Griffin Neal, Concordia
Fargo, N.D. / South
The Concordia football team remained unbeaten with its biggest win to date Saturday - a 24-14 upset of No. 21 Saint John's in Collegeville. Quarterback Griffin Neal (Fargo, N.D./South) had a huge day to lead the Cobber offense in the victory. He finished with 269 combined rushing and passing yards and threw a pair of touchdown passes while completing 65.2 percent of his throws. For his performance in the Cobbers' big win, Neal was named the MIAC Football Offensive Player-of-the-Week for the second time this season.
Neal led the Cobbers in rushing in Saturday's win, racking up 83 yards on just 13 carries for an average of 6.4 yards per carry. Through the air, the junior was 15-for-23 for 186 yards and two scores. His two first-half touchdown passes helped Concordia build a 21-7 lead in a game it never trailed. Neal was also crucial extending plays and avoiding the Johnnie rush in the win. This season, Neal is averaging 204.0 yards per game through the air while completing 63.6 percent of his passes. He ranks in the top seven in both rushing and passing with an average of 56.8 yards per game on the ground.
Thanks to the win, Concordia is now 4-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play, and it entered the national top 25 rankings this week at No. 23 in both the D3football.com Top 25 and the AFCA Division III Coaches' Poll. The Cobbers join Bethel and Augsburg - who square off against one another Saturday - as the only remaining undefeated teams in the MIAC. Concordia and Griffin will enjoy their bye week before returning to action on Oct. 12 with a huge home game looming against fifth-ranked Bethel.
Zach Dilger, Gustavus
South St. Paul, Minn. / South St. Paul
The Gustavus football team treated its homecoming crowd to an impressive 45-19 win over St. Olaf Saturday in which the Gusties dominated the final three quarters. Junior Zach Dilger (South St. Paul, Minn.) had a huge role in the win, as the defensive back made a pair of game-changing interceptions in the first quarter to highlight his impressive stat line. For his performance, Dilger was named the MIAC Football Defensive Player-of-the-Week.
Dilger's final stat line featured five tackles (three solo, two assist), one tackle-for-a-loss and two pass breakups in addition to the two picks, which were crucial to the Gusties' success in the early-going. His first interception came on the Oles' opening drive and set up Gustavus' first touchdown of the game, and his second came in the end zone as St. Olaf was trying to build on its early 13-7 lead. Dilger's two interceptions are tied for the second-best total in the MIAC this season, and his five pass breakups are also tied for second in the league. He also has 14 tackles (10 solo, four assist) in 2013.
Thanks to Saturday's win, Gustavus improved to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the conference thus far in 2013. The Gusties hit the road Saturday with the hopes of winning their second-straight MIAC game. Gustavus will travel to St. Paul to face Hamline in a big game for both teams. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on the Pipers home field.
Andrew O'Reilly, Bethel
Lakeville, Minn. / South
Football coaches often talk about the: "next man up," mentality so players are prepared to seize an opportunity when it's presented. Bethel's Andrew O'Reilly (Lakeville, Minn./South) has been a great example of that thus far in 2013, as he's stepped in admirably after the Royals' starting kicker was injured in the season opener. Saturday, the sophomore was perfect on PAT attempts and strong with his kickoffs to help Bethel beat Carleton in its conference opener. For his performance, O'Reilly was named the MIAC Football Special Teams Player-of-the-Week.
O'Reilly had an extremely busy afternoon Saturday in support of a strong Bethel offensive performance. The kicker was a perfect 8-for-8 on PATs to score eight points in Bethel's 58-14 victory over the Knights. O'Reilly also helped in the field-position battle, amassing 505 yards on nine kickoffs for a 56.1 average. In his increased role, O'Reilly's 14 PATs lead the MIAC, and he's converted 88 percent (14-for-16) of his extra points while averaging 59.3 yards on kickoffs.
Bethel - ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation - used Saturday's win to open conference play 1-0, and improved to 3-0 overall. The Royals are just one of three teams, along with Concordia and Augsburg, without a loss yet in 2013. Bethel hosts the Auggies Saturday as the two unbeatens square off in a huge game in Arden Hills. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.