Time of Poss.
Broc Rutter threw five touchdown passes in the first half, four to Andrew Kamienski, and Kamienski had one key drop -- the bucket of water on Coach John Thorne as time wound down -- and North Central cruised into its first Stagg Bowl by knocking out Muhlenberg, the last unbeaten team in the Division III playoffs, 45-14, on a misty afternoon at Scotty Wood Stadium in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Rutter’s first throw of the day was intercepted, but North Central's Julian Bell returned the favor, getting the ball back by intercepting Michael Hnatkowsky. Kamienski caught his first touchdown pass just a few plays later. Blake Williams caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Rutter on the next possession, and after the Mules fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return, Kamienski has his second touchdown catch less than 10 minutes into the game, and the rout was on.
After the opening-play interception, North Central scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives. The only time the Mules got anything close to a stop in the first half came on the Cardinals' final drive. Rutter threw a ball on fourth-and-10 from the 22 which Kamienski took for 21 yards. Replay suggested that he appeared to get the ball across the plane of the end zone, but he was ruled down at the 1 and the game was not stopped for review. On third down Brian Raguseo and Mickey Kober reached Rutter for one of the two times he was sacked all day, and North Central (13-1) settled for a 27-yard Magnus Meyer field goal to end the first half with a 38-7 lead.
|The officiating crew ruled that Andrew Kamienski did not get into the end zone on this play, but he did four other times, helping North Central make it look easy in the national semifinals.
Photo by Tom Nettleton, d3photography.com
The Mules boasted the nation's third-ranked scoring defense heading into Saturday's game (9.6 points per game) but fell silent against North Central's trio of offensive threats in Broc Rutter, Andrew Kamienski and Ethan Greenfield that poured in 38 first-half points. Kamienski recorded four touchdown receptions—matching his career high—to establish a new Division III single season record for touchdown receptions (30).
Kamienski finished with 11 catches for 112 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half, and Rutter was 16-for-25 for 193 yards, five touchdowns and no additional turnovers. Rutter threw only two passes in the second half. Kamienski improved his number of touchdown catches on the season to 30, breaking the Division III single season record. The record had been jointly held by Hartwick's Jack Phelan (2008) and Westminster (Mo.) receiver Scott Pingel (1998), who each recorded their catches in a 10-game regular season.
"I'm so pleased with the way our guys played today, said head coach Jeff Thorne. "We feel very fortunate to be moving on and are extremely excited to be heading to Texas for our first Stagg Bowl, but we're not done yet: We still have one more to go," Thorne added.
It's the first trip to the Stagg Bowl for a CCIW team since Augustana finished its run of four consecutive national championships in 1986.