After wrapping up the 2014 season on a winning note, it's time to reflect on the first season of a new era of Penn State football and hand out some much-deserved accolades. Don't agree with these selections? Stay tuned to BSD for your chance to make your own picks throughout the upcoming week. Without any further ado, here are the 2014 awardees:
Offensive MVP: WR DaeSean Hamilton
In a year marred by an overwhelming lack of productivity from the offense, Hamilton was by far Penn State’s most consistent offensive weapon. The redshirt freshman helped ease the pain of the loss of Allen Robinson by catching 82 passes for 899 yards in 2014. Hamilton is already a very skilled route-runner with excellent hands, and will only get better as he gains more experience and the (hopeful) improvement by the offensive line.
Honorable Mention: Akeel Lynch, Christian Hackenberg
Defensive MVP: LB Mike Hull
Hull was finally able to shine by avoiding injury for a full season. Despite many post-season snubs by the award committees, there were very few linebackers who performed better than Hull in 2014. At times it seemed as though there were three or four #43s on the field. Hull was just everywhere, constantly making plays each and every week. He saved the best for last with an incredible senior season, even by the lofty standards set by his predecessors at Linebacker U.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Zettel, Adrian Amos
Best Play: Geno Lewis goes into beast mode to set up the game-winning field goal against Central Florida
This play seems to have been lost in the shuffle of an up-and-down season, but it played a major part in helping Penn State start the season on the right foot on their way to a 4-0 start. After Central Florida took a late lead thanks to quarterback Justin Holman's six-yard touchdown scamper, it looked as though Penn State had blown a golden opportunity to kick off the James Franklin era with a victory. Then Christian Hackenberg cooly led the team down the field in the hopes of a last-gasp score to secure a dramatic victory. With the final seconds ticking off the clock, Hackenberg found Geno Lewis along the right sideline. Lewis snagged the ball and then dragged half of the Central Florida defense with him to pick up an additional 14 yards, setting up a 36-yard Sam Ficken field goal on the final play of the game.
Honorable Mention: Hackenberg's 16-yard touchdown pass to Hamilton to tie the Pinstripe Bowl, Zettel's pick-six against Ohio State
Best Game: Pinstripe Bowl
Things did not look good when Boston College took a 21-7 lead midway through the third quarter, but the defense clamped down and the offense finally found its rhythm to complete a thrilling 31-30 overtime victory. In a season characterized with so many bland games, this is one to be remembered.
Honorable Mention: Central Florida, Rutgers
Best Coach: DC Bob Shoop
In 2013 it looked as though Penn State’s days of elite defense may be over for some time. Just one season later, Penn State is back atop the defensive rankings with a great chance to keep rising as scholarships are restored and the relatively young defense gains more experience. Shoop is obviously a tremendous defensive mastermind, and hopefully will remain in Happy Valley for years to come.
Honorable Mention: Sean Spencer, Brent Pry
Worst Loss: Illinois Penn State lost to some less-than-stellar teams in 2014, but none were as maddening as the last-second punch to the gut by the Illini. Christian Hackenberg came inches away from a first down that likely would have ended the game late in the fourth quarter. Instead, Penn State punted away and the Illinois offense took advantage of a gassed Nittany Lions defense with a game-winning drive that gave Illinois its first win against Penn State since 2010. Worst off all, Tim Beckman now has a victory against Penn State. Somewhere, Michael Mauti weeps.
Honorable Mention: Michigan, Maryland
Best Loss: Ohio State Yes, it stung to lose in double overtime to the Buckeyes, especially considering all of the questionable calls that went in Ohio State’s favor. But considering Penn State went toe-to-toe with a team about to play for a national championship says so much about the effort displayed by a shorthanded and inexperienced Nittany Lions squad. This was the first time I’ve ever left Beaver Stadium with a smile on my face after a loss. This game is a much-needed reminder to always have hope each week, no matter how bad things look at the time. We’ll get them next year, right??
Honorable Mention: None
Best Moment: Sam Ficken being chased by the entire team following his game-winning extra point to seal the Pinstripe Bowl victory.
It was an image that will not soon be forgotten by any Penn State fan as Ficken closed out a career that saw him go from goat to hero, back to goat, and finally hero (and arguably team MVP) following a nearly flawless senior season.
Honorable Mention: James Franklin tackling assistant coaches following Penn State's victory against Temple to reach bowl eligibility, the Beaver Stadium crowd staying after the game to cheer the team following the double-overtime loss to Ohio State
Most Head-Scratching Moment: Time management at the end of the Maryland game
With Maryland driving to take a late lead, James Franklin opted not to use any timeouts to allow the offense a reasonable amount of time to respond with a scoring drive of their own. This strategy seemed especially confounding since the Terps had the best kicker in the nation- Lou Groza Award winner Brad Craddock. Not surprisingly, Craddock nailed a field goal to give Maryland the lead as the clock dwindled, and a last-ditch effort by the offense with just seconds remaining was futile.
Honorable Mention: Clock management at end of Michigan game where the coaching staff appeared not to realize time was running out, the disappearance of Geno Lewis during the second half of the season
Worst Officiating: All of it
There are some obvious choices, but with Big Ten officiating it would be easier to list the times they actually got a call right, or at least acted like they didn’t watch their first game of American Football earlier that morning.
Honorable Mention: The phantom false start that nullified the onside kick recovery against Michigan, about 3/4 of the Ohio State game, most notably the "propelling" penalty that gave Ohio State the ball at the 12 1/2 to start the second overtime, the Ohio State interception that was picked up off the ground and not overturned, and the 53-yard field goal with the play clock at :00 for several seconds.
Worst Break: Miles Dieffenbach’s Injury
It was a tremendous loss to lose the team’s best offensive lineman and vocal leader for the majority of the season, especially with such an inexperienced and thin line to begin with. Considering that many losses came down to just a first down or two that the offense couldn’t muster, a healthy Dieffenbach may have resulted in a 9-3 record for the team. It’s a team sport, but in this case one player made a VERY big difference.
Honorable Mention: The aforementioned officiating
True Freshman of the Year: S Marcus Allen
Penn State relied on many freshman in 2014 to perform well beyond their experience level, but none were as impressive as Allen. The freshman came on strong following Ryan Keiser’s season-ending injury and quickly stood out on an overall outstanding defense. Allen has an impressive mix of size, strength, speed and instincts that could see him contend for All-American honors in the future.
Honorable Mention: Christian Campbell, Grant Haley, Mike Gesicki
Most Underrated Player: DT Austin Johnson After an outstanding turnaround, you could likely make a strong case for eight or nine players on the Penn State defense. While there are many deserving candidates, I’ll stick with Austin Johnson whose outstanding play benefitted every defender on the field. Johnson had a quietly fantastic season, but really seemed to come on during the second half of the schedule. Johnson looks to be next in line of dominant DTs at Penn State, and with him lining up to Anthony Zettel, the Nittany Lions should have the best DT tandem in the nation- something that will be a huge asset as Penn State is forced to replace both defensive end starters from 2014.
Honorable Mention: Nyeem Wartman, C.J. Olaniyan, Brandon Bell