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."

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Bridgewater State 34, Fitchburg State 25
Box Score
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
Box Score
Final
MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
Box Score
Final
at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
Box Score
Final
St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
Box Score
Final
at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Western New England 59, Curry 28
Box Score
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Colby 9, at Williams 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
Box Score
Final
at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
Box Score
Final
Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
Box Score
Final
at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
Box Score
Final
at Plymouth State 30, Mass-Dartmouth 14
Box Score
Final
at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
Box Score
Final
at Springfield 28, WPI 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Denison 45, Wooster 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
Box Score Recap
Final
at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
Final
at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
Box Score Recap
Final
at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
Box Score Photos
Final
at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
Final
at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
Box Score
Final
Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
Box Score
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
Box Score
Final
at Centre 49, Chicago 27
Box Score
Final
at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
Box Score Recap
Final
Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
Box Score
Final
at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
Box Score
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
Box Score
Final
at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
Box Score
Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
Box Score
Final
Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
Box Score Photos
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
Box Score Photos
Final
Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
Box Score
Final
at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
Box Score
Final
Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
Box Score
Final
at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
Box Score Recap
Final
Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
Box Score
Final
at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
Final
Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Recap
Final
Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
Box Score
Final
Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
Final
at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
Box Score
Final
at Ripon 33, Knox 19
Final
Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
Final
UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
Box Score
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
Box Score
Final
UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
Final
Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
Box Score
Final
at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
Box Score
Final
at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
Box Score Photos
Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
Video Live Stats
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
Box Score Recap
Sep. 29: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Randolph-Macon at Shenandoah
Live Stats
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score Recap
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap