A solid second half effort by the Augustana Vikings wasn't enough to pull out a homecoming win Saturday, as North Central jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead cruised to a 34-14 win at Ericson Field. The 7th-ranked Cardinals remain unbeaten at 5-0 and 2-0 in CCIW play while Augustana drops to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
After North Central dominated the first half, outgaining the Vikings 263 yards to 49, Augustana put together an 11-play 76-yard drive to start the second half. Quarterback David Lee completed four of five passes for 44 yards and rushed twice for 26 yards on the drive. Robert Wood finished the drive, taking a swing pass from Lee into the end zone from nine yards out. Arnie Fitzwater's point after cut the lead to 20-7.
On the ensuing North Central drive, the Vikings couldn't hold the Cardinals on a key third-and-five at North Central's 43-yard line. Quarterback Brad Crackel connected with Andy Stuursma for 20 yards to the Augustana 37 and three plays later running back Nick Kukuc broke a tackle in the backfield a galloped 25 yards for a touchdown. Nick Dace's conversion pushed the lead back to 20 at 27-7.
The Vikings moved the ball well again on their next drive, going 62 yards in six plays, but were derailed by a pair of penalties and a sack. After forcing a Cardinal three-and-out, the offense went right back to work, marching 66 yards in 10 plays for another touchdown. Lee completed all four of his pass attempts on the drive including a third-and-eight conversion of 27 yards to Corbett Ball and a 7-yard completion to A.J. Hoger on third-and-two. His nine-yard touchdown toss to Zach McCullough completed the drive.
Trailing 27-14 with 9:33 left in the game, the Vikings suffered a back-breaking play on North Central's next drive. On a second-and-seven play from his own 43, Cardinal receiver Steve Hlavac took a handoff and was trapped deep in the backfield. However the All-CCIW performer was able to reverse field and dash down the left sideline for a 49-yard gain to the Augustana eight. Two plays later, Crackel found a wide open Alex Haan in the back of the end zone to account for the final score.
North Central took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter as Crackel connected with Manny Juarez on a 55-yard touchdown pass on the game's opening drive and added a one-yard touchdown run of his own on the Cardinals' next possession. They extended the lead to 20-0 on the second play of the second quarter when Joe Antonacci made a great catch in the end zone on a 32-yard heave by Crackel.
For the game, North Central outgained Augustana 428 yards to 222, with the Vikings actually outgaining the visitors by a narrow 173-165 margin in the second half. Lee finished the day 16 of 21 passing but for just 134 yards as pressure from the Cardinal pass rush forced him to concentrate on short routes. North Central sacked Lee four times for 31 yards. Discounting those sacks, the Viking ground game produced 119 yards on 25 carries (4.8 yards per carry) against a North Central defense that had been allowing just 0.4 yards per carry coming in. Wood led the way with 64 yards on 15 attempts.
Crackel finished 12 of 19 for 191 yards and three touchdowns and Kukuc paced the Cardinal rushing attack with 61 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Augustana will try to maintain its perfect road record next week when they travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin for a 6:00 p.m. contest against the Carthage Red Men.