On a breezy and unseasonably cool night in Naperville, Ill., the No. 7 North Central Cardinals (4-0, 1-0 CCIW) played just like you'd expect a top-10 team to do en route to a 43-8 win over No. 35 Carthage College (3-1, 0-1 CCIW). The Cardinals were ranked seventh in the Sept. 27 American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division III poll and 10th in the Sept. 27 "D3football.com" poll. Carthage was tied for 35th place in Sept. 27 American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division III poll and ranked 40th in the Sept. 27 "D3football.com" poll.
Kick-started with three sacks by defensive end Willie Hayes in the first five minutes of the game, the Cardinals jumped out to 20-0 lead in the first 20 minutes. Running back Jordan Tassio carried for a five-yard touchdown at 7:00 first period. The point-after missed, and North Central led, 6-0. Tassio rushed for second touchdown, this time a seven-yard carry with 34 second to play in the first period. The point-after was good, and the Cardinals led, 13-0. The second scoring drive covered 90 yards on 10 plays and covered 4:13.
A 66-yard punt return by the Cardinals' Joe Antonacci set up first-and-goal at the nine-yard line at 14:15 second period. Quarterback Brad Crackel quickly followed with a one-yard keeper at 12:17 and a 20-0 North Central lead. Carthage finally got on the scoreboard at 3:46 second period, scoring on a safety to make it 20-2, but North Central answered with a 22-yard field goal by Nick Dace as time expired in the first half, giving North Central a 23-2 margin.
After Wayne Bolden intercepted a Brad Crackel pass midway through the third period, Carthage had a chance to swing the momentum slightly. Unfortunately, the Red Men turned the ball over on downs, and on third down, a 61-yard TD carry by Tassio at 9:07 put the Cardinals up by 28 points, 30-2. A 27-yard field goal by Nick Dace at 14:49 fourth quarter increased North Central's leads to 33-2. Carthage scored on a 72-yard touchdown pass from Evan Jones to Chris Schulz at 14:29 fourth period. The two-point conversion failed, and the Cardinals led, 33-8. A 31-yard touchdown pass from Crackel to Steve Hlavac at 10:50 upped North Central's lead to 40-8, and a 49-yard field goal by Nick Dace at 5:35 completed the scoring at 43-8.
North Central rolled up 476 total offensive yards, 272 rushing and 204 yards passing, while Carthage managed only 251 total yards, -36 on the ground and 287 in the air. North Central's Brad Crackel completed nine-of-23 passes for 188 yards, while Jordan Tassio rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. Red Men quarterback Evan Jones completed 23-of-43 passes for 265 yards but was sacked seven times. Jake Smith caught eight passes for 54 yards, while Mike Koeneman caught seven for 75 yards. Carthage's Wayne Bolden collected a game-high 11 tackles (8 solo, 3 assisted), including one tackle-for-loss, and he intercepted one pass. The Red Men play host to conference-opponent Millikin University on Saturday, Oct. 9 in a 1 p.m. Homecoming game at Art Keller Field
"We came down here with high hopes," said Carthage coach Tim Rucks. "I thought we were ready to play, but we got beat up pretty good in every facet of the game. They took it to us. I thought we had a chance to win, and I certainly thought we'd make a better showing than this. They seemed to be all over us all the time and a step ahead of us. They forced us not to execute very well. They were in our face from the start, and we were never able to get into the flow of the game. We couldn't hold North Central at bay, and that was our biggest concern. They have one of the best defenses I've ever seen in this league in a long, long time. It wasn't really our lack of execution tonight, it was North Central. They are a pretty good football team. We have new challenges this week with containing Millikin's running game and tailback Dion Wilson. Right now, we need to get our confidence back, and we will. That's my job."