Santos Makes Final Cut For The Walter Payton Award
PHILADELPHIA--Sixth-year head coach Sean McDonnell of the University of New Hampshire football team has been selected as one of 16 finalists to win the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award, which is presented annually by "The Sports Network".
McDonnell has led the Wildcats to its first NCAA I-AA tournament bid since 1994 and its best record (9-2) since UNH was 10-2 in 1994. The Wildcats have rolled to five straight wins to end the regular season and McDonnell has led his squad to seven consecutive road victories, the best performance ever by a UNH team in games away from Durham. UNH's two most visible players, redshirt freshman Ricky Santos (Bellingham, Mass.) and sophomore wide receiver David Ball (Orange, Vt.) were not recruited seriously by any other I-AA team and have become two of the top players in I-AA football. Santos, who has 29 touchdown passes this season, remains a strong candidate for the Walter Payton Award and would be the first freshman in 18 years to ever win the honor. Ball, who has made a UNH record 17 touchdown receptions this season, has led the nation in several receiving categories and could be named an All-American in the near future. Under McDonnell, UNH has improved from a 5-7 overall mark and 3-6 record in the conference in 2003 to a 9-2 overall record in 2004 and a 6-2 mark in the A-10, good enough to earn the team first-place in the North Division. UNH was picked to finish fourth in the North in the preseason Coaches Poll.
McDonnell is also quickly improving his overall career record at UNH. He is now 32-34 and needs two wins to reach a .500 winning percentage.
The winners of the Walter Payton Award and the Eddie Robinson Award will be announced on Dec. 16th in Chattanooga, Tenn., on the eve of the NCAA, I-AA national championship.
The No. 5 Wildcats will play at No. 4 Georgia Southern in the first round of the NCAA I-AA Football Playoffs. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. and the contest can be seen live on ESPN2 and can be heard on the UNH Sports Radio Network.