November 10, 2012

Return Game Dazzles as North Central Clinches Playoff Bid

More news about: North Central (Ill.)

Getting a huge boost from its punt-return unit and another stout effort from its defense, the North Central College football team secured a share of a seventh straight College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) championship and a third straight berth in the NCAA Division III Football Championship with a 37-6 victory over the Augustana College Vikings at Ericson Field.

The Cardinals (8-2, 6-1 CCIW) share this year's CCIW title with Wheaton College and Elmhurst College and receive the CCIW's automatic bid to the postseason based on the point-differential tiebreaker. North Central has won or shared the conference championship each year since 2006.

The Cardinals operated with a short field most of the day due to the efforts of cornerback Josh Mitchell, who returned six punts for 224 yards, an average of 37.3 yards per return. Five of North Central's six scoring drives covered 35 yards or less and Mitchell also accounted for the Cardinals' first score of the day, returning Augustana's first punt 80 yards to the end zone. He matched the second-longest punt return in North Central history.

Augustana (5-5, 4-3 CCIW) got on the board when kicker Brady Rogers made a 25-yard field goal on the ensuing drive. Viking linebacker Bo Goshorn intercepted a pass on the first play of North Central's next possession, but the hosts were limited to a 41-yard field goal by Rogers and still trailed, 7-6.

North Central put together its longest scoring drive of the day early in the second period, traveling 73 yards in 12 plays. The Cardinals ran the ball on 10 plays during the possession but scored on a pass, as Spencer Stanek found Chad O'Kane for a 13-yard strike and O'Kane's first TD of the season.

A 35-yard punt return by Mitchell set the Cardinals up for its next score. Five plays later, Nick Dace connected on a 31-yard field-goal attempt, boosting North Central's lead to 17-6. The Cardinals' defense forced a quick Augustana punt before the end of the half, and a 29-yard return by Mitchell, coupled with a Viking personal-foul penalty, allowed Dace to come on for a 37-yard field goal just before time ran out and sent the Cardinals into the break with a 20-6 advantage.

A short Augustana punt gave the Cardinals the ball at the Vikings' 40 late in the third quarter, and Dace converted his third field goal of the day, a 24-yarder. Mitchell picked up 25 yards on his next punt return to open North Central's next possession at the Vikings' 35-yard line. Stanek's 23-yard pass to O'Kane set up a first-and-goal opportunity at the 10-yard line, and Nick Kukuc ran in from five yards out three plays later to tie a North Central record with his 14th rushing touchdown of the year. 

The final scoring drive of the day got its start from the Cardinals' defense, as defensive tackle Peter Mann intercepted quarterback Nick Welch's pass and got the offense onto the field 24 yards from the end zone. Stanek threw a 13-yard scoring pass to Jeff Stolzenburg with 8:27 to play.

Stanek completed 13 of 19 passes for 139 yards, throwing five times to O'Kane for 74 yards. Kukuc gained 84 yards on 21 rushing attempts, boosting his season total to 1,009 rushing yards and making him just the second player in North Central history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.

The Cardinals' defense held Augustana to 161 yards of total offense, the lowest amount by a North Central opponent this season and the ninth-lowest in school history, and recorded a season-high 13 tackles for loss. Quinn Haas led the Cardinals with nine tackles, while Joey Michals and Alex Pirela each recorded six.John Focosi led the way with three tackles for loss and two sacks. 

Pairings and sites for the first round of the 2012 Division III Football Championship will be announced on Sunday at 5 p.m. at ncaa.com. 

