North Central Closes Regular Season with Rout of Augustana
The third 10-0 regular season in the history of the North Central College football program was made complete Saturday, as the Cardinals stormed to a 53-14 victory over the Augustana College Vikings on Senior Day at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.
Fourth-ranked North Central put its stamp on the game with 23 unanswered first-quarter points and owned a 40-7 halftime advantage as the Cardinals locked up the outright College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) Championship.
The hosts put the game's first possession into the end zone after just over three minutes had elapsed, as Spencer Stanek completed a 10-yard touchdown pass toChad O'Kane. After a Viking punt, Stanek went to O'Kane for another score just two plays later, completing a 46-yard toss to extend the lead to 13-0.
North Central's first defensive touchdown came on the ensuing drive, as linebacker Nick Slezak scooped up a fumbled option pitch and ran it back 22 yards to paydirt. Augustana punted away its next drive, and after six straight rushing attempts by Matt Randolph, kicker Nick Dace came on to convert a 20-yard field goal with 3:33 on the first-period clock.
The Cardinals' first punt of the day was a 64-yarder by Kevin Looff which was mishandled by Augustana, enabling Ryne Rezac to recover the ball at the Vikings' nine-yard line. Dace wound up kicking a 29-yard field goal with 10:48 left in the opening half, extending the lead to 26-0.
Stanek highlighted North Central's next scoring drive by completing four straight passes, including a fade route to Peter Sorenson in the left corner of the end zone for a three-yard touchdown. A penalty on the ensuing kickoff gave the Vikings a short field, and Augustana put together an eight-play, 53-yard drive to get on the board after a five-yard TD run by quarterback Chris Salazar with 24 seconds before halftime.
The Cardinals were able to get in one more score before the break after Jordan Dean return Augustana's following kickoff 84 yards to the Vikings' four-yard line. Dean's return is the longest for North Central this season and the fifth-longest in the program's history. Stanek threw a four-yard shovel pass to Ryan Szudarski on the final play of the second period for his fourth passing TD of the game. Stanek now has 32 touchdown passes this season, breaking the previous single-season school record of 30 set by Kam Kniss '07 in 2006.
The final drive for most of North Central's starters yielded a touchdown early in the third period, as Randolph capped off a six-play, 59-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run. The Vikings' subsequent drive ended with an interception by the Cardinals' Richard Zirngibl, and Dace connected on a 38-yard field goal with 7:08 to go in the third period to boost North Central's lead to 50-7.
Augustana (5-5, 3-4 CCIW) answered with the longest drive of the afternoon, a 14 play, 84-yard sojourn that culminated in Eric Chandler's three-yard TD run on the last play of the third quarter. The lone score in the fourth quarter came from Dace, whose 34-yard field goal gave him four in the contest to give the Cardinals' all-time leading scorer sole possession of a single-game record he had shared.
The Cardinals outgained Augustana, 427-239, holding a seventh straight CCIW opponent under 300 yards. Stanek finished the day 15 of 20 passing for 195 yards, throwing five times to Sorenson (53 yards) and four times to O'Kane (72 yards).Denzel Thompson broke loose for a 58-yard run late in the game which made him North Central's top rusher with 82 yards on five carries.
Slezak paced the defense with eight tackles, including a career-high four tackles for loss. Michael Weidner made seven stops and Kevin Schroeder finished with six, while Trey Hartema added a 27-yard interception return.
Chandler paced Augustana's offense with 116 yards on 24 rushing attempts and Salazar completed 8 of 18 passes for 80 yards. James Fanning, Erik Westerberg and Bo Goshorn led the Vikings' defense with eight tackles each.