Senior quarterback finishes fourth in the voting for the Walter Payton Award after setting 14 school records and seven Big Sky Conference marks
Concluding his assault on the EWU, Big Sky Conference and NCAA record books with a vengeance, senior quarterback Matt Nichols now owns the league's career passing, total offense and touchdown passes records and ranks in the top 10 all-time nationally in all three. In all, he broke 14 school records in his career, including six Big Sky Conference marks.
This week, the Sports Network announced that Nichols finished fourth in the voting for the 23rd Annual Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. The winner among the top three vote-getters will be announced on Dec. 17. The finalists are Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards, Elon wide receiver Terrrell Hudgins and Southern Illinois running back Deji Karim.
After closing his career with a career-high 461 yards at Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 28 in the NCAA Championship Subdivision Playoffs, Nichols finished with 12,616 passing yards in his career to move into sixth in NCAA Football Championship history. He broke the career passing record in the 46-year-old Big Sky Conference of 12,207 held by Weber State's Jamie Martin (1989-92).
Nichols had 13,308 yards of total offense in his career to rank sixth in FCS history (the division was created in 1978). With a 455-yard effort at Southern Utah on Nov. 14, he broke the league's 17-year-old total offense record of 12,287 yards held by Martin. Nichols also finished his career with a school-record 96 touchdown passes to equal the Big Sky record and rank 10th in FCS history.
"It just shows his toughness and longevity," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin of the 2005 graduate of West Valley High School in Cottonwood, Calif. "A record like that shows a lot of things. A lot of players have talent but get hurt along the way, or this or that, but Matt has just been constant and one of those guys week-in and week-out who just brings it. He deserves the records -- he has worked hard to get that and I am really proud of him."
In his last six games alone, Nichols completed 64 percent of his passes for an average of 383.5 yards per game (2,301 total), 23 touchdowns, one interception and a passing efficiency rating of 162.7. He had at least 400 yards in his last three games, and four of his last five.
For his efforts, he was the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 and 2007. In 2009 he was selected as Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week three times and six times in his career. He also earned a pair of national player of the week honors.
Besides Martin, Nichols ranks ahead of such Big Sky legends as Montana's Dave Dickenson, NAU's Greg Wyatt, Idaho's John Friesz and Ken Hobart, and Eastern's own Erik Meyer. Meyer (2005), Dickenson (1995), Nussmeier (1993), Martin (1991) and Friesz (1989) have all won the Payton Award presented by the Sports Network to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
More on Matt Nichols
Senior quarterback Matt Nichols closed his career with three-straight 3,000-yard seasons, including 3,830 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2009. He completed a career-best 65 percent of his passes in 2009 to give him a passing efficiency rating of 156.5 to rank eighth in FCS. He was fifth in total offense (327.7 per game) and third in passing offense (319.2).
Nichols had just six interceptions, and had a streak of 151 attempts without a pick ended against Weber State on Oct. 10. He went the next five games without an interception and ended his interception-less streak at 267 with a pick against Stephen F. Austin in the FCS Playoffs when he finished with a career-high 461 passing yards.
Three of the four best days in his career efficiency-wise came in EWU last three regular season games, including a 220.5 rating against Northern Arizona on Nov. 21 when he completed 22-of-33 passes for 408 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Before he completed 28-of-38 passes for a 192.42 efficiency rating versus Southern Utah, Nichols was coming off his second-most efficient game of his career on Oct. 31 in EWU's 47-10 thumping of Portland State. Nichols completed 21-of-30 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns. He completed passes to eight different receivers, with six catching at least three passes.
His passing efficiency rating of 229.64 in that game was his best of the season, and second-best in his career behind his 272.93 rating versus Northern Arizona as a sophomore in 2007 (17-of-22, 316 yards, 5 TD). Nichols helped Eastern to a 545-278 advantage in total offense versus PSU as EWU snapped a three-game losing streak in the series versus the Vikings.
Nichols finished with six 400-yard passing performance in 47 career games. He had 19 career games with at least 300 passing yards, and 21 with at least 300 yards of total offense (five games with at least 400 yards).
A four-year starter, he broke EWU's career total offense, passing yardage and touchdown passes records in October, and before that, broke the school's completions and attempts records. He finished his career 996-of-1,608 (62 percent) for 12,616 yards and 96 touchdowns in his 47-game career.
