Griffin Neal, Concordia
Fargo, N.D. / South
The Concordia football team and junior quarterback Griffin Neal (Fargo, N.D./South) didn't show any rust following the long offseason in Saturday's 39-14 season-opening win over Jamestown. The Cobber offense, directed by Neal, scored on its first five possessions, with the QB topped the 300-yard passing plateau and had three total touchdowns in the Concordia victory. For his performance, Neal was named the inaugural MIAC Football Offensive Player-of-the-Week of the 2013 season.
Neal's final stat line was certainly impressive, as the Cobber QB was an efficient 16-for-19 passing (.842) for 303 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception and a long of 67 yards. He also ran for 12 yards and a touchdown to give him 315 total yards and a score. He was a near-perfect 13-for-14 for 236 yards and two TDs in the first half as he directed those five-straight scoring drives to open the season. Neal averaged 15.9 yards per attempt Saturday, and was the only MIAC passer to top 300 yards in the opening weekend.
Thanks to the Cobbers win, they're off to a 1-0 start and they contributed to a big weekend overall for the conference. MIAC teams started a perfect 7-0 against nonconference competition Friday and Saturday. Concordia will aim for two-straight wins this weekend with their first road contest of the 2013 season. Saturday, the Cobber travel to Buena Vista for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Josh Estes, Carleton
Chicago, Ill. / Walter Payton
The Carleton defense was both stout and opportunistic in Saturday's 29-10 season-opening win over Grinnell. The Knights impressed in their 2013 home debut, holding Grinnell to just 10 points and 376 yards of total offense, including just 42 yards on the ground, with the visitors only touchdown coming in the game's closing seconds. Leading the way was senior Josh Estes (Chicago, Ill./Walter Payton), who led all MIAC defensive backs in tackles over the first weekend and added a huge interception in the victory. For his performances, Estes was named the first MIAC Football Defensive Player-of-the-Week for the 2013 season.
Estes was outstanding for the Knights, racking up 10 total tackles on four solo tackles and six assists. His interception couldn't have come at a better time, as he picked off a Grinnell pass at the Carleton two-yard line to keep the visitors out of the end zone. Estes was just one of three MIAC players to record double-digit tackles over the weekend, and the only of those three to add an interception to his stat line. He leads all MIAC defensive backs in tackles, and ranks second overall.
Carleton is off to a 1-0 start thanks to Saturday's great performance in the home opener. The Knights joined the MIAC's other six teams in action in the win column, as the league started a perfect 7-0 against nonconference competition. Carleton will get a little extra time to enjoy the win, as they have a bye in week two. The Knights will return to action on Sept. 21, when they open conference play with a rare night kickoff at Hamline at 7 p.m.
Alexi Johnson, Saint John's
Shakopee, Minn. / Shakopee
Saint John's started its 2013 season, and the Gary Fasching era with a dramatic comeback victory, scoring 10 points in the final 55 seconds to stun UW-River Falls Friday night. The game-tying and game-winning points were delivered in the final minute by the foot of Alexi Johnson (Shakopee, Minn.), as the freshman kicker proved to be poised beyond his years. His clutch PAT and field goal in the final minute of Friday's win resulted in Johnson's selection as the first MIAC Football Special Teams Player-of-the-Week of the 2013 season.
Johnson's final stat line read 2-for-2 on extra points and 1-for-1 on field goals, but the stats don't tell the story of his huge performance with the game on the line. Following a five-yard delay of game penalty, Johnson was called to kick a longer-than-normal PAT to tie the game with 55 seconds to play, which split the uprights. SJU got the ball back and one big play, and ran the freshman kicker out to try a game-winning 40-yard field goal with just two seconds left, which also sailed between the posts to give the Johnnies an unforgettable season-opening victory. The field goal was the longest distance recorded by an SJU freshman since Brandon Keller's 41 yarder in 2001.
Johnson and the Johnnies started the season 1-0, and joined the other six MIAC teams in action in the win column, as the conference was a combined 7-0 against nonconference foes Friday and Saturday. SJU will try to win its second-straight game to open the season Saturday, when they host UW-Eau Claire in its home opener in Collegeville, Minn., at 1 p.m. The Blugolds lost to a MIAC opponent, No. 2 St Thomas, in their opener, 52-7.