North Central Blasts UW-Stout for First Home Win
The home crowd at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium was treated to a second straight dominant performance by the North Central College football team on Saturday, as the Cardinals opened the home portion of their schedule with a 41-14 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Sixth-ranked North Central (2-0) broke the game open with a 20-point second quarter as quarterback Spencer Stanek continued to operate with surgical precision. The senior established a single-game school record for passing accuracy by connecting on 24 of his 26 pass attempts (92.3 percent), throwing four touchdown passes and also running for 50 yards and another score.
"Spencer was phenomenal," said wide receiver Peter Sorenson, who made a career-high 10 catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. "Last week, he was terrific and this week he stepped up even more. He made the right reads across the board all day. He's put a lot of work in during the offseason and it's evident in how he's played. He's a real leader."
The Cardinals drove 71 yards in 12 plays on the game's first drive, but came away empty after a missed field goal attempt. UW-Stout (2-1) threatened to take the early lead, driving into North Central territory before Shane Dierking came up with an interception for the second straight game, picking off Blue Devil quarterback Hank Kujak's pass and returning it 18 yards to the Cardinals' 31-yard line.
"This week, we wanted to have a fast start," Dierking said. "Last week, we gave up a touchdown on the first drive, so this week, we wanted to fire on all cylinders at the beginning of the game and play like we know we can play."
Stanek followed with a 39-yard pass to tight end A.J. Thomas on the next play, igniting a four-play, 69-yard possession which ended when Stanek scrambled to the right and beat the Blue Devils defense to the end zone for his third rushing touchdown of the season.
The Cardinals' defense forced a punt on the next drive, and North Central doubled its lead after Stanek engineered a nine-play, 85-yard scoring drive. He completed four passes to Sorenson on the way to the end zone, including a five-yard fade route to the left corner for the TD as Sorenson outleaped UW-Stout cornerback Michael Olewinski to make the grab.
"All throughout the week, the coaches did a great job of picking out plays that could be successful based on what they gave us," Sorenson said. "They put us in a great position to make plays. We did a good job of executing the plays they gave us to run, and the offensive line got it started by protecting Spencer and got the running game going.
North Central put together two more extended scoring drives before the halftime break, traveling 75 yards in 11 plays and scoring on another fade route to Sorenson before a 12-play, 80-yard drive culminated in a four-yard scoring pass to tight end Ryan Szudarski. The Cardinals went into the halftime break with a 27-0 advantage, having already accumulated 370 yards of total offense.
The Cardinals' defense stuffed Stout's first drive of the second half, and a short punt allowed the hosts to regain possession near midfield. A 32-yard pass to Sorenson and a 17-yard run by Ryan Kent left North Central knocking on the door once again, and Stanek found Szudarski once again for a two-yard TD pass and a 34-0 lead.
Near the end of the third period, backup quarterback Tyler Dicken began the Cardinals' final scoring drive of the afternoon before delivering an eight-yard touchdown pass to Ryne Rezac on the first play of the fourth quarter. North Central covered 80 yards in 16 plays, eating up nearly six minutes of game clock.
The Blue Devils scored twice in the final minutes against the North Central reserves, as running back Tanner Kuehn scored on a nine-yard run and backup QB Sawyer Moon threw a 39-yard TD pass to Zak Snell with 16 seconds to play.
The Cardinals rolled up 584 yards of offense (320 passing, 264 rushing) and owned a 34:30-25:30 edge in time of possession while being flagged for just one penalty. Rezac made six catches for 39 yards and Thomas caught four passes for 66 yards. Freshman running back Zack Pattat was the team's top rusher with 80 yards on 15 carries.
Nick Slezak led the Cardinals in tackles for the second straight week, making nine tackles while also breaking up two passes. Michael Monterrubio made six stops and Josh Fick contributed a quarterback sack. North Central allowed the Blue Devils just 188 yards of offense the first three quarters.
Kujak completed 17 of 29 passes for 170 yards, throwing five times to Brian Alvarez for 45 yards. Adolfo Pacheco paced Stout's running game with 65 yards on eight attempts, and safety Tyler Naatz led the Blue Devils with 15 tackles.
North Central remains home next Saturday, hosting the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (2-0). Kickoff at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m.