The Fifth Quarter: Week 5 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Geno-logy of a Heisman run
Here at the Fifth Quarter, we — I — won’t be making any type of Heisman watch lists for another couple of weeks.  However, if the stiff-armed trophy were handed out today, Geno Smith would be the winner in a veritable landslide — if it’d even be that close.  In further buttressing his case for the Heisman, all the quarterback  for No. 9 West Virginia did against a (literally) defenseless No. 25 Baylor squad was throw for 656 yards and account for 687 yards of total offense.  Smith also threw more touchdowns (eight) than incompletions (six) in the wild 70-63 win in the Mountaineers’ first-ever Big 12 conference game.  In four games, Smith has thrown for 1,728 yards and 20 touchdowns while completing a staggering 83.4 percent of his passes.  Most impressively, Smith has no interceptions amongst his 169 attempts.  Again, there’s a lot of time between now and the awarding of the Heisman in December.  Still, it appears that the most prestigious trophy in the sport is Smith’s to lose.

Attended an SEC game, and a Big 12 matchup broke out
Annually hailed as the top defensive conference in the country, the SEC prides itself on bringing it on that side of the ball.  Through some tiny rip in the space-time continuum, however, all Big 12 hell broke loose in Athens Saturday afternoon.  Between Georgia and Tennessee, there were 95 points scored; 1,038 yards gained; and 42 first downs earned as the No. 5 Bulldogs held on for a wild 51-44 win over the Vols.  There was also an “ugly” side to the game, with the two teams combining to commit seven turnovers.  Two of those late in the first half allowed the Vols to turn a 27-10 deficit into a 30-27 lead.  Three committed by UT quarterback Tyler Bray in the last six minutes prevented any hopes the Vols had of earning a road upset.

Urban renewal continues in Columbus
Undefeated through his first four games as Ohio State’s coach, Urban Meyer‘s Buckeyes had yet to be tested as the early-season schedule consisted of the likes of Miami of Ohio, UCF, Cal and UAB.  The first real measuring stick of the season, on the road no less, came in East Lansing against Michigan State in the Big Ten opener for both schools — and OSU passed with flying colors, albeit of a dull hue variety.  And despite the first uneven game of the season for star quarterback Braxton Miller.  In a game that was, for better or worse, the epitome of Big Ten football, and the exact opposite of anything that happens in the Big 12, the No. 14 Buckeyes churned, grinded and pounded out a hard-fought 17-16 win over the No. 21 Spartans.  It was far from pretty from an aesthetic point of view, but it was efficient in that it resulted in a fifth-straight win for Meyer and the Buckeyes.  While Miller accounted for 315 yards of offense (179 passing, 136 rushing), he accounted for three turnovers (one pick, two lost fumbles) that could’ve been OSU’s undoing in such a hostile — and stanky —  environment.  It didn’t, and that’s the mark of a good football team and one that Meyer’s rightly proud of.  Even in this lost season of sanctions, with no shot at a Big Ten championship game or bowl berth, the Buckeyes are clearly the class of the Big Ten.  Granted, that’s like proclaiming someone as the tallest midget, but it’s something for the Buckeyes to continue playing for.  Well, that and a shiny Leaders Division trophy.

Bill O’Brien
Through the NCAA sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, through the personnel defections wrought by said sanctions, through an ugly 0-2 start to the 2012 season, Bill O’Brien has persevered.  And, it appears, that perseverance is paying off big time for both O’Brien and the beleaguered Penn State football program.  For the third straight weekend following the laughable start, Penn State heads home on a Saturday with a win stuffed firmly into its back pocket.  The latest victim for O’Brien & Company was Illinois, with PSU coming away with an easy 35-7 win against the team that did the most over the summer to take advantage of the liberal transfer policies.  Quarterback Matt McGloin, one of the more pleasant surprises of the season, accounted for three touchdowns — one passing, two rushing — while the defense limited the Illini to just 74 rushing yards and forced three turnovers.  Certainly the stain of Sandusky’s crimes will linger over the university for years, or even decades, to come, but this coach and these players had nothing to do with either the illegalities or the cover-up that brought the program to its knees.  There are certainly rough times to be had in the coming years, thanks to the scholarship reductions that will hurt for the better part of a decade.  Still, it appears O’Brien was and is the right choice to captain the Nittany ship through the rough waters that lie ahead.

