SEWARD, Neb.- When Dakota Wesleyan University's offense marched onto the field against Concordia University (Nebraska) on Saturday, it was freshman quarterback Alex Pohlen who lined up under center.
Shaye Slaughter, who started DWU's first five games, was out due to a wrist injury on his non-throwing hand. That opened the door for Pohlen to see his first collegiate game action.
Despite DWU losing 14-9, Pohlen racked up 322 passing yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on 31 of 49 passing.
DWU head coach Ross Cimpl said DWU didn't change its gameplan when finding out the five-foot-nine, 170-pound signal caller would start, though the offense still showed an efficiency unseen since Sept. 1 against Presentation.
It was the first time a Tiger quarterback completed at least 50 percent of their passes and eclipsed 300 passing yards since against the Saints.
"For his first college football game, it was unbelievable," Cimpl said. "He's a competitor, he has a tradition of winning games so we felt confident with him in that situation and I thought he responded really well."
Pohlen's accurate day was highlighted by a few well-thrown deep balls down the sidelines, an area that the Tigers' have struggled in this season.
However, it was his ability to throw on the run that led to him connecting with Spencer Neugebauer over the middle of the field for an 84-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Neugebauer finished with game-highs of 227 receiving yards on 12 catches.
"That was an unbelievable throw," Cimpl said. "That's a tremendously difficult throw. Being able to keep your eyes down the field, being able to extend the play and (he) threw it on the money."
Despite the Minnesota native's ability to extend plays, DWU only managed one touchdown. Holding the ball too long and taking sacks stopped a couple of drives, such as in the first quarter. Following a 20-yard loss due to a bad snap, Pohlen was able to extend the play on third-and-goal from the 27-yard line, but took a nine-yard sack to push DWU out of field-goal range.
He also threw an interception on DWU's final two drives with the Tigers down five. The game-ending interception occurred due to Pohlen overthrowing a covered Jace Pulse by five yards.
"I thought the last interception wasn't ideal, but Alex is a competitor and he's trying to make a play and he's trying to put us in a position to win the game," Cimpl said. "... If we're talking about one or two plays that weren't great overall, I summarize that as a pretty good day."
After the game, Cimpl wouldn't say whether Pohlen would start over Slaughter on Oct. 13 at 1 p.m. when it hosts Dordt College for homecoming. That said, DWU's two-deeps list Pohlen as the starter, with Slaughter backing him up.
"Where we're at offensively and where we are as a team, we have to find something that's going to spark our team," Cimpl said. "... Based on how Alex played and Shaye's health, we'll have to make that decision. I don't think it's a cut-and-dry situation one way or the other right now."