The review of the 2011 football season rolls on, as Matt Mangum hands out his season awards.
Offensive Player of the Year - Cody Hoffman
This was a close race. Riley Nelson received serious consideration for this honor. However, Cody Hoffman provided a solid and consistent performance in 2011. In a year of quarterback upheaval Hoffman managed to receive 943 yards. Hoffman bailed quarterbacks out of bad passes and caught passes around, above and away from opposing defensive backs. The exclamation point was the fake-spike play that left Hoffman on the receiving end of the winning touchdown against Tulsa.
Defensive Player of the Year - Kyle Van Noy
Van Noy was at or near the top of just about every defensive statistical category this year. He had 68 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks and 3 interceptions. His fumble recovery for a TD at the end of the Ole Miss game was a tone setter for the defense early in the season and marked the beginning of a great season for the sophomore linebacker. He was the easy choice for Defensive Player of the Year.
Special Teams Player of the Year - Cody Hoffman
He brought one to the house. That's all I care about. The first kickoff returned for a Cougar TD since 1998. That drought was embarrassing and is now a part of history instead of part of the present. Thank you Cody Hoffman. Thank you.
Unsung Hero - The Defensive Line
This was made obvious in the bowl game against Tulsa. This defensive line bottled up GJ Kinne and was part of a defensive unit that held the Tulsa offense to measly rushing yardage. The schemes were just right and executed in a way that seemed to complement what the defensive backs and linebackers were doing. This defensive line unit seemed to step up when they were needed the most. There's not much glory in being a linemen--except for right here. Manumaleuna, Fangupo, Fuga, Richardson, Tuiloma, Rowley -- you've been great all year.
Editor's Honorable Mention: J.D. Falslev
Offensive Play of the Year – Riley Nelson to Marcus Mathews 13-yard TD with :11 left to beat Utah State
This play capped of an offensive drive that had the Cougars go the length of the field for the win. While this game will most likely always be shrouded in Nelson vs. Heaps controversy, this drive stands apart from that. In what I believe is the ultimate team sport, this team came together to win this game. The offense had struggled much up to this point and was searching for an identity. This drive and win was where the identity of this team began to take shape.
Defensive Play of the Year – Kyle Van Noy Fumble Recovery for TD at Ole Miss
Kyle Van Noy caused a fumble that he then recovered for the go ahead score. This would be the difference in a ball game where the offense had continuously sputtered. This play was a sign of great things to come not only from Van Noy, but the entire defensive unit.
Coaching Call of the Year - Switching Quarterbacks
Brandon Doman has described it as a gut feeling when he made the switch. This decision has been endlessly debated on the internet and in houses all over the country. To believe that switching quarterbacks makes all of the difference by itself is silly. However, for a team that had struggled to find itself and a rhythm, his move seemed to breathe new life into the offense. For better or for worse, this decision was a defining moment.