Ess-Bee-Cee!!! Ess-Bee-Cee!!!
One of the more fascinating storylines of the 2012 season has been the play of the Sun Belt Conference through the first five weeks of the year.  Specifically, how the Little Conference That Could has fared against SEC programs.  Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky have already beaten Arkansas and Kentucky, respectively, while ULM — three-point overtime loss to Auburn — and Troy — six-point loss to Mississippi State — had near-wins against the conference.  Now, that ’12 magic has extended beyond the SEC, much to the detriment of the ACC.  In a stunning turn of events, Middle Tennessee State traveled to Georgia Tech and laid a whooping on the Yellow Jackets, heading back to Murfreesboro with a 49-28 win over Tech.  The loss, fueled in large part by MTSU running back Benny Cunningham‘s 217 yards rushing and five touchdowns, was the first by Tech to a non-BcS school since 1996.

Stephen Morris, QB extraordinaire
Wait, what?  Be that as it may, and not that anyone saw it (see below), but Miami quarterback Stephen Morris passed for 271 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter of the Hurricanes’ wild 44-37 win over North Carolina State.  The junior finished the game with a school- and ACC-record 566 yards and five touchdowns as the Hurricanes’ offense rolled up 651 yards of offense — and were outgained by the Wolfpack and their 664 yards.  Yes, defense is a significant issue for the Hurricanes — they gave up 419 yards and 36 points in a win over Georgia Tech; 498 yards and 52 points in a loss to Kansas State; have allowed less than 32 points once, to FCS-level Bethune-Cookman — but The U has started a season 4-1 for the first time since 2007.

Munchie Magic sweeping the ‘Nati
There’s not a better name in college football than Munchie Legeaux.  As it turns out, he has a pretty damn good game to go along with the name.  With just 13 seconds left in Cincinnati’s game against Virginia Tech, Legeaux tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass as the Bearcats stunned the Hokies 27-24 in a “neutral site” game in Landover, Md.  While Legeaux completed well under 50 percent of his 42 passes, he did throw for 357 yards on his 19 completions.  The Bearcats are now 3-0 and, with games against Miami (OH), Fordham and Toledo in between, could very well remain that way when they head into the Oct. 26 game with still-unbeaten Louisville.  The win was huge for the Big East as well, which entered Week 5 with two teams — the ‘Ville and Rutgers — ranked inside the Top 25.  Don’t be surprised that, come Sunday afternoon, another team from that conference is added to that ranked role.

Kain is very much able
In a 44-29 win over Indiana that kept Northwestern unbeaten on the season, Kain Colter finished with 100-plus yards rushing (161) and receiving (131).  Normally that wouldn’t be noteworthy, but, at the start of the season, Colter was the Wildcats’ starting quarterback.  While Colter is still officially listed as QB, he’s given way Trevor Siemian and is being utilized in a Wildcat-type role.  In addition to the 294 yards of total offense — he had two yards passing — Colter accounted for four touchdowns, with all four scores coming on the ground.  Along with Ohio State, and thanks to Minnesota’s loss, the school known more for its academic prowess is one of just two teams in the Big Ten without a loss five weeks into the season.

Catch of the day
And, thanks to the right hand of Middle Tennessee State’s Anthony Amos, it’s not even close:

AIRBHG no match for walk-on
Yes, it might be best not to tempt the patience of the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God.  Yes, it’s just two games.  But, yes, after years of unbelievable bad luck at the position, the Hawkeyes may have found their backfield savior.  Last week, former walk-on and Air Force transfer Mark Weisman rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns in Iowa’s stunning upset loss to Central Michigan.  This week, the “Weisman for Heisman” bandwagon likely got a whole helluva lot more crowded as the sophomore “fullback” (winkwink nudgenudge) ran for 177 yards on 21 carries as the Hawkeyes knocked Minnesota from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 31-13 win.  After rushing for just eight yards the first two games of the season, Weisman has bulled his way to 504 yards the past three.

