Senior quarterback is one of 20 players selected by The Sports Network as a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision
On the cusp of breaking Eastern Washington University's career records for passing and total offense, senior quarterback Matt Nichols has been selected by The Sports Network as a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
A 33-game starter for the Eagles, Nichols was named to the Payton Watch List for the second-straight season after earning All-America honors and Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP accolades as a sophomore in 2007. The 2005 graduate of West Valley High School in Cottonwood, Calif., earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors a year ago, and enters his senior season with 8,786 yards passing, 9,376 yards of total offense and 63 touchdown passes in his career.
Nichols passed for 3,293 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior, and his average of 306 yards of total offense per game ranked fifth in FCS. He led the Eagles to the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs as a sophomore when he passed for 3,734 yards and a school-record 34 touchdowns.
A year ago, Eastern's Greg Peach won the Buck Buchanan Award presented by TSN to the top defensive player in FCS. In 2005, Eastern's Erik Meyer -- the player Nichols is chasing in the school record books -- won the Payton Award. Meyer (2002-05) holds school records with 10,261 passing yards, 10,942 yards of total offense and 84 touchdowns.
Nichols and the Eagles open the 2009 season on Sept. 5 at home against Western Oregon. New players begin reporting for practices on Aug. 12, with veterans slated to return the next day.
A total of 20 players will be named to the watch list, including last year's winner, quarterback Armanti Edwards from Appalachian State. A total of 16 players have been announced thus far, with the remaining four announced next week.
Besides Nichols and Edwards, the list currently includes Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins and Montana running back Chase Reynolds. The other 12 are Holy Cross quarterback Dominic Randolph, The Citadel wide receiver Andre Roberts, Florida A&M quarterback Curtis Pulley, Samford running back Chris Evans, South Carolina State running back William Ford, Northern Iowa quarterback Pat Grace, Elon wide receiver Terrell Hudgins, Southern quarterback Bryant Lee, Albany running back David McCarty, Massachusetts running back Tony Nelson, McNeese State running back Todd Pendland and Jacksonville State quarterback Ryan Perrilloux.
The watch list will be revised in October and again in November before the final ballot is announced. Voting from a panel of FCS sports information directors, writers, broadcasters and other football experts will be conducted after the regular season ends. Three finalists will be announced on Nov. 30 and will be invited to the 23rd annual Sports Network Awards banquet on Dec. 17 in Chattanooga, Tenn., the night prior to the FCS championship game. The Eddie Robinson Award (top FCS Coach) and Buck Buchanan Award (top FCS Defensive Player) will also be presented that night.
Below is a complete bio on Matt Nichols:
#16 Matt Nichols
QB, 6-3, 220, Sr., Cottonwood, Calif.
Career: Nichols now has 12 300-yard passing games in his 35-game career and 14 performances with at least 300 yards of total offense. On EWU's career passing lists, Nichols ranks in the top five in all categories, including second in total offense (9,376) and second in passing yards (8,786) The record holder for both passing yards and total offense is 2005 Payton Award winner Erik Meyer (2002-05) with 10,261 passing yards and 10,942 yards of total offense. Meyer is the player Nichols replaced in 2006 as Eastern's starting quarterback. Nichols now owns the school record with 1,150 career pass attempts, and also ranks fifth in efficiency rating (136.0), second in touchdown passes (63, ranking only behind the 84 of Meyer), second in completions (698) and third in interceptions (40). With 590 rushing yards in his career, Nichols is approaching the EWU career record for a quarterback of 681 set by Meyer. Nichols has been a part of four of the 36-longest pass plays in school history of 70, 78, 80 and 85 yards, but just the 80-yarder was a touchdown. Nichols has the most starts among returning players in 2009 with 33.
2009: Listed as a starter at quarterback on EWU's preseason depth chart. For the second-straight season was selected as one of 20 players on the Walter Payton Award "Watch List."
