Tuesday, December 16, 2014

'Nova's Robertson claims Walter Payton Award

Special to the Phanatic

Philadelphia, PA -- If there was an award Villanova quarterback John Robertson was associated with during the regular season, it was CAA offensive player of the week. He claimed the honor an incredible six times.

Monday night, Robertson's legacy grew into FCS history as he won the 28th Walter Payton Award, which honors the outstanding player in the division. The redshirt junior received the Heisman of the FCS at The Sports Network FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation.

Robertson, a 6-foot-1, 221-pound signal caller, collected 66 of the 160 first-place votes and 467 points in balloting through a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. finished second and Idaho State quarterback Justin Arias was third among 25 finalists.

"A lot of our receivers really stepped up coming into the season, which helped me out tremendously," said Robertson, who received one of the other top individual awards in the FCS in 2012 - the Jerry Rice Award as national freshman of the year.

"One of the big differences from this year and last year was just the amount of weapons. And our offensive line, the young guys, have been playing great as well. So I think that everyone around me really helped me out this year a lot. That's why I've been putting up great numbers."

During the regular season, the Paramus, New Jersey product led the FCS in passing efficiency (182.99) and was responsible for a national-high 260 points. He completed 189-of-282 pass attempts (67 percent) for 2,629 yards and 34 touchdowns against only three interceptions. He also rushed for 978 yards and nine touchdowns as Villanova went 10-2 with a pair of one-point losses to reach the FCS playoffs as the sixth seed.

Robertson became the third Villanova player to win the Payton, joining wide receiver Brian Finneran in 1997 and running back Brian Westbrook in 2001.

Adams was the Payton runner-up for the second consecutive season. During the regular season, the redshirt junior from Pasadena, California played in only eight of Eastern Washington's 12 games after suffering a broken foot in early October, yet he still threw for 2,876 yards and 30 touchdowns with only five interceptions. 

If he had played in the NCAA minimum of 75 percent of his team's games, his total offense per game (391.5 yards), passing yards per game (359.5) and points responsible for per game (25) would have been national highs. He also would have been second in passing efficiency rating (179.5).

Arias finished third in the voting after he helped turn around a struggling program at Idaho State. The Bengals had won only nine games in six seasons from 2008-13, but this season they went 8-4, tied for second place in the Big Sky Conference and became nationally ranked for the first time since 2005. 

Arias completed 318-of-522 attempts for an FCS-high 4,076 yards and a school- record 38 touchdowns. The graduate student from Agoura Hills, California, had a four-game stretch each over 400 yards with a combined 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

The three Payton Award finalists were feted at The Sports Network FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation along with the winners of the Buck Buchanan Award (North Dakota State defensive end Kyle Emanuel, FCS outstanding defensive player), Jerry Rice Award (Fordham running back Chase Edmonds, FCS freshman of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (New Hampshire's Sean McDonnell, FCS coach of the year) and Mickey Charles Award (South Dakota State running back Zach Zenner, academic achievement by an FCS student-athlete).

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