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Cornell's Mathews Named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List

Cornell's Jeff Mathews
Cornell's Jeff Mathews

The Sports Network Release

Portions courtesy of The Sports Network and Cornell Athletic Communications

PHILADELPHIA -- Cornell junior quarterback Jeff Mathews is one of the 20 initial nominees for the 2012 Walter Payton Award, the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision top individual honor, as announced by The Sports Network.

Twelve of this year's 20 preseason Watch List nominees were finalists for the award last year -- quarterbacks Casey Brockman of Murray State, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State and Brad Sorensen of Southern Utah; running backs Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Jordan Brown of Bryant, Jamaine Cook of Youngstown State, Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State, Andrew Pierce of Delaware and Terrance West of Towson; fullback Eric Breitenstein of Wofford; and wide receivers Aaron Mellette of Elon and Rodrick Rumble of Idaho State.

Joining the 2012 Watch List are quarterbacks Mathews, Taylor Heinicke of Old Dominion and Kurt Hess of Youngstown State; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Matt Denham of Eastern Kentucky and Miguel Maysonet of Stony Brook; all-purpose player Richard Sincere of Sam Houston State; and wide receiver Ryan Spadola of Lehigh.

Mathews emerged as one of the top FCS quarterbacks after a breakout sophomore season that saw him be named the 2011 Asa S. Bushnell Cup winner as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and earn first-team All-Ivy honors. He set Cornell and Ivy League records for passing yardage in a game (548 yards at Penn) and season (3,412 yards), while also setting Big Red records for touchdown passes (25), total offense (3,274 yards), completion percentage (.679) and passing efficiency (162.60). The first sophomore captain in Cornell football history, he ranked third nationally in passing yards per game and pass efficiency, fourth in total offense and 10th in points responsible for.

A two-time Ivy League and national player of the week, Mathews posted two of the top three passing games in conference history and two of the top four passing totals in the FCS this season and ended the year with three 400-yard games and two 500-yard passing games, both Ivy records. Against the top three pass defenses in the Ivy League (Dartmouth, Penn and Brown), Mathews completed 70 percent of his passes and averaged 405.7 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. His 341.2 yards per game was more than 100 yards per game higher than any other passer in the Ivy League.

The Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the 2012 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 175 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season on Nov. 19. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation.

The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Buchanan Award honors the FCS defensive player of the year, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year. Those three winners will join the top three Payton finalists at the national awards banquet.