Griffin Neal, Concordia
Fargo, N.D. / South
The Concordia football team continued their great season Saturday with a convincing 51-27 win over Carleton. Leading the way in the Cobbers latest victory was quarterback Griffin Neal (Fargo, N.D./South), who both passed and ran his team up and down the field. The versatile sophomore racked up nearly 300 yards of total offense while accounting for five total touchdowns without a turnover in the victory. For his performance, Neal was named the MIAC Football Offensive Player-of-the-Week.
Neal was productive in the passing game, completing 10-of-18 attempts for 257 yards and three touchdowns. His longest pass of the day was a 74-yard scoring strike to give the Cobbers a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter. He was also good on the ground, running 10 times for 41 yards and two scores, for overall totals of 298 yards and five TDs, with a combined average of more than 10 yards per attempt. This season, Neal has 1,300 passing yards and 16 scores, and 252 rushing yards with four TDs on the ground.
The big win helped Concordia improve to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the MIAC, and the Cobbers moved up to No. 16 in this week's AFCA Coaches' Poll. Concordia is currently in second place, and will have a shot at earning a share of the MIAC title this weekend when undefeated and third-ranked St. Thomas (8-0, 6-0) comes to Moorhead. The two teams will meet in one of the MIAC's marquee games in 2012 Saturday at 1:10 p.m.
MIAC Football Defensive Player-of-the-Week
Maze Thompson, Saint John's
Shoreview. Minn. / Mounds View
The Saint John's football team came from behind Saturday to beat Gustavus, 31-17, as the Johnnie defense allowed only a single field goal after halftime. Leading the defensive charge was linebacker Maze Thompson (Shoreview, Minn. / Mounds View), who submitted a ridiculously full stat line in the SJU win. The sophomore led his team in tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage, while also forcing a fumble and blocking a field goal. For his performance, Thompson was named the MIAC Football Defensive Player-of-the-Week.
Thompson finished 12 total tackles - nine solo - which led the Johnnies in Saturday's win over the Gusties. he had one sack, three tackles-for-a-loss and a forced fumble to his credit as well, and the average Gustavus gain on Thompson's 12 tackles was just 2.6 yards per play. He also blocked a 30-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, which would have cut SJU's lead to 24-20. This season, Thompson has 51 total tackles (21 solo), two sacks and 6.5 tackles-for-a-loss, which ranks No. 8 in the MIAC.
Saint John's used Saturday's win to get back to .500 overall at 4-4, and now the Johnnies have won two-straight in league play and improved to 2-4. They'll look to continue their late-season momentum Saturday when they travel to Saint Paul to face Hamline. Kickoff for the Johnnies and Pipers is scheduled for 1 p.m.
MIAC Football Special Teams Player-of-the-Week
Landen Strilzuk, Bethel
Luck, Wis. / Luck
Bethel had big plays in all phases of the game in Saturday's 56-21 win over Hamline, but perhaps none were bigger than the one turned in on special teams by Landen Strilzuk (Luck, Wis.). The Royals' sophomore made history Saturday when he took a punt back 70 yards for a third-quarter touchdown that served as the lasting highlight on a great day for Bethel. For his big play, Strilzuk was named the MIAC Football Special Teams Player-of-the-Week.
With just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Strilzuk fielded a Hamline punt on his own 30 yard line, and by the time the return was over, he was crossing the goal line to push Bethel's lead to 49-14 with a spectacular 70-yard return. The punt return was the longest recorded by a Bethel player since Kim Walker took a punt back 98 yards in 1975, and it was the first Royal punt return for a touchdown since 2001. This season, Strilzuk has returned nine punts for 116 yards and the one score, and his 12.9 yard average ranks second among MIAC players who qualify.
The win helped Bethel - which is now ranked No. 13 in the AFCA Coaches' Top 25 Poll - improve to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in conference play. The Royals are currently tied for second in the MIAC standings. Saturday, Bethel faces a big road test when it travels to Northfield, Minn., to take on a good St. Olaf squad. The Royals and Oles are set to kick off the crucial MIAC contest at 1 p.m.