The North Central College football team's final home performance of the 2019 regular season received rave reviews at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium on Saturday, as the Cardinals lit up the scoreboard early and often in dismantling the Illinois Wesleyan University Titans, 69-14.
North Central (8-1, 7-1 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin) put the contest out of reach with two touchdowns in the final 43 seconds of the first half, which wound up being the start of a run of 38 unanswered points to close the game. It is the Cardinals' fourth time venturing over the 60-point mark this season and the third in the last four weeks.
Putting dents in the North Central and CCIW record books once again was wide receiver Andrew Kamienski, who made seven catches for 155 yards and caught a school-record tying four touchdown passes in the first half alone. Kamienski now has 18 TD catches this season, establishing new single-season records for the program and the conference.
After a missed IWU field goal, the Cardinals got their first offensive series started with a bang, as quarterback Broc Rutter darted away from the Titans' pass rush and ran untouched down the middle of the field for 60 yards on the hosts' first play from scrimmage. Facing fourth down-and-inches from the IWU 10-yard line, Rutter connected with tight end Tyler Egan over the middle for a 10-yard touchdown pass. After forcing a punt, North Central doubled its lead to 14-0 when Rutter found Kamienski for a 59-yard scoring strike, and kicker Magnus Meyer added a 23-yard field goal before the first period was over.
IWU (5-4, 5-3 CCIW) got on the board early in the second quarter, as quarterback Johnny Dicanio lofted a seven-yard TD pass to wideout Jack Healy in the right corner of the end zone to narrow the gap to 17-6. North Central negated the Titans' progress with a pair of quick scores, as Rutter delivered a one-yard score to Kamienski and, after a short IWU punt, Ethan Greenfield ran 39 yards to the end zone just over a minute later to boost the lead to 31-6 with 6:12 before halftime.
The visitors scored on Bryce Dooley's four-yard run with 3:16 on the clock, but a fumbled punt snap on their next drive was recovered by Zach Greenberg on the IWU 15-yard line. Rutter and Kamienski hooked up for their third score of the half just three plays later, this time from five yards out. A 48-yard kickoff return set the Titans up with a chance for a score just before the half ended, but Isiah Ziegler forced a Dicanio fumble which was recovered by Bryan Beauchamp at the North Central 40 with 26 seconds to play. Facing third down-and-15 in the final seconds of the period, Rutter fired once again to Kamienski, who fought off coverage by IWU linebacker Keenan Scott and made a leaping grab to complete a 29-yard TD pass with just 5.1 seconds on the clock to send the Cardinals into halftime with a 45-14 advantage.
After the break, Rutter tied his own school record with a sixth touchdown pass, this time a 55-yarder to Greenfield, less than two minutes after play resumed. Greenfield bounced an inside run to the perimeter for a seven-yard scoring run later in the period before the bulk of North Central's offensive starters left the game. The hosts scored on Zach Garrett's 12-yard run early in the fourth period before Meyer connected on a season-long 35-yard field goal late in the contest.
The Cardinals finished with 622 yards of offense (306 rushing, 316 passing), eclipsing the 600-yard mark for the fourth straight game and the sixth in seven CCIW games. Rutter completed 12 of 19 passes for 281 yards and shared team-high rushing yardage honors (94) with Greenfield. North Central's defense yielded just 227 yards, only 39 of which were gained after halftime. Beauchamp and Sam Taviani each made six tackles, while Braden Lindmark broke up three passes and Greenberg also contributed an interception.
North Central concludes the regular season next Saturday, traveling to face Millikin University. The Big Blue are 5-4 overall and 4-4 in CCIW play after a 35-28 overtime victory over Washington University in St. Louis. Kickoff at Frank M. Lindsay Field is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.