LOSERS

And on the sixth day, the defense rested
If you are a fan of a little something called “defense” being played in a game of college football, Baylor-West Virginia likely induced night terrors and/or convulsions.  If you’re a fan of offense?  College football porn as far as the eye could see.  Filthy, unadulterated, unfiltered pornography.  The two teams combined for 70 points , 32 first downs and 736 yards of offense — and then they came back out of the locker room at halftime and played two more quarters.  The offensive carnage for the game reads as follows: 133 points (see photo below), 1,507 yards, 66 first downs and 22-of-30 on third-down conversions, with Geno Smith and Nick Florence combining to throw for 1,237 yards and 13 touchdowns.  The game featured a pair of 300-yard receivers (WVU’s Stedman Bailey and BU’s Terrance Williams), while the Mountaineers also had a 200-yard (Tavon Austin) and 100-yard receivers (J.D. Woods).  Baylor had three receivers go over 100 yards in the same game for the first time in school history.  There were a total of three punts in the game on a day that old-school souls will likely lament for years to come.  Yes, it was a smashing debut for the Mountaineers in their official Big 12 coming-out-party.  Word of warning, however: no FBS football team can or will win a BcS title — hell, maybe even a Big 12 title — with a defense like that.  Until Joe DeForest and company get a handle on the defensive side of the ball, WVU will be nothing more than an entertaining sideshow while we await the real national title contenders to emerge.

The voters
No, not the ones who will decide which lesser of two evils will serve as POTUS the next four years.  No, the voters we are referring to are the ones who make up the Associated Press and coaches’ Top 25 polls.  The first three games of the season — the opener against Texas A&M was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac — Louisiana Tech rolled through Houston, Rice and Illinois.  For that effort, the Bulldogs were rewarded with seven votes in the AP poll and none in the coaches’ following Week 4.  In Week 5, Tech went out and slayed another BcS-level team, dropping Virginia 44-38 on the road.  Is Tech a Top 10 team?  Hell no, or at least probably not.  But no one should be able to sit there with a straight face and state that there are 25 better teams in 2012 than the Bulldogs.  Hopefully, when the polls are released Sunday afternoon, the voters in both polls will show some common sense and do the right thing by looking beyond how BcS conference schools fared this weekend.  I won’t hold my breath, though.

Player safety?
Over the past several years, the NCAA has made tremendous strides in improving player safety.  Then, Saturday night, one of the Association’s members did this:

That was the scene at Southern Miss for the Conference USA team’s 21-17 loss against No. 19 Louisville, played in what amounted to a monsoon that a duck, Oregon or otherwise, would avoid like the plague.  At various points of the game, and on various areas of the playing field, there looked to be an inch or more of standing water, leading us to openly wonder if there would be a yards-after-hydroplane stat for the game.  Why the non-conference match-up was played in such conditions is unclear, although it was very clear that such weather issues most certainly created a situation that could’ve been very dangerous for each and every player who slopped his way around that field for 60 minutes.

Tale of two Techs
And it was a woeful twin tale, non-conference-wise, for the ACC.  Early on in the day, Georgia Tech inexplicably stubbed its toe — or, more accurately, kicked itself in the groin — against Middle Tennessee State in a 21-point humbling at the hands of the SBC school.  Three hour later, Virginia Tech allowed a last-second touchdown to Cincinnati as the Hokies dropped their second game of the season, both, oddly enough, to teams from the Big East.  In fact, that conference has had the ACC’s number all season long, leading the head-to-head meetings 4-2 and setting up for what should be a very interesting bowl selection process as it relates to the two conferences.

U-S-A!!! U-S-AAARGH!!!
FCS-level Stony Brook 23, Army 3.  We love ya, ‘Merica, but…

Weekly Miami “fan” update
And, yes, it’s just as — or arguably more — embarrassing this week as it has been the past few seasons:

The above photo was taken less than 20 minutes prior to kickoff by South Florida Sun Sentinel beat writer Michael Casagrande.

This wasn’t Bethune-Cookman, either; this was an ACC game against 3-1 North Carolina State.  The lack of “fan” support for the Hurricanes football program is absurd and shameful.  Oh, and embarrassing as well.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

— No. 2 Oregon 51, Washington State 26: The Ducks were up on the Cougars just 23-19 at halftime.  After that, order was restored as the Ducks we’ve come to know and love/loathe emerged from their first-half slumber for a comfortable win.

