Mitchell, Ault receive WAC awards
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Nevada reaped the rewards of its co-championship season by walking off with two of the major awards on Monday when B.J. Mitchell and Chris Ault were named Western Athletic Conference offensive player and coach of the year on Monday.
Ault, who is in his third tour of duty as head coach at Nevada, led the Pack to an 8-3 record this year and a berth in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl on Dec. 24 against the University of Central Florida. It’s the first WAC football title for the Wolf Pack since joining the conference in 2000. Nevada finished 7-1 in conference, including a 38-35 upset of then No. 16 Fresno State to earn a share of the WAC crown.
Overall, the Pack put 10 players on the first and second teams.
When he took the job again in 2004, Ault vowed that the Pack would re-take Mackay Stadium, and the Pack did just that. Nevada’s only losses in the last two years at home were to Washington State and Boise State. It’s the sixth time he’s been named coach of the year.
Mitchell, a senior running back, gained 1,221 yards and scored 11 touchdowns to earn his offensive player award. Mitchell was the top rusher in the WAC, averaging 111 yards per game. He surpassed the 100-yard mark six times.
Besides Mitchell, offensive lineman Tony Moll, wide receiver Caleb Spencer, Joe Garcia and punter Justin Bergendahl received first-team honors.
Spencer ranked sixth in the WAC for receiving, catching 56 balls for 770 yards and seven scores. He averaged 77 yards per game. Bergendahl averaged 41.1 per punt, and he pinned opponents in the shadow of their own goal line many times this season. Garcia, who inherited a starting job when Paul Pratt was injured during fall camp, tied for the conference lead in interceptions (4). He also broke up 10 passes and had 67 tackles.
Moll’s honor was impressive, considering he just moved to tackle this year after playing the three previous seasons at tight end.
Quarterback Jeff Rowe, guard Barrett Reznick, tight end Anthony Pudewell, defensive end Craig Bailey and linebacker Roosevelt Cooks were second-team selections.
Rowe, a junior from McQueen High, averaged 259 yards per game passing and threw 20 touchdown passes. He was also a force running the ball. Cooks led Nevada in tackles (82, 5.5 sacks) and was ranked 13th in the WAC in that category. Bailey finished with 27 tackles, four sacks, two fumble recoveries and two blocked kicks and Pudewell had 285 receiving yards.
South Lake Tahoe’s Garrett McIntyre, a defensive end at Fresno State, was named the Defensive Player of the Year. Despite missing two games, McIntyre had 10 1/2 tackles behind the line, including seven sacks. He also forced two fumbles and blocked a kick.
Hawai’i’s Davone Bess was named the Freshman of the Year. Bess caught 89 passes for 1,124 yards and 14 touchdowns. He had seven 100-yard receiving games.
Louisiana Tech’s Matt Kubik, Hawai’i defensive back Ryan Keomaka and Louisiana Tech’s Eric Newman were named Xbox Live offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week.
Kubik, a senior, completed 13 of 22 passes for 251 yards and three scores in Tech’s 40-28 upset of Fresno State, which enters the Liberty Bowl on a three-game losing streaks. Two of the scores came late in the second quarter. Kubik hit Newman with a 17-yard scoring pass, and following a turnover by Fresno State, he threw a 52-yard TD pass to Johnathan Holland to give Tech a 26-3 halftime lead.
Keomaka, a sophomore, finished with nine solo tackles, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass in Hawai’i’s season-ending 49-38 win over San Diego State. He thwarted two SDSU drives when he recovered the fumble at the Hawai’i 7 and later intercepted a pass at the Hawai’i 1.
Newman returned three kicks for 54 yards, including an onside kick attempt 29 yards to set up Tech’s final score of the game.
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