The two weeks between the end of the college football season and the start of the bowl games feels like an eternity for diehard pigskin fans, but ESPN's 2015 College Football Awards provided an opportunity to reflect on the most memorable moments of the year and look ahead to the postseason.
With that in mind, here is a look at the winners who were recognized during Thursday's broadcast:
|Awards Handed Out During 2015 College Football Awards Broadcast|
|Davey O'Brien Award||Deshaun Watson, Clemson|
|Fred Biletnikoff Award||Corey Coleman, Baylor|
|Ray Guy Award||Tom Hackett, Utah|
|Coach of the Year||Dabo Swinney, Clemson|
|Disney Spirit Award||Hank Goff, Concordia-St. Paul|
|Doak Walker Award||Derrick Henry, Alabama|
|Outland Trophy||Joshua Garnett, Stanford|
|Jim Thorpe Award||Desmond King, Iowa|
|Rimington Award||Ryan Kelly, Alabama|
|John Mackey Award||Hunter Henry, Arkansas|
|Wuerffel Trophy||Ty Darlington, Oklahoma|
|Broyles Award||Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma|
|Lombardi Award||Carl Nassib, Penn State|
|Bronko Nagurski Trophy||Tyler Matakevich, Temple|
|Butkus Award||Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame|
|Jim Thorpe Award||Desmond King, Iowa|
|NCFAA Contributions to College Football Award||Barry Switzer|
|Lou Groza Award||Ka'imi Fairbairn, UCLA|
|Holder of the Year||Peter Mortell, Minnesota|
|Play of the Year||Michigan State over Michigan; final punt play|
|Chuck Bednarik Award||Tyler Matakevich, Temple|
|Maxwell Award||Derrick Henry, Alabama|
While the evening was all about the awards, the broadcast had some fun at the start when it joked about Stanford's Christian McCaffrey's ability to do everything, as ESPN College Football shared:
The first trophy handed out was the Davey O'Brien Award for the nation's best quarterback. It went to Clemson's Deshaun Watson, who is preparing for the College Football Playoff with his undefeated Tigers. ESPN Stats & Info pointed out he made program history in the process:
Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com remarked on Watson's victory over TCU's Trevone Boykin:
Watson kicked off the evening, but Alabama's Derrick Henry was recognized as the Walter Camp National Player of the Year before the broadcast, per Dan Hope of OrangeandWhite.com.
The theme of offensive playmakers continued with the next award when Baylor's Corey Coleman captured the Fred Biletnikoff Award for the nation's best wide receiver. ESPN College Football provided the reasoning behind the decision:
Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News reflected on what could have been for the Bears:
The evening wasn't only for those who score touchdowns. Utah's Tom Hackett took home the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter. ESPN Stats & Info acknowledged it wasn't the first time:
Hackett turned heads this season when he successfully ran a fake punt against Oregon. The snap was high, and he demonstrated his athleticism by leaping up and catching it and then running for a first down. Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer passed along Hackett's quote when discussing that play:
ESPN's Joe Schad reacted to the joke:
Following Hackett's amusing victory, Clemson's Dabo Swinney won the Home Depot Coach of the Year.
The first half of the award show was dedicated to recognizing greatness on the field, but things were put in perspective when Concordia-St. Paul defensive end Hank Goff was given the Disney Spirit Award. Austin Murphy of Sports Illustrated profiled the heroic college football player, who was once a Marine machine-gunner, in detail:
He saw some bad things. Hank’s regiment, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines out of Twentynine Palms, Calif., deployed to the Helmand province of Afghanistan in April 2008. Over the next eight months, the “War Dogs” were hit harder than any American unit in that conflict. Of the battalion’s one thousand Marines, 20 were killed and 160 wounded, with 30 of those amputees. The story gets sadder. In the six years since the end of that tour, the number of 2/7 Marines to commit suicide has now exceeded by one the number killed in Afghanistan.
Murphy also noted that "When Hank was slipping into darkness, football gave him joy. It provided structure and purpose and a refuge, a place to go and not think about what he saw in the war." Trenise Ferreira of Disney Sports commented on Goff:
Goff deservedly received the biggest ovation of the evening. Following his story, the broadcast shifted back to the football recognition, when Henry took home the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back. Kevin McGuire of CollegeFootballTalk brought up everyone's midseason favorite for the award as Henry accepted the trophy:
Running backs need offensive linemen to open holes, and few did that better than Stanford's Joshua Garnett. As a result, he was awarded the Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman, and the trophy's representatives congratulated him on Twitter:
Defense finally got the chance to shine after Garnett's win when Iowa's Desmond King was honored with the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the country. Derek Young of Scout.com shared King's quote during his post-award interview:
From there, ESPN showed a graphic with a number of other award winners (which can all be seen in the table above), and Barry Switzer was recognized with the NCFAA Contributions to College Football Award following a 157-29-4 record as Oklahoma's head coach from 1973 to 1988.
Special teams also got their shine when UCLA's Ka'imi Fairbairn won the Lou Groza Award as the best kicker and Minnesota's Peter Mortell was awarded with the Holder of the Year in tongue-in-cheek fashion. Mortell's recognition was a response to this humorous tweet he sent out on Dec. 1:
Perhaps Michigan could have used some of that special teams magic when it lost to Michigan State on the incredible dropped punt snap in the final seconds. It won Play of the Year and helped propel the Spartans into the College Football Playoff. ESPN College Football shared the highlight:
The broadcast shifted to some of the major awards after the Play of the Year, and Temple's Tyler Matakevich won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation's best defensive player. NFL star and former Temple player Terrance Knighton provided a shoutout:
On the offensive side, Henry captured yet another honor when he won the Maxwell Award as the nation's best overall player. SportsCenter pointed out it has been quite some time since a running back took home the trophy:
A running back hasn't won the Heisman Trophy since Mark Ingram did so in 2009. Perhaps Henry's victory Thursday is a sign of things to come for the Alabama superstar as his attention shifts to Saturday's Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Stanford's McCaffrey and Clemson's Watson will join him in hopes of taking home college football's most prestigious individual award.