— No. 3 LSU 38, Towson 22: It doesn’t matter the final score, a comfortable 16-point margin.  When the third-ranked team in the country is trailing an FCS school at home deep into the second quarter, it makes the cut.  Add this lackluster first-half performance to a lethargic two-point win over a below-average Auburn team last week, and the Tigers may not be who we thought they were after all.

— No. 4 Florida State 30, USF 17: We’ll just chalk this up to a post-Clemson hangover.  As late as six minutes left in the third quarter the Seminoles clung to a 13-10 lead over the now-2-3 Bulls.  17 unanswered points put the game out of reach.

— No. 5 Georgia 51, Tennessee 44: It wasn’t pretty defensively — and UGA could very well have been looking ahead to next Saturday’s showdown with No. 6 South Carolina — but the Bulldogs were able to stave off the game Vols and remain unbeaten through five games.

— No. 6 South Carolina 38, Kentucky 17: The Gamecocks were on the ropes in the first half, trailing 17-7 heading into the locker room  before pulling away for the road win.  Like UGA, USC may have been peeking ahead to next weekend’s game that will be dripping with SEC East implications.

— No. 12 Texas 41, Oklahoma State 36: The Cowboys aren’t your normal unranked opponent, so this was still a very impressive win for the Longhorns.  It’s also a win that could propel UT into the Top 10 of the rankings for the first time since Week 4 of the 2010 season.

— No. 15 TCU 24, SMU 16: In the battle for the coveted Iron Skillet, the Horned Frogs were never in any real danger of losing but still allowed a one-win team to hang around in the same neighborhood much longer than expected.  TCU does, though, own the nation’s longest winning streak at 12 straight games.

— No. 17 Clemson 45, Boston College 31: We’ll just chalk this up to a post-Florida State hangover, part II.

— No. 18 Oregon State , Arizona : A 17-0 lead begat a 21-17 deficit begat a back-and-forth trading of scores begat a thrilling three-point win for the unbeaten Beavers.  The Nov. 24 Civil War matchup with Oregon could be a very, very fascinating affair this season.

— No. 19 Louisville 21, Southern Miss 17: We almost didn’t include this one, given the weather conditions involved.  The Cardinals trailed 17-6 late in the second quarter, but showed tremendous heart in coming back in those conditions and protecting its unbeaten start to the season.

— No. 22 Nebraska 30, Wisconsin 27: Much the same as with Texas’ opponent, the Badgers were not your or the Cornhuskers’ ordinary foe.  After falling behind 27-10, NU ripped off 20 unanswered points to come away with a huge conference home win and the second-biggest comeback in school history.

— No. 24 Boise State 32, New Mexico 29: The Broncos jumped out to a 32-0 halftime lead, only to see the Lobos storm back to nearly pull off the upset.  BSU’s return to the Top 25 last week will likely be short-lived.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — The Tide has been biding its time until a date with LSU by outscoring its five 2012 opponents 201-35.  Clearly, UA is far and away the class of the current season. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: at Missouri

2. Oregon — Speaking of domination, Oregon has outscored its five 2012 opponents (262-99).  A Ducks-Tide BcS title game would be a helluva lot of fun, and is definitely a very realistic possibility at season’s end. (Last week No. 3)
Up next: vs. Washington

3. Kansas State — The combination of an impressive bye week showing, the lingering impressions left by the upset of Oklahoma last week and some rather lackluster performances around them pushes the Wildcats up a couple of spots. (Last week: No. 5)
Up next: vs. Kansas

4. Florida State — The post-Clemson malaise notwithstanding, the Seminoles remain a viable BcS title contender. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at North Carolina State

5. Georgia — At this point in time, we prefer to view the 44 points given up to Tennessee as an anomaly.  We reserve the right, though, to change our mind. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: at No. 6 South Carolina

COACHING HOT SEAT
A weekly look at some of the current head coaches who could most likely be an ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

— Arkansas’ John L. Smith: There’s really not much need to go into the well-chronicled train wreck that’s been the start to the season, other than to say the trigger should be pulled sooner rather than later.

