and strip set up its offense deep in Wheaton territory only three minutes afterwards. Holmes connected with Erik Tobey on a score from 11 yards, but the extra point was blocked to make it 35-16.
Once again, the Thunder offense responded, this time with a 90-yard touchdown drive. A series of first-down completions led to Watkins' third score from Meador with 6:10 remaining in the third quarter.
Millikin threw for a touchdown from 13 yards out to open the fourth quarter. But Wheaton finished off its scoring for the day with an 83-yard drive that ended with Meador to Watkins in the end zone for the fourth time.
Another Big Blue scoring drive took up half the fourth quarter as the final score ended at 49-29.
Holmes led Millikin's offense by going 19 of 34 passing for 263 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Tyler Roush picked up 87 yards on 13 carries to pace the ground attack. Tommy Eichenauer caught five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Dunning added 71 yards receiving on four catches. Andy Roth registered two sacks defensively and Jacob Alvin collected 11 tackles.