Sep. 30: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Randolph-Macon at Shenandoah
Preview Live Stats
6:30 PM
Emory and Henry at Washington and Lee
Video Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
Oct. 1: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Massachusetts Maritime at Fitchburg State
Preview Preview Live Stats
12:00 PM
Becker at Gallaudet
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Hobart
Video Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
RPI at Rochester
Video Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Endicott at MIT
Video Video Preview Live Stats
12:00 PM
Juniata at Johns Hopkins
1:00 PM
Montclair State at William Paterson
1:00 PM
Hamilton at Wesleyan
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Bates at Tufts
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Middlebury at Colby
Video
1:00 PM
Amherst at Bowdoin
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Frostburg State at Kean
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Kenyon at DePauw
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Ferrum at Greensboro
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Methodist
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
FDU-Florham at Wilkes
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Anna Maria at Castleton
Video Live Stats Tickets
1:00 PM
Moravian at Ursinus
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Stevenson at Misericordia
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Springfield at St. Lawrence
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Westminster (Pa.)
1:00 PM
Alma at Kalamazoo
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Franklin and Marshall at Dickinson
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Wesley at Southern Virginia
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Adrian at Albion
1:00 PM
Husson at SUNY-Maritime
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Apprentice at Alfred State
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
TCNJ at Salisbury
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Buffalo State at St. John Fisher
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Salve Regina at Curry
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Gettysburg
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Lebanon Valley
1:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Denison
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Utica at Ithaca
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Alfred at Morrisville State
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Western New England at Nichols
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
King's at Albright
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Catholic at Guilford
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Muhlenberg at Susquehanna
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Concordia-Chicago at Trine
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at N.C. Wesleyan
Video Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Minnesota-Morris at MacMurray
1:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at Chicago
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at Crown
1:30 PM
Oberlin at Allegheny
Video Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Ida at Norwich
Video Live Stats
1:30 PM
Trinity (Conn.) at Williams
Video Preview Live Stats
1:30 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Marietta
Video Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Heidelberg
Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Union at WPI
Video Live Stats
1:30 PM
Maine Maritime at Coast Guard
Video Preview Live Stats
1:30 PM
John Carroll at Wilmington
Video Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Ohio Northern
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Franklin at Manchester
Preview Live Stats
1:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Hanover
Video Live Stats
1:30 PM
Widener at Lycoming
Video Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Defiance at Earlham
Video Preview Live Stats
2:00 PM
Capital at Otterbein
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Plymouth State at Westfield State
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Wittenberg at Wooster
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Anderson at Rose-Hulman
Video Preview Preview Live Stats
2:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Bridgewater
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Waynesburg at Grove City
2:00 PM
Cortland at Hartwick
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Centre at Hendrix
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Eureka at Greenville
Video
2:00 PM
Northwestern (Minn.) at Iowa Wesleyan
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Lakeland
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Rockford at Benedictine
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Aurora at Wisconsin Lutheran
Video Preview Live Stats
2:00 PM
Nebraska Wesleyan at Luther
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Rhodes at Sewanee
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Lake Forest at St. Norbert
Video
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Gustavus Adolphus
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Hamline at Carleton
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
St. John's at Bethel
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at UW-Platteville
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at Loras
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Hardin-Simmons
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at UW-Eau Claire
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Beloit at Lawrence
2:00 PM
Cornell at Monmouth
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Wartburg at Coe
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Dubuque at Central
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Illinois Wesleyan
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
McMurry at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Augustana
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Macalester at Ripon
2:00 PM
Grinnell at Illinois College
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Howard Payne at Louisiana College
Audio
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at UW-La Crosse
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Belhaven
Video Live Stats
2:10 PM
Augsburg at St. Thomas
Video Live Stats
3:00 PM
Washington and Jefferson at Thiel
Video Live Stats
3:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Morthland
Video
3:00 PM
St. Scholastica at Martin Luther
3:00 PM
Carthage at Carroll
Video Live Stats
3:00 PM
UW-Stout at UW-Oshkosh
Video Live Stats Audio Audio
4:00 PM
Willamette at Puget Sound
Video Video Preview Live Stats Audio
4:00 PM
Whittier at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Video Live Stats
4:00 PM
Pacific at Pacific Lutheran
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Live Stats
4:30 PM
Lewis and Clark at Linfield
Video Live Stats Audio
5:00 PM
Framingham State at Mass-Dartmouth
Video Live Stats
5:00 PM
Averett at LaGrange
Live Stats
5:00 PM
Whitworth at George Fox
Video Live Stats Audio
6:00 PM
Olivet at Hope
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
6:00 PM
Bethany at Carnegie Mellon
Video Preview Preview Preview Live Stats Audio
6:00 PM
St. Vincent at Case Western Reserve
Video Live Stats Audio
6:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Rowan
Video Live Stats Audio Audio
6:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Western Connecticut
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Berry at Washington U.
Video Video Preview Preview Live Stats Live Stats Audio Audio
7:00 PM
North Park at Millikin
10:00 PM
Pomona-Pitzer at Chapman
Video Live Stats Tickets
10:00 PM
La Verne at Cal Lutheran
Video Preview Live Stats
10:00 PM
Occidental at Redlands
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
Oct. 1: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Hobart
Video Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Juniata at Johns Hopkins
1:00 PM
TCNJ at Salisbury
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Westminster (Pa.)
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Buffalo State at St. John Fisher
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Stevenson at Misericordia
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Springfield at St. Lawrence
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at N.C. Wesleyan
Video Video Live Stats
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Ohio Northern
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Franklin at Manchester
Preview Live Stats
2:00 PM
Wittenberg at Wooster
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Illinois Wesleyan
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at UW-Platteville
Live Stats
2:00 PM
St. John's at Bethel
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
McMurry at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Hardin-Simmons
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Belhaven
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Dubuque at Central
Video Live Stats Audio
2:10 PM
Augsburg at St. Thomas
Video Live Stats
3:00 PM
UW-Stout at UW-Oshkosh
Video Live Stats Audio Audio
4:30 PM
Lewis and Clark at Linfield
Video Live Stats Audio
6:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Rowan
Video Live Stats Audio Audio