North Central Round 2 Playoff Preview vs. UW-Oshkosh

More news about: North Central (Ill.)

Complete Game Notes (PDF)

Nov. 25:
 NCAA Division III Championship Second Round - North Central College Cardinals (10-1) at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans (11-0)

Kickoff: 12 p.m., Titan Stadium
Video: portal.stretchinternet.com/uwosh/
Radio: 89.1-FM WONC
Live Stats: portal.stretchinternet.com/uwosh/
Game Updates via Twitter: @NCC_Athletics
Series History: North Central leads, 1-0

Setting the Scene: The Cardinals return to the second round of the postseason for the second straight year, looking to unseat a Wisconsin-Oshkosh squad which made last season's national championship game.

Series History: This is the second football meeting between the two institutions and the first in more than 80 years. North Central recorded a 21-0 win over Oshkosh, then known as Oshkosh State Teachers College, on Sept. 27, 1930. 

National Rankings: North Central was ranked ninth nationally by D3football.com and 14th by the American Football Coaches Association at the close of the regular season. Wisconsin-Oshkosh was ranked third in both polls.

Scouting the Titans: Oshkosh faced little resistance in its playoff opener Saturday, routing Lakeland, 63-0. The Titans owned a 42-0 lead by halftime and forced four turnovers, including three interceptions.

Oshkosh has had one of the most efficient offenses in the nation this season, having committed the fifth-fewest turnovers (10) in the country and ranking third in passing efficiency (188.27) and 11th in scoring offense (42.0 ppg). 

Senior quarterback Brett Kasper has thrown for 2,201 yards and 24 touchdowns with just four interceptions, ranking second nationally with a passer rating of 190.3. Senior running back Dylan Hecker has rushed for 712 yards and 11 TDs, while senior wideout Sam Mentkowski has caught 48 passes for 1,050 yards and nine scores.

The Titans' defense, which has not allowed a point in its past two games, is led by senior linebacker Jon Kallas' 61 tackles, while junior linebacker Derrick Jennings, Jr. has intercepted five passes.

This Week for the Cardinals: North Central advanced to the second round of the postseason for the second straight year with a 17-7 victory over sixth-ranked Saint John's at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.

Facing windy conditions with periods of rain and snowfall, the Cardinals' offense focused its attention on the running game for 55 of its 70 total plays. Dominick Muoghalu tied a single-game school record with 40 rushing attempts, gaining a career-high 180 yards and scoring the first touchdown of the game.

Liam Crotty added a 27-yard field goal, giving him a school record-tying 13 successful kicks for the year, and Andrew Kamienski hauled in an eight-yard pass from Broc Rutter in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Tommy Sora turned in eight tackles and two quarterback sacks to lead the North Central defense, which held the Johnnies to just over half their average offensive yardage of the season. Billy Douds made six tackles and added two sacks of his own. Douds and Ben Wong both forced fumbles which the Cardinals recovered.

Gagliardi Trophy Semifinalists Announced: North Central running back Austin Breunig was named one of 10 semifinalists for this year's Gagliardi Trophy, the premier individual award in Division III football, on Monday.

He is the Cardinals' first semifinalist for the award since Peter Bulandr '13 in 2012.

Oshkosh is also represented on the list as Kasper was named a semifinalist as well, along with Wesley offensive lineman Matt Gono, Wisconsin-La Crosse wide receiver Nick Holcomb, East Texas Baptist linebacker Ty Parsons, Wartburg quarterback Matt Sacia, Husson running back John SMith, Springfield (Massachusetts) fullback Jordan Wilcox, Trine quarterback Evan Wyse and Washington & Jefferson wide receiver Jesse Zubik.

The four finalists for the award will be announced Dec. 5, with the winner crowned in Salem, Virginia Dec. 13.

All-CCIW Teams Announced: The Cardinals had a total of 14 players recognized on this year's All-CCIW Teams, which were announced last week.

Breunig was named the CCIW's Art Keller Offensive Player of the Year and was named to the Offensive First Team along with Rutter, Kamienski and offensive linemen Joe Fehrle and Alec Licar.

Making the Defensive First Team were Sora, defensive lineman Emonte Logan and defensive back Tyler Oakley, while punter Zane Lodico earned First Team accolades as well.

Second Team All-CCIW selections included linebacker DJ Warkenthien, defensive back Pat Cravens, defensive lineman Josh Leonhard and offensive linemen Sharmore Clarke and Dalton Ness.

North Central had the highest number of all-conference selections of any team in the CCIW.

The Rest of the Bracket: The winner of this week's game will face the winner of the second-round game between Wartburg and Trine in the national quarterfinals on Dec. 2.

The national semifinals will be played on Dec. 9, with the national championship game, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, to be played on Friday, Dec. 15 in Salem, Virginia.

North Central in the NCAA Tournament: The Cardinals are 12-9 all-time in nine previous postseason appearances, including a 8-4 record at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium. North Central has won its last nine first-round games.

North Central vs. the WIAC: The Cardinals own an 8-5 all-time record against teams from the WIAC. North Central's most recent postseason game against a WIAC opponent was a 52-24 victory over Wisconsin-Platteville in the second round in 2013.

NCAA Statistical Rankings: North Central currently ranks fourth nationally in quarterback sacks (4.18 per game), fifth in red-zone offense (91.7% success), sixth in blocked punts (4), and ninth in rushing defense (74.1 yards allowed per game). 

Crotty ranks eighth in field-goal percentage (.867), while Cravens ranks 16th in punt-return average (12.8 yards per return), Rutter ranks 16th in yards per pass attempt (9.02) and Warkenthien is 17th in tackles for loss (20).

North Central Career Rankings:  Rutter ranks fourth in North Central history in career touchdown passes (58), passing yards (5,897) and pass completions (418).

Breunig ranks third all-time in rushing touchdowns scored (38) and total touchdowns scored (44) and fourth in all-purpose yards (4,330) and rushing yards (3,272). Crotty sits second in extra-point kicks made (105) and fourth in field goals made (21).

Cravens ranks third in school history in punt return yards (737), 13th in interceptions (8) and 14th in pass breakups (16). Warkenthien ranks fifth all-time in tackles for loss (40) and 10th in quarterback sacks (14.5), while Douds is sixth in sacks (18.5) and Sora ranks seventh in tackles (226).

'Red Zone' Returns in 2017: Once again, fans of North Central College football can get an insider's look at the Cardinals' football program, as 'The Red Zone' highlight show returns for its 10th season on Naperville Community Television, Channel 17.

The show airs each Thursday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Friday at 12:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday at midnight. It will feature interviews with coaches and players, highlights of the previous week's game, and a look ahead to the upcoming opponent.

Each show is viewable online at nctv17.com and is archived at youtube.com/northcentralsports as well as at northcentralcardinals.com.

Dec. 14: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Mount Union at Mary Hardin-Baylor
@ Woodforest Bank Stadium; Shenandoah, Texas
Video Preview Audio Tickets
Dec. 14: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Mount Union at Mary Hardin-Baylor
@ Woodforest Bank Stadium; Shenandoah, Texas
Video Preview Audio Tickets