Meyer previously held the school record for career passing yards with 10,261 from 2002-05, and also owned the career total offense record of 10,942. Nichols also had 675 career rushing yards, just ahead of the former record by an Eastern quarterback of 681 held by Meyer. He actually moved ahead of Meyer on Nov. 14, but slipped back to second the following week with a negative 18 yards versus NAU.
The starting debut for the 45-game starter came in 2006 when Eastern played at 12th-ranked West Virginia. For the second-straight year he was on the watch list for the Walter Payton Award presented by the Sports Network to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, and eventually finished fourth in the voting.
He is from Cottonwood, Calif., and is a 2005 graduate of West Valley High School., and led the Eagles to a 8-4 record overall and 6-2 league mark as a senior. Nichols led Eastern to nine victories as a sophomore in 2007 when he passed for 3,744 yards and 34 touchdowns, and had another 392 yards on the ground. As a junior, his numbers (in two less games) slipped to 3,293 yards and 21 touchdowns passing, and 83 yards rushing.
Nichols had his first 300-yard passing performance of the 2009 season with 354 against Weber State on Oct. 10. He then had 312 at Montana on Oct. 17, 327 versus Montana State on Oct. 24, 413 against Portland State on Oct. 31 and 380 versus Southern Utah on Nov. 14. He finished with a total of 18 300-yard performances in his career, and had at least 300 yards of total offense in 21 outings.
Below is a complete list of his 300-yard outings:
300-Yard Passing Games for Nichols (total of 19, six with 400+)
461 - 43x76, 3td - Stephen F. Austin - 11/28/09 (#3 in school history)
451 - 37x59, 2td - Montana - 10/6/07 (#4 in school history)
434 - 34x44, 2td - McNeese State - 11/24/07 (#7 in school history)
418 - 34x55, 2td - Portland State - 10/4/08 (#11 in school history)
413 - 21x30, 4td - Portland State - 10/31/09 (#13 in school history)
408 - 22x33, 5td - Northern Arizona - 11/21/09 (#14 in school history)
382 - 26x40, 5td - Idaho State - 9/27/08 (#21 in school history)
380 - 28x38, 4td - Southern Utah - 10/14/09 (#22 in school history)
363 - 29x43, 1td - Sacramento State - 11/1/08 (#31 in school history)
363 - 19x30, 2td - Portland State - 9/29/07 (#32 in school history)
354 - 24x39, 1td - Weber State - 10/10/09 (#37 in school history)
346 - 25x42, 2td - Northern Arizona - 11/15/08 (#42 in school history)
335 - 36x61, 1td - Texas Tech - 8/30/08 (#47 in school history)
329 - 21x42, 1td - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
328 - 20x29, 3td - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
327 - 26x41, 4td - Montana State - 10/24/09
316 - 17x22, 5td - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
312 - 32x49, 3td - Montana - 10/17/09
303 - 32x51, 1td - Colorado - 9/6/08
300-Yard Total Offense Games for Nichols (total of 21, five with 400+)
478 - 461 passing, 17 rushing - Stephen F. Austin - 11/28/09
478 - 451 passing, 27 rushing - Montana - 10/6/07
459 - 434 passing. 25 rushing - McNeese State - 11/24/07
455 - 380 passing, 75 rushing - Southern Utah - 10/14/09
435 - 418 passing, 17 rushing - Portland State - 10/4/08
397 - 413 passing, -16 rushing - Portland State - 10/31/09
390 - 408 passing, -18 rushing - Northern Arizona - 11/21/09
376 - 382 passing, -6 rushing - Idaho State - 9/27/08
375 - 426 passing, 29 rushing - Northern Arizona - 11/15/08
370 - 363 passing, 7 rushing - Portland State - 9/29/07
359 - 256 passing, 103 rushing - Weber State - 11/17/07
359 - 329 passing, 30 rushing - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
364 - 316 passing, 48 rushing - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
355 - 328 passing, 27 rushing - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
348 - 312 passing, 36 rushing - Montana 10/17/09
344 - 354 passing, -10 rushing - Weber State - 10/10/09
327 - 327 passing, 0 rushing - Montana State - 10/24/09
322 - 335 passing, -13 rushing - Texas Tech - 8/30/08
320 - 363 passing, -43 rushing - Sacramento State - 11/1/08
314 - 303 passing, 11 rushing - Colorado - 9/6/08
313 - 242 passing, 71 rushing - Weber State - 11/22/08