/seasons/2012/contrib/20121118w082cq

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. 19: All times Eastern
Final
Manchester 52, at Defiance 21
@ Defiance, Ohio
Video Box Score
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 41, Moravian 0
Video Video Box Score
7:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
Final
MIT 13, at Becker 6
Video Box Score
Sep. 21: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Alfred State at Rochester
Video Preview Live stats Live stats
12:00 PM
Brockport at Buffalo State
Video Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
DePauw at Kenyon
Video Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
Massachusetts Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video Preview
12:00 PM
Salve Regina at Dean
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Rowan at Hobart
Video Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
TCNJ at St. John Fisher
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Juniata at Ursinus
Video Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
Westfield State at Framingham State
Video Preview Live stats
12:00 PM
Wesley at Endicott
Video Preview Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Amherst at Colby
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Catholic at Methodist
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Middlebury at Bates
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Merchant Marine
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Bowdoin at Trinity (Conn.)
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Springfield at Union
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Gallaudet at Apprentice
Live stats
1:00 PM
Hanover at Maryville (Tenn.)
Video Preview Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Trine
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Westminster (Pa.)
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Wesleyan at Hamilton
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Aurora at Hope
Video Preview Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Washington and Jefferson at Carnegie Mellon
Video Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Guilford at Washington and Lee
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
WPI at Husson
Live stats
1:00 PM
Eureka at Albion
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Averett at Ferrum
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Southern Virginia
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Randolph-Macon
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Franklin and Marshall
Video Video Preview Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Worcester State at Plymouth State
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Alfred at Ithaca
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Wilkes at Lycoming
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Ohio Wesleyan
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Muhlenberg
Video Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Wabash at Allegheny
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Stevenson at Delaware Valley
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
FDU-Florham at Widener
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Alvernia at Lebanon Valley
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Dickinson at Gettysburg
Video Video Preview Live stats Live stats
1:00 PM
Lakeland at Kalamazoo
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Concordia-Chicago at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Greenville at Northwestern (Minn.)
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at UW-Oshkosh
Video Video Preview Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
MacMurray at Minnesota-Morris
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Carroll at Carthage
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at Iowa Wesleyan
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Tufts at Williams
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Mount Union
Video Preview Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Franklin at Bluffton
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Anderson at Mount St. Joseph
Preview Live stats
1:30 PM
Bethany at Waynesburg
2:00 PM
John Carroll at Otterbein
Live stats
2:00 PM
Nichols at Anna Maria
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Coast Guard at Norwich
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Ohio Northern at Wilmington
Video Preview Preview Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Rockford at Alma
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Thomas More at UW-Platteville
Video Preview Preview Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Carleton at St. Olaf
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at St. John's
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Augsburg at Concordia-Moorhead
Video Preview Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Nebraska Wesleyan at Buena Vista
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Howard Payne
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Centre at Austin
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Crown at St. Scholastica
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Augustana
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Coe at Loras
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Wartburg at Luther
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Millikin at North Park
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at St. Xavier
2:00 PM
Whittier at Lewis and Clark
Video Preview Live stats Audio Tickets
2:10 PM
St. Thomas at Hamline
Video Live stats
2:30 PM
King's at Hartwick
Video Live stats
3:00 PM
Castleton at University of New England
Video Live stats Live stats
3:00 PM
Benedictine at Olivet
Video Live stats
3:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Adrian
Video Live stats
3:00 PM
Sul Ross State at McMurry
Video Live stats
3:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Dickinson St.
Audio
3:00 PM
UW-River Falls at Waldorf
3:00 PM
Occidental at Willamette
Video Live stats
3:30 PM
Western Connecticut at Bridgewater State
Video Live stats
4:00 PM
Pacific Lutheran at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Video Live stats
4:00 PM
La Verne at Puget Sound
Video Live stats
4:30 PM
Wooster at Wittenberg
Preview Preview Live stats Audio
4:30 PM
Fitchburg State at Mass-Dartmouth
Video Preview Preview Live stats
5:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at Dakota St.
Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
Utica at RPI
Video Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
Western New England at Stetson
Video Live stats
6:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Washington U.
Video Preview Preview Live stats Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Muskingum at Marietta
Video Live stats Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Hiram at Denison
Video Preview Live stats Live stats
7:00 PM
Bridgewater at Shenandoah
Live stats Live stats Audio
7:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Brevard
Video Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
Capital at Heidelberg
Preview
7:00 PM
Grove City at Case Western Reserve
Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
Thiel at Geneva
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Berry at Trinity (Texas)
Video Live stats Audio
7:00 PM
Simpson at Dubuque
Video Preview Live stats Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at Sewanee
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Texas Lutheran at East Texas Baptist
Video Preview Live stats Live stats Audio
7:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at Wheaton (Ill.)
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Louisiana College at Southwestern
Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
Belhaven at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live stats Audio
8:00 PM
Rhodes at Millsaps
Video Live stats
10:00 PM
Pomona-Pitzer at George Fox
Video Preview Live stats
10:00 PM
Linfield at Redlands
Video Live stats Audio Audio
10:00 PM
Whitworth at Chapman
Video Preview Live stats Audio Tickets
10:00 PM
Pacific at Cal Lutheran
Video Live stats
Sep. 5: All times Eastern
Final
Johns Hopkins 17, at Randolph-Macon 12
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Sep. 6: All times Eastern
Final
Salisbury 63, at Albright 28
Video Box Score
Final
Delaware Valley 37, at Kean 7
Video Box Score Recap
Sep. 7: All times Eastern
Final
North Central (Ill.) 43, at Christopher Newport 13
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Wesley 69, at Franklin Pierce 0
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Muhlenberg 45, TCNJ 26
Video Video Box Score
Final
Ithaca 66, at St. Vincent 28
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Susquehanna 42, Lycoming 26
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 16, Wittenberg 8
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at John Carroll 21, UW-Stevens Point 7
Video Box Score
Final
Centre 45, at Hanover 31
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Berry 31, at Maryville (Tenn.) 10
Box Score
Final
at Bethel 42, Simpson 10
Video Video Box Score
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 38, at Monmouth 0
Video Box Score
Final
St. John's 14, at UW-Stout 7
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final - OT
at UW-La Crosse 21, Concordia-Moorhead 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Whitworth 50, at La Verne 24
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at St. Thomas 69, Trinity International 3
Video Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 42, Dubuque 7
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Mount Union 66, at Rose-Hulman 14
Video Box Score Photos Photos
Final
Hardin-Simmons 64, at Sul Ross State 0
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington U. 43, at Chicago 7
Box Score Recap Photos