Dominating the passing game on both sides of the ball, the North Central College football team treated its fans to a landslide Homecoming victory on Saturday, outmatching Elmhurst College at every turn on the way to a 55-0 walkover at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.
The 12th-ranked Cardinals (7-1, 6-1 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin) scored six of their seven touchdowns through the air while disrupting Elmhurst's passing game with nine quarterback sacks, the second-highest single-game total in North Central history, as the hosts recorded their third shutout win of the year.
The Cardinals took a lead they would never relinquish almost immediately, as the first play from scrimmage saw Broc Rutter execute a play-action fake and pass downfield to Cory Hartema, who raced to the end zone for a 52-yard touchdown just 20 seconds after play began. The lead increased to 10-0 following Derik Judka's 33-yard field goal with 2:32 left in the opening period.
Elmhurst (1-7, 0-7 CCIW) sent kicker Kaiden Truninger on for a 44-yard field-goal attempt early in the second quarter, but the kick fell short. Returning to the field at its own 28-yard line, the North Central offense traveled 72 yards in five plays and went ahead, 17-0, as Rutter once again found Hartema, who eluded a series of attempted tackles and scored from 19 yards out. The Bluejays managed to recover fumbles on the final three North Central possessions of the half, but were forced to punt each time.
The Cardinals closed the door on the contest by scoring on each one of ther six second-half drives. Rutter connected with Tyler Egan on a three-yard touchdown pass to open what would become a 28-point third quarter. Adam Maluchnik forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by Mason Crain, to give the home team possession just 14 yards from the end zone. Two plays later, Rutter found Andrew Kamienski in the back of the end zone for a two-yard scoring pass.
Elmhurst dropped back into punt formation on its next drive, but elected to fake the punt and run for the first down. Matt Sutherland made the drive-stopping tackle well short of the line to gain, giving North Central possession at the Bluejays' 27. Kamienski scored on another two-yard toss four plays later, this time from fellow wideout Cameron Moore on a double-reverse, to boost the lead to 38-0. Yet another short field awaited the Cardinals' offense three minutes later, as DJ Warkenthien sacked Elmhurst quarterback Orlando Hernandez and forced a fumble which was recovered by Alec Wolff at the Bluejays' six-yard line. Rutter pitched his fifth touchdown pass of the day (tying a career high) two plays later, this time a five-yarder to Alex Rose, just before the end of the third period.
The fourth quarter, mainly featuring North Central's backups, was highlighted by a 13-yard touchdown run by Vaughn Hobart, a 25-yard field goal by Judka and two fourth-down conversion attempts denied by the Cardinals' defense, which held Elmhurst to a net loss of 18 rushing yards and just 211 yards total while North Central gained 489.
Rutter completed 18 of 21 passes for 306 yards, hitting Moore (122 yards) and Kamienski (69 yards) six times each, while Zach Garrett paced the ground game with 77 yards on seven carries. Ben Wong turned in a team-high nine tackles, while Warkenthien made three tackles for loss and shared the team lead in sacks (2) with Talha Ayhan.
The Cardinals travel to face 15th-ranked Illinois Wesleyan University on Saturday in a battle for first place in the CCIW standings. Kickoff at Tucci Stadium is set to begin at 1:00 p.m.