2008: Earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors. Spent most of the 2008 season as one of 16 players on the Walter Payton Award "Watch List." Started 10 games at quarterback and served as EWU's year-long team captain on offense. He finished sixth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense (299.4) and was also fifth nationally in total offense (306.9) and 40th in passing efficiency (131.5). On Eastern's single season passing lists, Nichols finished the 2008 season with the second-most attempts (451), completions (3,293) and average passing yards per game (299.4); the fifth-most passing yards (3,293); the ninth-most touchdown passes (21); and the fifth-most total offensive yards (3,376). He was the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week when he completed 26-of-40 passes for 382 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-31 victory over Idaho State (9/27/08). He also had a 346-yard passing performance against Northern Arizona (11/15/08) and had 418 against Portland State (10/4/08) to rank as the third-best in his career and 10th-best in school history. He had a season-ending 313-yard total offense effort against Weber State (11/22/08) with 242 yards passing and 71 rushing. His completions (36) and attempts (61) against Texas Tech (8/30/08) both rank as the second-most in school history. He was also the team's offensive player of the week against Western Washington (9/20/08) and Northern Colorado (11/8/08). In the summer, he was selected to EWU's "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team to commemorate Eastern's 100th year of football in the 2008 season.
2007: Was the Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP, the fourth time in six seasons an Eastern quarterback won that honor. Overall, it was the fifth time in seven years that award was won by an Eagle. Also earned first team All-Big Sky honors after starting all 13 Eastern games at quarterback. Nichols finished his 2007 season ranked in the top eight in three statistical categories in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. He was eighth in FCS in passing efficiency rating (156.5), fifth in passing offense (288.0) and fifth in total offense (318.2) to lead the Big Sky in all three categories. Nichols passed for 3,744 yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2007 after having 17 interceptions (equaling a school record) and eight touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Among the five school records he set in 2007, he broke the school record of 31 touchdown passes set by Erik Meyer in 2004. Nichols also broke the school's single season rushing record for quarterbacks as he finished with 392 to break the record of 275 set by Mark Laitala in 1978. The other records he broke were the school's single season completions record (280) and single game marks for touchdown passes with six versus Montana Western (8/31/07) and completions with 37 at Montana (10/6/07). Nichols' passing yardage total was the second-most in school history - easily the most-ever for an EWU sophomore (Meyer had 2,301 as a sophomore in 2003). His average of 288.0 yards per game was fourth and his 4,136 yards of total offense were second. He ranked just behind the quarterback he replaced - Meyer, the 2005 winner of the Walter Payton Award - who set school records in 2005 with 4,003 passing yards, a 333.6 average per game and 4,224 total yards. Nichols also made his mark in the record books of the 47-year-old Big Sky Conference as his passing yardage total ranks sixth all-time and his total offense yardage is fourth. His interception ratio as a freshman was an interception every 15.2 attempts and in 2007 it was one for every 48.9 attempts. His passing efficiency of 156.5 was much-improved from his 109.0 rating as a freshman. Nichols had a school-record 37 completions on 59 attempts (third most in school history) for 451 yards (third most) in Eastern's disappointing 24-23 loss to Montana. He came close to that with 34 completions in 44 attempts for 434 yards (sixth most all-time at EWU) in a playoff win over McNeese State (11/24/07). He completed 19-of-30 passes against Portland State (9/29/07) and his 363 yards in that game now ranks as the 25th best in school history. His previous career high was 329 as a freshman against Sacramento State. He earned his first-ever Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week honor for his effort against Montana-Western. He also won the award against Northern Arizona (11/10/07) when he completed 17-of-22 passes for 316 yards and five touchdowns in the 52-24 win. He won it for a third time when he had 256 passing yards and a career-high 103 rushing in a 38-16 victory over Weber State (11/22/07). His performances against Montana and NAU also earned him national player of the week accolades from the Football Gazette. Five times he was the team's offensive player of the week and twice he was involved in the play of the week. He was selected as EWU's Scholar-Athlete of the Month in December 2007.
