BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (EIU Release)- Ohio Valley Conference champion Eastern Illinois took home two of the four major 2013 postseason OVC football awards while Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee State won the other two in voting conducted by league head coaches and sports information directors.
Eastern Illinois senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was named Offensive Player of the Year while his head coach, Dino Babers, was named the OVC Roy Kidd Coach of the Year for the second-straight year. In the other major awards, Tennessee State junior defensive end Anthony Bass was tabbed Defensive Player of the Year while Eastern Kentucky redshirt freshman wide receiver Devin Borders earned the Freshman of the Year award.
Eastern Illinois led the way with nine first-team selections (including six on offense) and 18 total selections across the first-team, second-team and All-Newcomer squads. Tennessee State was second with 13 total selections (five first-team, six second-team and two All-Newcomer). The first-team included 14 seniors, 10 juniors and one sophomore while the second-team had 13 seniors, 10 juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.
The nine first team All-OVC selections are the most by an EIU team since joining the league in 1996. The Panthers had eight first team selections in both 2001 and 2002. The 15 overall first and second team selections is a school record for the Panthers.
Garoppolo became the fourth different EIU player to win OVC Offensive Player of the Year honors joining three time winner Tony Romo (2000, 2001, 2002), Vincent Webb (2006) and Erik Lora (2012). EIU became the first school to have two different players win the award in back-to-back years since Murray State did so in 1995 and 1996. Babers won his second straight OVC Coach of the Year Award and became the first OVC Coach since Tennessee State’s L.C. Cole to win the award in back-to-back years. Cole won the award in 1998 and 1999.
EIU will host the winner of the Butler / Tennessee State game in the second round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday, Dec. 7 at O’Brien Field. Tickets are now on sale for that game by calling 217-581-2106 or online at www.eiupanthertickets.com The game will only be available for viewing on the ESPN3 online platform.
Garoppolo put together one of the best seasons ever by an OVC quarterback as he now holds nearly every major season and career Conference passing record and will continue to add to those totals as his team participates in the playoffs. The senior carried Eastern Illinois to a No. 2 national ranking, 11-1 overall record (including a win over FBS San Diego State to start the season) and a perfect 8-0 OVC record as the Panthers won its seventh OVC Championship. In 12 regular season games the Walter Payton Award finalist passed for more yards and touchdowns than any player at the Division I level (FBS or FCS). He currently has 4,489 passing yards (fifth in NCAA FCS single-season history and just 587 yards away from the record) and 48 touchdowns (third in NCAA FCS history and just eight away from the record). He also ranks first nationally in passing yards/game (374.1), second in total offense (377.9 yards/game) and points responsible for (25.8/game), third in passing efficiency (170.6) and fourth in completions/game (26.67). He directed the EIU offense to a No. 1 rank nationally in total offense (599.1 yards/game) and scoring offense (48.8 points/game). Despite the fact his team won games by an average margin of 29.9 points/contest and he was often taken out in the second half of games when his team had huge leads (23 of his 48 touchdowns came in the first quarter and 34 were in the first half this season), Garoppolo threw for 400 or more yards in five contests, including a season-high 480 yards (to go along with seven touchdowns) in a victory over rival Illinois State. In five other games he had over 300 yards passing and he threw multiple touchdowns in all but one game this season. He played some of his best games against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams, including 361 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-19 win over San Diego State and 450 yards and six touchdowns in a four-point loss at currently undefeated and nationally-ranked foe Northern Illinois (in a game EIU led 20-0 in the first quarter). In three wins over nationally-ranked FCS opponents, Garoppolo combined for 1,059 yards and 13 passing touchdowns. He was named FCS National Player of the Week three during the season and OVC Player of the Week a record-tying seven times (bringing his career total to nine, which also tied the OVC all-time mark). Garoppolo also ran for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass during the year. Entering the postseason he ranks eighth in NCAA FCS history in career passing touchdowns (113), ninth in career passing yards (12,595) and 12th in career total offense (12,530). Garoppolo is the fourth different Eastern Illinois player to win the Offensive Player of the Year award, joining quarterback Tony Romo (who won the award three-straight years from 2000-02), running back Vincent Webb (2006) and wide receiver, and current teammate, Erik Lora (2012).
In his EIU debut season a year ago Babers earned the OVC Coach of the Year honor after leading the team from a 2-9 record and last place finish to a 7-5 overall record and the OVC Championship (6-1). This season he repeated as Coach of the Year after taking the team to an even higher level, knocking off FBS opponent San Diego State in the opening game and finishing the regular season 11-1 overall and a perfect 8-0 in OVC action. In the process the Panthers won its seventh OVC Championship and will be making its 15th NCAA FCS Playoff appearance (the 7th-most in FCS history), earning the No. 2 overall national seed. The team is one of just four OVC teams to ever win 11 games during the regular season and first to reach double-digit wins since 2000 (WKU). The Panthers reached No. 2 in both national FCS Top 25 polls, matching the school record set by the 2002 team that included Tony Romo. Babers is 14-1 in Conference games over his two years with the program, establishing a new OVC record for a head coach in his first two years in the league. He has directed the EIU offense to the No. 1 ranking nationally in both total offense (599.1 yards/game) and scoring offense (48.8 points/game) while helping Garoppolo to arguably the greatest season in OVC history and one of the top in FCS history. The team won its contests by an average of 29.9 points/game and only had one victory decided by single-digits. His team’s defense has also been solid, ranking fourth nationally in takeaways (32) during the regular season. The team’s only loss of the season came at currently undefeated and nationally-ranked FBS foe Northern Illinois (No. 14 in the BCS standings); EIU led that game 20-0 in the first quarter before eventually falling 43-39. Babers is the second EIU head coach to earn the OVC Coach of the Year award, joining OVC Hall of Famer Bob Spoo who won the honor three times (2001, 2005, 2009), and who hired Babers as an assistant coach in 1987. Overall he is the seventh OVC coach to win the award in back-to-back seasons and first since Tennessee State’s L.C. Cole in 1998 and 1999. The OVC Coach of the Year award is named after Eastern Kentucky legend Roy Kidd, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, who won the OVC Coach of the Year award a record 10 times during his career (1964-2002) and retired with 314 victories, second-most in I-AA/FCS history.
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