Written by News Bulletin News Sources   
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 00:00

In a game that featured nearly 600 passing yards, it was the running game which turned the tide for the North Central College football team on Saturday, as the Cardinals vanquished the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, 52-24, at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium to advance to the national quarterfinals for the second time in their history.

Fourth-ranked North Central (12-0) moves on to the round of eight for the first time since 2010 and will face sixth-ranked Bethel University (Minn.) in the quarterfinals.

"Those are two good teams right there," said the Cardinals' head coach, John Thorne. "It really makes it tough for both defenses because both offenses force you to defend the whole field. It was a very, very exciting game. The offense did some great things, and the defense did a lot of great things. We're very excited to be playing a third-round game."

The Cardinals enjoyed a breakout performance from junior running back Ryan Kent, who eluded the Pioneers' defense all day long en route to a career-high 257 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries. He tied North Central's single-game record for touchdowns and came just three yards short of the school record of 260 yards set by Jeremy Walsh in 2001 and tied by Steve Holden in 2004. Kent's efforts helped the Cardinals turn in a total of 596 offensive yards, their most ever in a postseason contest.

"I think the offensive line did a great job," Kent said. "I think you could drive trucks through some of those holes. We usually go by committee, because we have a lot of great backs, so I was lucky to get the opportunities that I had."

North Central needed only three plays to get into the end zone for the first time, as senior receiver Chad O'Kane got behind the Platteville defense and hauled in a pass from Spencer Stanek. O'Kane raced to the end zone for an 83-yard touchdown, the fourth-longest passing play in the program's history.

The Pioneers (10-2) threatened to tie the score on their first possession, but linebacker Jason Callahan intercepted a pass in the Cardinals' end zone to thwart the visitors' progress.

"That was a huge interception," Thorne said. "That gave us an awful lot of momentum that really continued throughout the rest of the game."

Stanek completed 19 of 24 passes for 274 yards, giving him 3,048 for the season to make him the second Cardinal quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a single campaign. O'Kane hauled in seven passes for a career-high 132 yards and tied North Central's single-game record with three TD receptions, while Kent, who now owns 1,013 rushing yards this sseason, gives the Cardinals a 1,000-yard rusher for the eighth time.

Saturday's game will kickoff at noon. The site of the game will be determined by the NCAA Division III Football Committee.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 14:19
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