November 17, 2012

North Central's long trip ends in quick win

More news about: North Central (Ill.)
Nick Kukuc hit the ground running for North Central and finished with 250 yards.
Photo by Joe Bergman, d3photography.com 

The longest trip taken by a NCAA Division III football team did little to slow down the North Central Cardinals on Saturday, as they came out of the gate running and blew past the California Lutheran Kingsmen, 41-21, at William Rolland Stadium in the first round of the NCAA Division III football playoffs.

The Cardinals (9-2) won for the fifth straight time in the first round of the postseason, putting up 528 total yards and establishing control early with a 24-point first quarter.

"I thought our guys played really hard," said North Central head coach John Thorne. "They were definitely ready when the game started. The offense got going early and the defense got several stops. The guys did a good job running the clock down in the second half. 

"I thought Cal Lutheran played a great game. It was a lot closer than the score shows. We made some big plays, and they just missed on some of their opportunities for big plays, partially because our guys made it happen."

North Central was also the beneficiary of the efforts of running back Nick Kukuc, who gained a career-high 250 yards on 20 carries, coming up just 10 yards short of the Cardinals' single-game record. Kukuc did break his own single-season school record, currently owning 1,259 rushing yards this season.

"We knew we had to run the ball," Kukuc said. "The offensive line did great. We had some mistakes here and there, but we know our main focus is to run the ball and we knew we could do that. We did well, but we know we can do better."

Kukuc threw the opening punch soon after the bell sounded, taking the second play from scrimmage 79 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. The Cardinals fumbled away their next possession, but needed just three plays to score once again after forcing a CLU punt. Quarterback Spencer Stanek completed a 25-yard pass to Ryan Szudarki and handed off to Kukuc for 23 yards before calling his own number on the option and running 11 yards to the end zone. 

North Central's special-teams unit came up big on the next play, forcing a fumble which was recovered by P.J. Crotty at the Kingsmen's 25-yard line. Kicker Nick Dace came on to knock in a 38-yard field goal with 4:55 on the first-quarter clock, boosting the lead to 17-0. 

Cal Lutheran (8-2) saw is next possession result in a fumble as well, as Joey Michals pounced on the loose ball at the Cardinals' 25. Four plays later, the visitors were in the end zone again. On third down-and-21, Stanek fired a deep pass to Jeff Stolzenburg, who collected the ball and tiptoed down the sideline for a 54-yard TD with 18 seconds left in the opening period.

The Kingsmen got on the board midway through the second quarter, intercepting a pass at their own 33 and embarking on an 11-play, 67-yard drive which culminated in a 3-yard scoring run by Ryan Zirbel with 4:34 on the clock. North Central fumbled on its next play from scrimmage and the hosts had a chance to further cut into the lead, but the Cardinals' Josh Fick forced a fumble on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line and Michals recovered to negate the threat.

Stanek got the Cardinals out of the shadow of their own end zone with a 48-yard bomb to Stolzenburg, and Dace closed the half with a 49-yard field goal to send North Central into the locker room with a 27-7 halftime advantage.

The Cardinals forced a punt on the opening drive of the second half, and Kukuc ran four times for 66 yards in a seven-play, 77-yard drive which ended with Stanek's 13-yard TD pass to Stolzenburg with 9:11 on the clock in the third period. North Central opened its final scoring drive at its own 32 after Josh Mitchell intercepted a pass from Kingsmen quarterback Zach Shultis, as Stanek foundChad O'Kane for a 34-yard score on third down.

North Central's defense held Cal Lutheran to 324 total yards, roughly 200 below the Kingsmen's season average, and forced four turnovers while recording four quarterback sacks. Michals led the way with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack, while Alex Pirela made eight stops and Josh Beveridge tallied two sacks to give him a team-high 7.5 for the season.

"The getting the job done today was the game plan our coaches put together," Michals said. "We knew they were a great offensive team, and they showed it today. We just wanted to go about our business like we do every week. Our defensive line played great and the secondary did a great job as well. I think everyone just played hard and the game plan was what did it for us."

Stanek completed 13 of 19 passes for 236 yards, while Stolzenburg hauled in a career-high 121 yards on four catches. The Cardinals recorded 26 first downs and did not punt all afternoon.

Shultis completed 18 of 26 pases for 171 yards, while receiver Eric Rogers caught nine passes for 111 yards and two scores and Romello Goodman paced Cal Lutheran's ground game with 70 yards on 16 carrie. Dontaie Ferguson led the Kingsmen with a game-high 11 tackles.

The Cardinals advance to next Saturday's second round, traveling to face Linfield, a 27-24 winner over Pacific Lutheran in the first round.

