The 2008 college football regular season is in the books for Penn State. That of course means it’s time to hand out awards before the bowl season springs upon us.
Penn State had an excellent season and one that will not soon be forgotten by any faithful Nittany Lion fan. There were off-field problems and distractions in the preseason, but when the football started, it became apparent that this PSU team was extremely well-rounded and on a mission.
That mission started four/five years ago when Joe Paterno landed perhaps his greatest, or maybe most important, recruiting class of his remarkable tenure. Those seniors are the story of this Big Ten championship season and are deserving of all the credit that is bestowed upon them.
All that being said, here are the 2008 Penn State football awards.
Offensive MVP: QB Daryll Clark
There is no doubt this man was the catalyst to Penn State’s success. When he played well, they won. When he played poorly, well, yeah nevermind.
Runner-up: C A.Q. Shipley
He anchored the rock solid offensive line that gave our RBs plenty of room to run and gave our QBs plenty of time to throw.
Defensive MVP: LB Navorro Bowman
This guy was a stud all year long. Didn’t start the first two games but forced his way onto the field with his excellent play and leadership.
Runner-up: DE Aaron Maybin
Maurice Evans was supposed to be the force on the DL this year, but because of off the field troubles for Evans, Maybin was able to step in and dominate.
Best Freshman: RB Stephfon Green
This kid is lightning quick, the definition of a game-changer if I’ve ever seen one. He was a great change of pace for Royster and improved with each game.
Runner-up: S Drew Astorino
He got plenty of playing time early in the year and should be able to take over for Scirrotto seamlessly next year.
Game-changer: WR/PR Derrick Williams
The only player for Joe Paterno to score a rushing, receiving, and returning TD in one game. He made plays to swing momentum numerous times throughout the year.
Runner-up: WR Deon Butler
He became Penn State’s all-time reception leader, and while that takes consistency, he has always been a big play threat in the passing game.
Best Passing TD: vs. MSU, Clark to Butler
This play was a thing of beauty. I believe it was a 70-yard play, but regardless of the yardage, it was the execution which set this one up. Clark took the snap and faked a screen out to his left and then proceeded to fake a draw type handoff to Evan Royster. The defense bit on both of these fakes, allowing Deon Butler to drift wide open down the middle of the field without a defender in sight.
Runner-up: vs. Ill, Clark to Williams
There were many to choose from, such as Butler vs. Wis. or any number of passing TDs vs. Oregon St. and Syracuse. This play sticks out, however, as both a game-changer and a great play. Clark was in the shotgun with Williams in the backfield. Clark did a play- action fake to Williams and then looked to the other side of the field as Williams turned the fake into a wheel route. Just as Clark was about to get hit, he turned and fired a perfect pass to Williams as he was crossing the goal line.
Best Rushing TD: Evan Royster vs. Mich.
Penn State was down 10-0 in the first quarter. The Wolverines were thinking upset, and everyone else was sick to their stomachs. That’s when Royster stepped up and provided a spark. From 50 yards out he got the handoff and was immediately met by a pile of defenders. He kept his feet moving however and spun, breaking tackles and eventually breaking into the open field for the long TD run. The Lions settled after that play and went on to rout Michigan.
Runner-up: Stephfon Green vs. Tem.
It looked like a standard running play as Clark gave it to the freshman on the left side. But Green broke two tackles and absolutely smoked the secondary for a 59-yard score, showing the same speed he did in the Blue/White game the previous spring.
Best Individual Performance: Daryll Clark vs. MSU
Clark ended the season on a perfect note after struggling for a few weeks beforehand. He was 16-26 for 341 yards and five touchdowns, one of those rushing. It’s by far the best performance of his career and provides promise that he will continue to get better and better.
Runner-up: Derrick Williams vs. Ill.
One rushing TD, one receiving TD, and one kick return TD, all in a closely contested game. He’s the first player to accomplish this feat under Joe Paterno and was a sight to behold that night.
Clutch Moment of the Year: Mark Rubin vs. OSU
The play that saved the season (at that point at least.) Ohio State was up and driving, trying to suck time off the clock. It was a 3rd-and-1, and the play call was a QB sneak right up the middle. Terrelle Pryor decided to improvise and looked to have room on the right side of the field for a big gain. That’s when Mark Rubin squared up and smacked the ball right out of Pryor’s hand. The ensuing scramble favored Penn State, and Pat Devlin led them on the game-winning drive.
Runner-up: Lydell Sargeant vs. OSU
Moments after the clutch moment of the year, the PSU defense needed to come up with another one. Ohio State was driving to tie the game when Pryor rolled right and chucked a pass to the front corner of the end zone. Sargeant undercut the throw and picked it off to seal the game once and for all.
While Penn State doesn’t have the opportunity to play for the national title like we all thought they might, this season has been a tremendous success. Who honestly thought that we would go 11-1 and win the Big Ten? If you told me preseason that we’d go 10-2 and a New Year’s Bowl, I would have been satisfied.
So it’s not what it could’ve been, but this team exceeded expectations, and we should be proud of them. Let’s go beat those Trojans!