— Cal’s Jeff Tedford: Already with cheeks planted firmly on the proverbial hot seat entering 2012, Tedford has done nothing to turn down the temperature through Week 5.  In fact, it may be hotter than ever as the Bears have stumbled their way out of the gate at 1-4, the worst start in Tedford’s 10-plus seasons at the school.  The latest setback for the Bears was a 27-17 loss to Arizona State that dropped Cal to 0-2 in Pac-12 play.

HE SAID IT
“I might need more gun powder for this game.” — Jon Kimble, WVU’s mascot, very appropriately writing on Twitter at halftime of the Baylor-WVU game.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I felt like Clemson’s defense or something.”  — WVU defensive back Darwin Cook after allowing 63 points — seven points less than the Mountaineers scored on the Tigers in the Orange Bowl earlier this year — to be put on the board by the Bears.

PIC OF THE WEEK

That was the “Stripe the Stadium” scene in Morgantown Saturday afternoon as West Virginia made a very successful debut in Big 12 conference play.  And that photo comes courtesy of Mike Florio, who some of you may know from a lil’ website called ProFootballTalk.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— No. 1 Alabama fell behind Ole Miss 7-6 early in the second quarter on a Jeff Scott touchdown run, the first time the Tide has trailed in a game — regulation or overtime — since the Nov. 5 loss to LSU.  The streak ended at 33 straight quarters, but the defending BcS champions started a new one 15 seconds later as Christion Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for both a touchdown and a lead the Tide wouldn’t relinquish.

— Baylor wide receiver Terrence Williams‘ 314 yards broke the Big 12’s minutes-old record set moments earlier by West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey, who finished the game with 303 yards.  Bailey’s five touchdown catches, incidentally, broke the school record.

— The last FBS quarterback with at least 550 yards and five touchdowns in a game was Houston’s Case Keenum against Southern Mississippi on Oct. 31, 2009.  Saturday, there were three who hit that mark: WVU’s Geno Smith, Baylor’s Nick Florence and Miami’s Stephen Morris.

— Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel broke the SEC record for total yards in a single game, accounting for 557 (453 passing, 103 rushing) in the Aggies’ shellacking of Arkansas.  Manziel’s total broke the record of 540 shared by Archie Manning and Rohan Davey.

Sean Mannion passed for 433 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon State’s win over Arizona.

— True freshman Keith Marshall rushed for 164 yards on just 10 carries in Georgia’s close win over Tennessee.  UGA also got five touchdowns from a pair of true freshmen — Marshall’s two and Todd Gurley‘s three.

— Miami of Ohio quarterback Zac Dysert threw six touchdown passes and had a ridiculous 624 yards of total offense in a 56-49 win over Akron.

— Baylor’s 63 points against West Virginia tied the record for the most scored in regulation in a loss by an FBS school, joining Rice (2004) and Toledo (2011) in that infamous grouping.

— Stat of the Day, SID Division: With the 5-0 start, Urban Meyer becomes the third first-year Ohio State coach to start their career 5-0. Only two other first-year coaches have started a season 5-0: Carol Widdoes went 9-0 in 1944 and eventually won his first 12 games; and Meyer mentor Earle Bruce opened 11-0 in 1979.

— Runner-up Stat of the Day, SID Division: AJ McCarron passed Brody Croyle’s Alabama record of 190 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception when he connected with Brent Calloway in the latter part of the second quarter. McCarron entered the game with 176 attempts and entered the locker room with the new record of 195 attempts without an interception.

— North Carolina’s 66 points in a shutout win over Idaho set a school record, surpassing the standard set back in 1928.

— BYU totaled 540 yards of total offense in the shutout win over Hawaii Friday night; in the previous two games, both losses, the Cougars had a combined 512 yards.

— Duke has started a season 4-1 for the first time since 1994.  Oddly enough, that was the last time the Blue Devils qualified for a bowl game.

— After Week 4, there was one team that had yet to throw a touchdown pass.  After Week 5?  There are none as Air Force’s Connor Dietz tossed two of them in the Falcons’ easy win over Colorado State.

(Writer’s note: The Fifth Quarter will be taking a one-weekend sabbatical next Saturday as we officially move into the new CFT West Virginia headquarters.  Try not to miss me too terribly much.)

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.