By Cam Huffman
Tavon Austin may not be making the trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation this weekend, as many at West Virginia University believe he should, but the versatile senior wide receiver moved closer to another major award on Friday when he was named a finalist for the 2012 Paul Hornung Award, presented annually to the most versatile player in college football.
Austin made the list of four finalists along with Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews, Kent State’s Dri Archer and Southern California’s Marquise Lee. The four were picked by a panel of 16 media members, as well as an online fan vote.
“These finalists represent the best of the best playmakers in college football,” said award namesake Paul Hornung. “They made a major impact this season for their teams in putting up big numbers and finding the end zone in multiple ways, just like I did when I played the game. I am really excited to see how these young men perform in their upcoming bowl matchups and look forward to welcoming them to Louisville in February for one of the finest banquets in the nation for college football awards.”
Together, the four finalists amassed 10,785 all-purpose yards and 70 touchdowns.
Austin was the first player in WVU history to find the end zone in four different ways — pass reception, rush, punt return and kick return. He averaged 230 all-purpose yards per game and finished the regular season with 61 carries for 598 yards and three touchdowns, 110 receptions for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns, 15 punt returns for 165 yards and a touchdown and 28 kickoff returns for 738 yards and a touchdown.
His 572 all-purpose yards against Oklahoma were the second most in a single game in Football Bowl Subdivision history.
The winner of the award will be announced Jan. 8 and will be honored at a banquet in Louisville on Feb. 15. Fans can show their support for their favorite finalist by visiting www.votepaulhornung.com. The final fan vote will count as the equivalent of a selection committee member. Fan voting will end Jan. 7 at noon.
Scout.com released its Freshman All-America team Friday, and a pair of Mountaineers made the list.
Defensive back Karl Joseph was honored as a first team selection, while linebacker Isaiah Bruce was a second team pick.
Joseph, a true freshman out of Edgewater High School in Orlando, Fla., led the Mountaineers during the regular season with 95 tackles, including seven tackles for loss. He had six pass breakups, three forced fumbles, two interceptions, a sack and a fumble recovery.
Bruce, a redshirt-freshman who attended Providence High in Jacksonville, Fla., was second on the team with 86 tackles, 6.5 of them behind the line of scrimmage. He had three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, one of them for a touchdown, and an interception.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was Scout.com’s Offensive Freshman of the Year, while TCU defensive lineman Devonte Fields was the Defensive Freshman of the Year.
WVU football fans hoping for the eventual return of the Backyard Brawl, the annual rivalry game with Pitt, received some bad news Friday when Pitt and Penn State agreed to add games against each other in 2018 and 2019, on top of the games already scheduled for 2016 and 2017.
With only four nonconference dates on the schedule once the Panthers join the ACC next year — and only three for the Mountaineers — every signed agreement for a game lessens the chances that WVU and Pitt will meet on the football field anytime soon.
This season was the first year since 1942 that the two neighboring schools didn’t play.
Syracuse officials indicated in a New Era Pinstripe Bowl press conference earlier this week that the Schwartzwalder Trophy, presented each year since 1993 to the winner of the Syracuse-WVU football game, would not be up for grabs when the two old rivals meet in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 29.
Mountaineer fans, though, aren’t giving up on getting the trophy, which sits in possession of the Orange after they defeated WVU 49-23 last year in the Carrier Dome in the final meeting between the two schools as Big East members.
An online petition has been created on the website Change.org to put the trophy on the line in the bowl game. On Friday, the petition, which was addressed to Syracuse chancellor Nancy Cantor, SU athletic director Daryl Gross and head football coach Doug Marrone, had more than 500 online signatures.
The petition stated, in part, that withholding the trophy “is impairing the significance of the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl matchup between the two longtime rivals.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH