Football Places 11 On All-BIG EAST Teams|
Dec. 9, 2009
CINCINNATI - Eleven University of Cincinnati football players earned all-BIG EAST accolades, including five who took home first team honors, the league office announced Wednesday.
UC took home a pair of individual honors as well, with Mardy Gilyard earning BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year for the second-straight year and head coach Brian Kelly who earned BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors for the third-consecutive season.
Gilyard (WR & KR), Chris Jurek (C), Tony Pike (QB), and Aaron Webster (S) were first-team honorees. Armon Binns (WR), Jeff Linkenbach (OT), Alex Hoffman (OG), Jason Kelce (OG), Ben Guidugli (TE), and Ricardo Mathews (DL) earned second-team honors.
The Bearcats (12-0, 7-0 BIG EAST), ranked No. 3 in the final Bowl Championship Series standings, finished the first undefeated season in the modern era and won their second-straight BIG EAST Championship.
In addition, the conference announced the selections to the All-BIG EAST First and Second Teams, and named the late Jasper Howard as Honorary Captain of the 2009 All-BIG EAST teams. Howard was a standout cornerback at Connecticut until his passing in October.
Gilyard is the first player to win BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons since Pittsburgh punter Andy Lee won in 2002 and 2003. Gilyard finished the regular season with 1,074 yards on 34 kickoff returns for an average of 31.6 yards per return that would stand as a BIG EAST single-season record. He tied the conference's single-season mark with two kickoff returns for touchdowns, including a 99-yard return against Pittsburgh to spark the Bearcats' comeback from a 21-point deficit in the title-clinching game. Gilyard enters the postseason as the BIG EAST career leader in kickoff return yards (2,457) and all-purpose yards (5,697).
Gilyard is a repeat All-BIG EAST First Team pick at both wide receiver and return specialist. He has 11 TDs and 1,150 receiving yards in 2009, good for second all-time on the single-season charts, behind himself (1,276/2008). He has caught a pass in 17-straight game.
Kelly earned BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors for the third time in as many seasons on the Bearcat sideline. He is the first three-time winner of the award since Dennis Erickson of Miami won in 1991, 1992 and 1994 and he is the first coach in BIG EAST history to win the award in three consecutive seasons. Kelly led the Bearcats - who were picked third in the BIG EAST preseason media poll - to a 12-0 season, their second straight outright conference championship and their second straight appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game. Cincinnati finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in the final BCS standings and is headed to the Allstate Sugar Bowl to face No. 5 Florida.
Pike, a second-team honoree a year ago, was 184-of-293 for 2,350 yards and 26 touchdowns. His efficiency rating of 155.36 ranks second in the BIG EAST and ninth nationally. He led the BIG EAST in total offense, averaging 263.1 yards per game. He is a finalist for the Manning Award.
Webster was third on the team with 62 tackles, including 36 solo stops. He had 2.0 tackles for a loss as well as leading the team in interceptions (4), and pass breakups (5). He also forced two fumbles on the year.
Hoffman, Jurek, Kelce and Linkenbach were part of a veteran offensive line that is a key part of the nation's No. 6 offense at 464.3 yards per game.
Binns emerged as a great compliment to Gilyard during the season, grabbing 56 balls for 859 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was the second-leading receiver on the squad and averaged 71.6 yards per game and 15.3 yards per catch.
Guidugli finished the regular season as UC's fourth-leading receiver. He tallied 22 catches for 342 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged a team-high 15.5 yards per reception and had a career-best seven catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois.
Mathews, in his first year as a full-time starter, led the Bearcats with 11.5 tackles for a loss. He also had 42 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and a pair of quarterback hurries.
No. 3 UC will close out the 2009 season in the 2010 Allstate Sugar Bowl against No. 5 Florida. The game is set for Jan. 1, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. EST in the Louisiana Superdome, and will be televised by FOX. Tickets for the general public go on sale, Thursday, Dec. 10 at 8 a.m. and will be priced at $125 apiece. Call 1-877-CATS-TIX or visit CATSTIX.com to join the Bearcat in New Orleans.