McCully stadium was packed with alumni cheering on their alma mater this weekend. After an exciting, yet harrowing homecoming game, the Thunder ended their four-game winning streak, losing 10-14 to the Illinois Wesleyan Titans.
Heading into the game, Wheaton was ranked fifth on D3football.com’s Top-25 list. After their loss, they have moved down to 13, while the Titans jumped from 19 to a comfy 12. The Thunder’s season record is now 4-1 and they are 2-1 in CCIW conference play.
The Thunder offense never managed to get rolling against the Titans. Wheaton had 278 yards of total offense, their lowest so far this season. The majority of the offense’s yards came from their 205 receiving yards. Senior Curtis McWilliams led Wheaton for passing with 189 yards. Junior Jaelin Goldsmith had 16 passing yards and a touchdown that came from a trick play the Thunder used midway through the second quarter.
The area where Wheaton suffered the most on offense was in rushing yards. After dropping from an average of 295 yards to 166 yards during their Elmhurst game, the Thunder only put up 73 total rushing yards against the Titans. Senior Sola Olateju lead the Thunder with 62 yards on 22 attempts.
The Thunder defense put on an impressive effort to keep the Titans from running away with the game. They kept Illinois Wesleyan’s offense to 284 yards of total offense. Junior Eric Stevenson led both defenses with 17 total tackles, nine of which were solo.
Junior Dmarte Arafiles intercepted a pass early in the fourth quarter to give the Thunder a shot at the end zone. The drive resulted in a 33-yard field goal from Senior Stefan Knoerr, giving the Thunder their first lead of the game at 10-7. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to win the game. The Titans made it back into Wheaton’s end zone with six seconds left in the fourth quarter, resulting in the game’s final score of 14-10.
The Thunder go on the road this week to face off against Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois Oct. 7 at 6 pm. The Big Blue are currently 3-1 and are coming into their game against the Thunder off of a win against North Park University. Wheaton will return to McCully stadium Oct. 14 to play North Central College.