"It's going to be a lot of travel involved," Thorne said, "but we need these guys to be able to finish their final exams, and we're looking forward to studying the tapes and trying to figure out a game plan and watching our guys execute it."

comments powered by Disqus
Sep. 4: All times Eastern
8:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Tex. A&M-Commerce
Sep. 5: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Anna Maria at Worcester State
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
7:00 PM
Albright at Kean
7:00 PM
Widener at Rowan
7:00 PM
WPI at Curry
7:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Mount Ida
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Salve Regina at Bridgewater State
7:00 PM
William Paterson at SUNY-Maritime
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Ursinus at TCNJ
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Becker
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
Video
7:30 PM
McDaniel at Catholic
7:30 PM
Trine at Manchester
Live Stats Video Audio
8:00 PM
Waldorf at UW-Whitewater
Live Stats
Sep. 6: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Endicott at Framingham State
12:00 PM
Dickinson at Hobart
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Holland College (PEI, Canada) at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Otterbein at St. John Fisher
12:00 PM
Union at Ithaca
12:00 PM
Pomona-Pitzer at MIT
12:00 PM
Husson at Alfred
12:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Johns Hopkins
1:00 PM
St. Lawrence at Coast Guard
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Wesley
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton State
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
Audio
1:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Averett
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Wabash
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Rose-Hulman at Kalamazoo
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Wilmington at Olivet
1:00 PM
Adrian at Defiance
1:00 PM
King's at Moravian
1:00 PM
Alfred State at Morrisville State
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Brockport State
1:00 PM
Utica at Misericordia
1:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Montclair State
1:00 PM
Southern Virginia at Methodist
1:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Bluffton
1:00 PM
Marietta at Kenyon
1:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Apprentice
1:00 PM
Cortland State at Buffalo State
Audio
1:00 PM
Muhlenberg at Wilkes
1:00 PM
Sewanee at DePauw
1:30 PM
RPI at Norwich
1:30 PM
Alma at Heidelberg
1:30 PM
Berry at Maryville (Tenn.)
1:30 PM
Bridgewater (Va.) at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
St. Vincent at John Carroll
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Bethany
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
Audio
2:00 PM
Franklin at Illinois Wesleyan
2:00 PM
Rhodes at Austin
2:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
2:00 PM
UW-Platteville at Buena Vista
2:00 PM
Ohio Northern at Washington U.
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at St. John's
2:00 PM
Crown at Gustavus Adolphus
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Jamestown
2:00 PM
Simpson at Iowa Wesleyan
2:00 PM
Hope at Monmouth
Audio
2:00 PM
Lawrence at Rockford
2:00 PM
Aurora at Illinois College
2:00 PM
Carroll at Lakeland
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Loras
2:00 PM
Millikin at Greenville
2:00 PM
Coe at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
Presentation at Luther
2:00 PM
Martin Luther at Maranatha Baptist
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Culver-Stockton
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
2:00 PM
UW-Stout at Dakota Wesleyan
2:00 PM
Huntingdon at Louisiana College
Video
2:00 PM
Ripon at St. Scholastica
2:00 PM
Hendrix at Westminster (Mo.)
2:10 PM
UW-Eau Claire at St. Thomas
3:00 PM
St. Norbert at Carthage
4:00 PM
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at Puget Sound
4:00 PM
Lewis and Clark at Whitworth
4:00 PM
College of Idaho at Pacific
4:30 PM
Arizona Christian at George Fox
5:00 PM
Hartwick at Western Connecticut
6:00 PM
Salisbury at Christopher Newport
6:00 PM
Augustana at Mount St. Joseph
7:00 PM
Carnegie Mellon at Case Western Reserve
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Stevenson at N.C. Wesleyan
7:00 PM
Butler at Wittenberg
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Shenandoah at Gallaudet
Audio
7:00 PM
Wooster at Washington and Jefferson
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Guilford
7:00 PM
Geneva at Frostburg State
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Thiel at Allegheny
7:00 PM
Taylor (Ind.) at Anderson
7:00 PM
Hiram at Westminster (Pa.)
7:00 PM
Denison at Earlham
7:00 PM
Albion at UW-Stevens Point
7:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at North Park
7:00 PM
Beloit at Chicago
Live Stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Howard Payne at Trinity (Texas)
7:00 PM
Mary Hardin-Baylor at Millsaps
7:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Texas Lutheran
7:00 PM
Robert Morris-Chicago at UW-Oshkosh
7:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Dubuque
7:30 PM
Hanover at Centre
7:30 PM
Central at Benedictine
8:00 PM
St. Olaf at Northwestern (Minn.)
8:00 PM
Hamline at Minnesota-Morris
8:00 PM
Lake Forest at Wisconsin Lutheran
8:00 PM
Wartburg at Augsburg
Audio
8:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Southwestern
Dec. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at UW-Whitewater 52, Mount Union 14
@ Salem Stadium; Salem, Va.
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Dec. 14: All times Eastern
Final
UW-Whitewater 16, at Mary Hardin-Baylor 15
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Mount Union 41, North Central (Ill.) 40
Box Score Recap Recap Photos

What We're Reading