Kaepernick selected WAC Freshman of the Year | NevadaAppeal.com

Kaepernick selected WAC Freshman of the Year

DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick capped off a sensational freshman season Monday by being named the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year.

Five other Wolf Pack football players were honored: Junior running back Luke Lippincott and junior center Dominic Green were named first team all-WAC, while senior tight end Adam Bishop, senior linebacker Ezra Butler and senior defensive tackle Matt Hines were named second-team all-WAC.

Kaepernick started the last seven games of the season after starter Nick Graziano went down with a foot injury in the fifth game of the season against Fresno State. He threw for 2,038 yards and 19 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He also added 567 rushing yards and six more TDs.

Chance Kretschmer won the award in 2001.

“Being named Freshman of the Year is a great honor, and it’s an award I share with my teammates,” Kaepernick said in a prepared statement.

Lippincott led the WAC in rushing with 1,380 yards, an average of 115 per game. Lippincott paced the WAC in scoring with 18 touchdowns and 139.6 all-purpose yards per game.

Green, who missed half of the San Jose State game last week, is expected to be ready for the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 22. The versatile Green helped Nevada lead the conference in rushing. Nevada averaged 488.9 yards offensively, which was seventh-best in the nation.

Bishop had only14 catches, but seven went for touchdowns. He averaged 15.9 yards per grab, and he also served as the team’s long snapper on punts and field goals.

Butler, despite missing time due to a team suspension and injury early in the season, led the team with 86 tackles, including 11 1/2 behind the line. He forced three fumbles, recovered two fumbles and registered 1.5 sacks.

Hines finished with a career-best 45 tackles, 6 1/2 behind the line. He also recorded 4 1/2 sacks.

“I am very pleased for Dom, Luke, Colin, Adam, Matt and Ezra,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “Each of them is very deserving of postseason honors.”

As expected, Hawaii coach June Jones was named Coach of the Year for the second straight season. It was the third honor for Jones, who won in 1999 and 2006.

Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan threw for 4,174 yards and 38 touchdowns in leading the Warriors to a 12-0 record and the Sugar Bowl berth. He leads the NCAA in career touchdown passes with 131. Brennan also ranks fourth in the nation in points responsible for with 25.1 per game.

Fresno State linebacker Marcus Rile was named the Defensive Player of the Year. Riley, a senior, averaged 10.2 tackles per game. He finished with 123 tackles, including 13 tackles for loss. He is the third FSU defensive player to win the honor, following in the footsteps of Alan Harper and South Tahoe’s Garrett McIntyre.

HAWKINS, CRINER HONORED

New Mexico State’s Justin Hawkins and Nevada’s Dellena Criner were named the men’s and women’s basketball players of the week.

Hawkins, a senior forward, averaged 27.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in three games last week. He went 22-of-43 from the field and 9-of-18 from the 3-point line. Hawkins scored 29 points, including a career-high five 3-pointers against UTEP. He added 28 against North Texas.

Criner was named the Nugget Classic MVP after scoring 32 points to lead the Wolf Pack to a win in the championship game Sunday over Idaho State.

Criner averaged 22.5 ppg over the weekend while shooting 57.1 percent from the field. She has scored in double figures five times this year.

FOOTBALL HONOREES

Hawaii receiver Jason Rivers, Nevada linebacker Ezra Butler and Fresno State punter Kyle Zimmerman were named the conference’s football players of the week.

Rivers, a senior, caught 14 passes for 167 yards and four touchdowns in Hawaii’s 35-28 win over Washington. The win earned Hawaii a spot in the Sugar Bowl opposite Georgia. Three of Rivers’ scores came in the second quarter, which enabled Hawaii to pull to with 28-21 at the half.

Butler, also a senior, had a game-high 10 tackles in Nevada’s 49-10 win over Louisiana Tech that earned the Pack a trip to the New Mexico Bowl. Butler forced two fumbles and had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Tech was held to 55 yards rushing.

Zimmerman, a senior, punted four times in the wind and rain at New Mexico State for a 47-yard average in the Bulldogs’ 30-23 win over New Mexico State.

A WEAK WAC

Take it from this writer, the WAC is not as strong this year in men’s basketball, and early results have proven that.

Only four of the nine teams – San Jose State (3-1), Boise State (5-2), Fresno State (4-3) and Utah State (5-4) – have winning records thus far.

New Mexico State, picked by many to win the conference is 3-6 overall under first-year head coach Marvin Menzies. Hawaii and Nevada are 2-4, while Louisiana Tech is 1-4 and Idaho is 1-5, according to the conference Web site.

With slow non-conference starts, don’t be surprised if the WAC returns to being a one-bid conference when it comes to NCAA selections this year.

KEMP’S STATUS IS UNCERTAIN

Marcelus Kemp injured his shoulder against Pacific on Saturday, and he was considered day-to-day for Saturday’s game against Montana State at Lawlor Events Center.

Nevada coach Mark Fox said Saturday that he didn’t know when or how Kemp injured his shoulder.

Montana State is coached by ex-Cal coach Todd Bozeman, who was fired from his job at the University of California back in the 1990s.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281