Setting the Scene: What has traditionally been one of its toughest matchups each season awaits the Cardinals this week as they look to send their seniors off with a final regular-season victory at home.
Series History: This is the 70th football meeting between the institutions. The Titans own a 38-28-3 lead in the all-time series, but North Central has won the last nine straight games and 16 of the last 17.
The teams met in Bloomington on Nov. 3 of last season and the then-No. 10-ranked Cardinals secured a 38-20 victory over the then-No. 13-ranked Titans. A 94-yard kickoff return touchdown by Cameron Moore broke a 14-14 tie and ignited a run of 24 straight North Central points.
Broc Rutter completed 21 of 33 passes for 285 yards, including an 86-yard completion to Michael Sfikas, while Ethan Greenfield gained a team-high 81 rushing yards on 18 carries. Jake Beesley piled up 10 tackles while also intercepting a pass and forcing a fumble.
National Rankings: North Central is ranked No. 6 in the most recent NCAA Division III National Top 25 Polls released by D3football.com and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA).
Scouting the Titans: Illinois Wesleyan broke open a close game with 33 unanswered points and secured a 40-12 win over Millikin Saturday.
Facing a 12-7 deficit to open the second half, the Titans took the lead on Johnny Dicanio's 31-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Dooley and put the game away by scoring on each of their next four possessions as well.
IWU's starting quarterback for the last three weeks, Dicanio threw for a season-high 300 yards with three TDs against the Big Blue. He leads an offense which has averaged 374 yards per game.
Sophomore tailback Hamid Bullie is the team's top rusher with 607 yards, while senior Jack Healy (38 catches, 479 yards) and junior Zach Walsh (33 catches, 415 yards) have been the top receiving targets.
The Titans' defensive unit leads the CCIW in quarterback sacks (30). Senior linebacker Ryan Swift is the team's top tackler (63) and junior defensive tackle Mike Murphy ranks second nationally in sacks per game (1.44).
This Week for the Cardinals: North Central scored 54 unanswered first-half points on the way to an 82-7 victory at Elmhurst last week.
The Cardinals achieved the sixth-highest single-game point total in their history and their third-highest in the last 100 years. North Central also posted the third-highest single-game yardage total (678) and the seventh-lowest opposing yardage total (136) all-time.
Rutter tied a single-game school record with six touchdown passes, all of which came before halftime, and completed 23 of 28 passes for 277 yards. Greenfield ran for 182 yards and two scores on just 17 carries. The Cardinal defense, which forced three turnovers, was led by Zach Butler's nine tackles.
North Central established new CCIW single-season records for points (379), total offensive yards (4,060) and passing touchdowns (32) with two games still to play.
National Statistical Rankings: The Cardinals currently rank first among 247 Division III programs in total offense (571.0 yards per game) while ranking second in scoring offense (52.8 points per game), third in third-down conversion percentage (55.4%), fourth in first downs (216), completion percentage (70.3%) and passing efficiency (191.11), fifth in passing offense (342.8 ypg), sixth in red-zone defense (46.2%) and seventh in scoring defense (11.4 ppg).
Rutter ranks second nationally in passing touchdowns (32) and completion percentage (73.0%), third in passing efficiency (198.2) and fifth in passing yards (2,546), while Greenfield ranks third in yards per rushing attempt (8.12) and Andrew Kamienski sits fourth in receptions per game (8.9) and touchdown receptions (14).
CCIW Career Records: Rutter established a new CCIW career record for pass completions in conference play last week (679). The previous record of 678 was set by Keith Bishop, who played from 1981-85. Bishop started his career at Illinois Wesleyan before transferring to Wheaton. Rutter also holds the conference records for career passing touchdowns (98) and passing yards (9,198) in CCIW games.
CCIW Single-Season Records: The Cardinals set new CCIW single-season records for points scored (379), total offensive yards (4,060) and passing touchdowns (32) in last week's win. North Central's current averages of 580.0 yards per game and 54.1 points per game are well above the current records of 513.7 (Wheaton, 2012) and 49.6 (North Central, 2018).
Rutter now has 29 touchdown passes against CCIW foes to break the previous single-season record of 28, set by Millikin's Nicco Stepina last season.
Kamienski has caught 61 passes and scored all 14 of this season's touchdowns against conference foes. The CCIW record for receptions in a single season (72) is jointly held by Ed Brady of Illinois Wesleyan (1983) and Jim Jorden of Wheaton (1985), while the conference record for receiving touchdowns (17) was set by Millikin's Jordan Smith in 2018.
North Central Career Rankings: Rutter is the Cardinals' all-time leader in pass completions (891), passing attempts (1,320), passing yards (12,220) touchdown passes (121).
Kamienski is the program's all-time leader in career receptions (200) and receiving yards (2,670) and ranks second all-time in receiving touchdowns (29), fifth in all-purpose yards (2,997) and ninth in points scored (174) while Ayhan ranks 11th in quarterback sacks (14.5) and 18th in tackles for loss (22.5).
In just his second season of collegiate play, Greenfield ranks 11th all-time in rushing yards (1,732) and rushing touchdowns (20), 13th in total touchdowns (22) and 14th in all-purpose yards (2,150).
Around the CCIW: Carthage travels to Wheaton this week, while Millikin plays at WashU, Carroll visits Augustana and Elmhurst plays at North Park.
This Day in Cardinal Football History: 1985 vs. North Park – Playing turnover-free football despite competing in a steady rainfall throughout the game, the Cardinals rolled to a 34-0 lead en route to a 34-18 Senior Day victory over the Vikings. Quarterback Sam Cendro ran for two touchdowns and threw for another as North Central was successful on four fourth-down conversion attempts.