BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - The Illinois Wesleyan football team improved to 4-0 with a 34-33 overtime win over Millikin at Tucci Stadium on Saturday night (Sept. 29) in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin opener for both teams.
Sophomore Tyrell Bolden was instrumental in breaking up Millikin's two-point conversion pass to preserve the one-point win ibefore an IWU Family Weekend crowd of 2,100.
Illinois Wesleyan, ranked No. 16 in the Division III coaches' poll, got the ball first in overtime and junior Rob Gallik found Alex Garvey with a key third-down pass on 3-and-11 from the 26. Four plays later, junior fullback Sean Conley ran 4 yards for a score. Freshman Michael Kelley's kick gave IWU a 34-27 lead.
Millikin, who fell to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the league, matched the touchdown when quarterback Matt Holmes connected with Sean Maloney from 17 yards away. Holmes tried to find Tommy Eichenauer in the corner of the end zone but Bolden was able to bat the ball away and save the victory.
"The proudest thing is we showed great character," IWU head coach Norm Eash told Jim Benson of The Pantagraph. "Getting into overtime we were confident. We've been there many, many times. We've played a lot of overtime games. Our kids believed that and had a lot of confidence."
The Big Blue scored first with 4:29 to play in the first quarter when Holmes's pass went through the hands of Micah Winters to Erik Tobey on a 61-yard touchdown. IWU got that back with 1:58 to play in the first when Gallik hit Garvey with a 27-yard TD pass for a 7-6 lead.
With 11:01 to go in the second quarter Millikin grabbed a 13-7 lead after Holmes found Alex Chiligiris for a 4-yard TD pass. The Big Blue then extended their lead to 20-7 lead on Sean Dunning's 2-yard run with 3:51 left in the second quarter. Dunning finished with 81 yards on 16 carries.
The Titans drove 60 yards in 10 plays to score with just 27 seconds left before intermission as Gallik and Garvey hooked up on a 4-yard TD pass. Kelley's extra point kick was blocked and the Big Blue led 20-13 at the half.
An interception of a Gallik pass got Millikin the ball on the 11 and the Big Blue got a 27-13 lead with 12:10 to go in the third quarter when Holmes threw a 7-yard pass Avery Aina. IWU responded when Gallik got Garvey his third TD catch of the night on a 4-yard TD pass with 2:37 to go in the third and cut the Millikin lead to 27-20.
After a punt pinned Illinois Wesleyan on their own 2-yard line, the Titan offense put together a 16-play, 98-yard drive that lasted more than eight minutes to tie the game with 1:38 left. Junior running back T.J. Stinde ran in from 4 yards out for the touchdown, and Kelley's kick made it 27-27, which is where it stayed at the end of regulation.
Holmes completed 24 of 33 attempts for 257 yards and four TDs, while also running for 108 yards as the Big Blue amassed 449 yards of total offense.
Illinois Wesleyan gathered in 442 yards of total offense as Gallik was 22 of 31 for 210 yards and three TDs, all to Garvey. Stinde had 185 yards on 30 carries.
Junior Stephen McGinnis was IWU's leading tackler with 10 while Bolden, seniors Mike Kraft and Trey Cunningham, junior Kyle Pfister and sophomore Connor Klein each recorded five tackles for the Titans. Bolden (-8) and Cunningham (-7) both had tackles for losses.
Marquette Moore paced the Big Blue with 13 total tackles and Christian Silva had 10 total tackles and an interception.
The Titans travel to North Park for a 1 p.m. game next Saturday (Oct. 6).