Evans wins Gold Helmet Award as New England Football Player of Year

Matt Evans | N.E. Player of Year

BOSTON – University of New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) is the recipient of the New England Football Writers Gold Helmet Award as the region's Division I FCS player of the year, it was announced Tuesday. He will be honored at the annual New England Football Writers Captains and Awards Banquet on Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Montvale Plaza in Stoneham, Mass.

Evans headlines the 2011 Division I FCS All-New England Football Team, which also includes UNH senior quarterback Kevin Decker (Armonk, N.Y.), senior defensive end Brian McNally (Cornwall, N.Y.) and sophomore offensive lineman Ricky Archer (The Plains, Va.).

Evans becomes the fifth player in school history, and first defensive player, to earn a season Gold Helmet Award, joining the likes of running backs Bill Burnham (1977), Jerry Azumah (1996) and Stephan Lewis (2002), along with quarterback Ricky Santos (2005). 

Evans, the nation's leader in total tackles (154), tackles/game (14.0), solo tackles (88) and solo tackles/game (8.0), earns All-New England honors for the first time in his career. The All-CAA First-Team selection is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award for the nation's top FCS defensive player. He is three tackles shy of overtaking his own personal best as the school's second-ranked single-season tackler, plus he is currently ranked sixth all-time at the University with 323 stops, a mere eight tackles away from cracking the top five. The 6-foot, 227-pound LB has posted double-digit tackles in nine of 11 games this season and 20 of his last 24 games, including a career-high 24 tackles at Lehigh on Sept. 10 and a 13-tackle, two-forced fumble performance in the Colonial Clash victory against Massachusetts on Oct. 22. Evans has two interceptions, including a 31-yard pick-six at then fifth-ranked Richmond on Sept. 24, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and two sacks.

Kevin Decker | All-N.E. Team

Decker, the CAA Offensive Player of the Year, tallied All-New England honors after leading the league in total offense/game (317.2 yards/fifth in FCS), passing yards/game (279.3/10th in FCS), pass efficiency (154.3/sixth in FCS), points responsible for/game (17.09/fifth in FCS) and TD passes (20). The first-year starter has completed 244 of 350 passes (69.7 percent) while rushing 121 times for 417 yards and a team-leading nine touchdowns. As just the fourth quarterback in school history to eclipse 3,000 passing yards in a season, Decker's 3,072 passing yards rank fifth in University single-season history, and he is within 246 passing yards of the No. 2 spot. His 3,951 career passing yards place him 10th all-time at UNH.

McNally, a member of the CAA All-Conference First Team, garners All-New England honors for the second straight year. The co-captain is ranked second in the conference with 7.5 sacks, highlighted by a career-best 3.5 sacks in a win over Villanova on Oct. 8, and paces the Wildcats with 11 tackles for loss. The defensive end was named to the College Sporting News Preseason All-America Team, The Sports Network/Fathead.com Preseason All-America Second Team, Phil Steele's Preseason All-American Second Team and the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) FCS Watch List.

Archer, a sophomore, has started all 13 games at right guard for an offense that is averaging a CAA-leading 444.1 yards of total offense, ranked eighth in the nation. He was previously feted as an All-CAA Second Team performer.

The All-New England Football Team represents 12 schools and four conferences: the CAA; the Ivy League; the Northeast Conference and the Patriot League.  

No. 11 UNH (8-3, 6-2 CAA), which qualified for the NCAA Division I Football Championship tournament for a nation-leading eighth straight season, will tangle with seventh-ranked Montana State (9-2, 7-1 Big Sky) in a second-round game Saturday, Dec. 3, at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Mont. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. (EST), with live coverage on ESPN3 and on the Wildcat Sports Radio Network. For more information, visit www.unhwildcats.com.

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