2006: Started Eastern's last 10 games at quarterback, making the first start of his career at nationally-ranked West Virginia (9/9/06). The first touchdown pass of his Eastern career was a 9-yard toss to Aaron Boyce against Central Washington (9/16/06). The best game of his season came at Northern Colorado (10/14/06) when he passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns with a 16-of-21 performance. He led first-half touchdown drives of 81, 72, 37 and 14 yards as Eastern led 31-0 at halftime before winning 34-0. He earned team offensive player of the week honors for his effort against the Bears. He shared the team's big play of the week honor with wide receiver Tony Davis against Montana State (9/23/06).
HS: Graduated from West Valley HS in 2005. Was an All-Northern Section quarterback after leading his school to the Division I (large schools) Northern Section title with an 11-1 record. He was the Division I Player of the Year after passing for 1,666 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was also the top player on the All-Redding Record Searchlight team that listed the top 50 high school players in the area and was selected as the Offensive Player of the Year by the newspaper. He was the MVP of the Northern Athletic League as he led his school to the NAL title for the second-straight year. He was the highest-rated quarterback in the Northern Section despite an early-season injury. Nichols accounted for a total of 22 touchdowns, including six rushing touchdowns. He rushed for a pair of scores in a 42-7 blowout for the section title against Paradise, which had won 23-straight games. Nichols was 9-of-13 for 106 yards in the first half. In both his senior and junior seasons, he was team MVP and team captain. As a junior he led his team to a 10-3 record and runner-up finish in the Northern Section. He earned All-NAL honors at quarterback as a junior. He also played basketball and baseball at West Valley. He was also recruited by such schools as UC Davis, Sacramento State and Montana, but picked EWU because Cheney, Wash. (population 10,130, including students), reminded him of his hometown of Cottonwood (population 2,942). Personal: Born 3/19/87 in Redding, Calif. General management major.
Year - GP - A-C - Pct. - Int-TD - Yds - Hi - Apg - Eff.
2006 - 11 - 259-143 - .552 - 17-8 - 1749 - 329 - 159.0 - 109.0
2007 - 13 - 440-280 - .636 - 9-34 - 3744 - 451 - 288.0 - 156.5
2008 - 11 - 451-275 - .610 - 14-21 - 3293 - 418 - 299.4 - 131.5
Totals - 35 - 1150-698 - .607 - 40-63 - 8786 - 451 - 251.0 - 136.0
Rushing: 2006/49-115-1 (long of 35); 2007/129-392-0 (long of 28); 2008/56-83-3 (long of 26); Totals/234-590-2.5-4 (long of 35).
Punting: 2007/5-182-36.4 (long of 43); 2008/2-81-40.5 (long of 51); Totals/7-263-37.6 (long of 51).
300-Yard Passing Games (total of 12)
451 - 37x59, 2td - Montana - 10/6/07 (#3 in school history)
434 - 34x44, 2td - McNeese State - 11/24/07 (#6 in school history)
418 - 34x55, 2td - Portland State - 10/4/08 (#10 in school history)
382 - 26x40, 5td - Idaho State - 9/27/08 (#18 in school history)
363 - 29x43, 1td - Sacramento State - 11/1/08 (#27 in school history)
363 - 19x30, 2td - Portland State - 9/29/07 (#27 in school history)
346 - 25x42, 2td - Northern Arizona - 11/15/08 (#37 in school history)
335 - 36x61, 1td - Texas Tech - 8/30/08 (#42 in school history)
329 - 21x42, 1td - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
328 - 20x29, 3td - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
316 - 17x22, 5td - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
303 - 32x51, 1td - Colorado - 9/6/08
300-Yard Total Offense Games (total of 14)
478 - 451 passing, 27 rushing - Montana - 10/6/07
459 - 434 passing. 25 rushing - McNeese State - 11/24/07
435 - 418 passing, 17 rushing - Portland State - 10/4/08
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
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