With announcement of Payton Award on Jan. 6, The Sports Network honors Bo Levi Mitchell on its All-America team, as well as wide receiver Nicholas Edwards
With each receiving All-America honors for the fourth time this season, Eastern Washington University senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and junior wide receiver Nicholas Edwards have been selected to The Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-America Team. The announcement was made Monday (Dec. 19) as a result of voting by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries, based only on the regular season.
Edwards was a first team selection, but Mitchell won’t know whether he is was on the first or second team until the Walter Payton Award, chosen by the same panel, is announced on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas. The other finalists for the Payton Award are Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum and Indiana State running back Shakir Bell, who earned first team All-America honors from TSN. The Payton Award is given to annually by The Sports Network to the top player in FCS.
Previously, Edwards and Mitchell earned first team All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association. Also, Mitchell earned first team honors from Associated Press and Edwards was picked to the AP second team.
Mitchell led the FCS this past season in four categories, including passing yards (4,009) and touchdown passes (33), while Edwards finished the season ranked first in FCS in TD catches (19), fourth in receptions per game (8.64 with a total of 95) and fourth in receiving yards per game (113.6, total of 1,250).
Mitchell broke four school records in his two-year career at Eastern. This past season, he broke the record for single season passing yards with 4,009, which ranks 17th in FCS history and fifth in Big Sky Conference history.
Edwards broke the school record for season receptions (95) and touchdown receptions (19), with both marks ranking in the top 20 in FCS history and in the top three all-time in the league.
Besides the AP and AFCA All-America honors, Edwards and senior center Chris Powers were honored as second team All-America selections by collegesportsmadness.com, and Mitchell was selected to the third team. That trio helped Eastern lead FCS in passing yards per game (368.5) and rank seventh overall in total offense (447.4), a year after the Eagles finished 13-2 and won the NCAA Division I Championship.
They combined to start 97 games in their Eastern careers, with Edwards still having a year left to play. Edwards enters his senior season with 37 starts, while Powers, also an All-American in 2010, finished his career with 35 and Mitchell with 25. After a 6-5 finish this season, the Eagles were a collective 19-7 in the past two seasons.
More on Bo Levi Mitchell
Senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, a 2008 graduate of Katy (Texas) High School, was named on Dec. 1 as one of the three finalists for the Walter Payton Award presented to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. The award will be presented at the annual FCS Awards Banquet on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas. Fathead.com sponsors the prestigious award, which will be presented for the 25th time by The Sports Network.
“It’s such an honor to even be considered for this national award,” said Mitchell. “But really, in my eyes it’s a team award because not only does it express what our offense has done this year, but it will help promote our program nationally – that’s what is most important to me.”
Other finalists for the award include Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum and Indiana State running back Shakir Bell. Eastern’s Erik Meyer won the Payton Award in 2005, and Greg Peach (2008) and J.C. Sherritt (2010) have previously won the Buck Buchanan Award presented to the top defensive player in FCS.
“I will be honored, win or lose,” the 2008 graduate of Katy High School added, “because either one of the other two athletes are just as talented and deserving.”
Mitchell was also the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year and a first team All-BSC selection as a senior. So far, he has been selected to the American Football Coaches Association All-America first team and the collegesportsmadness.com All-America third team.
As a junior in the 2010 season after transferring from Southern Methodist University in nearby Dallas, Mitchell helped lead Eastern to the NCAA Division I title with a 20-19 come-from-behind victory over Delaware. He was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player after throwing three touchdown passes in the final 16:48 and had 302 total passing yards in the game.
Eastern won six of its last seven games to finish 6-5 in the 2010-11 season, and Mitchell had a record-breaking season by passing for 4,009 yards and 33 touchdowns. He guided Eastern Washington to a 5-3 conference record despite the team suffering a myriad of key injuries early in the season and having a rushing offense that ranked 112th out of 120 teams in FCS.
The most successful quarterback in Eastern history, he directed the Eagles to a 19-7 mark in his two seasons at EWU (12-4 in the Big Sky). He had more wins in a two-year span than any other Eastern quarterback in school history – even more than Meyer, who won 16 combined in the 2004 and 2005 seasons and had the previous school record for passing with 4,004 yards.
The 19 wins in 2010 and 2011 combined are the most back-to-back in school history, so no quarterback has been as successful as Mitchell. Eastern has had six quarterbacks earn All-America honors – Meyer, Nichols, Blankenship (2002), Harry Leons (1997), Rick Worman (1985) and Bill Diedrick Jr. (1967), and the most back-to-back wins were recorded by Leons (18 in 1996-97) and Diedrick (18 in 1966-67). In their best seasons, Meyer won 16 (2004-05), Worman won 16 (1984-85) and Nichols won 15 (2007-08). Blankenship played only one season after transferring from Tulsa.
“I don’t think people realize that in two years he’s won 19 football games, which is more than any quarterback in the Big Sky right now and more than anybody in our history,” said Baldwin. “He’s not only put up great numbers and can throw the ball well, but he’s proven himself as a winner. Eight different times we were down or tied in the fourth quarter, and he led us back to win. That says a lot.”
Mitchell is just the fourth Big Sky quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in 11 games, and the other three – Montana’s Dave Dickenson in 1995, Weber State’s Jamie Martin in 1991, and Idaho’s John Friesz in 1989 – went on to win the Payton Award. Mitchell’s average of 364.5 yards per game in the 2011 season ranks ninth in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision history and fourth all-time in the Big Sky.
Mitchell completed 318 of 503 passes (63.2 percent) for 4,009 yards with 33 touchdowns. Mitchell finished the 2011 regular season as the FCS leader in touchdown passes, total passing yards, passing yards per game, and total offense. Mitchell’s 318 completions in 2011 were a Big Sky single-season record, topping the previous mark of 311 set by Friesz in 1987.
Mitchell broke the single season school record of 4,003 yards that Erik Meyer had in 2005 when he won the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Finishing with 4,009, Mitchell's mark ranks 17th all-time in the FCS and is fifth in Big Sky history. Mitchell also established a new school record by averaging 364.5 passing yards per game, good for ninth in FCS history and third all-time in the Big Sky.
With a quartet of 400-yard passing performances in the 2011 season – and four more of at least 300 – Mitchell’s season average of 364.5 ranked ahead of the previous record set in 2005 by Meyer when he averaged 333.6 yards per game. Mitchell’s career average of 288.7 per outing is also a school record and ranks ahead of the 268.4 average of Matt Nichols (2006-09). Mitchell's career average ranks 19th all-time in the FCS and sixth in the Big Sky.
Despite playing just two seasons at Eastern, Mitchell ranks third in school history for career passing yards (7,505) and third in touchdown passes (70), and he is also third in completions (618), fourth in attempts (1008) and third in passing efficiency rating (141.2). He had 10 300-yard performances in his 26-game EWU career, including four of the 19 400-yard performances in school history.
“Bo had an amazing career here for what he was able to accomplish statistically and from a win-loss standpoint,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “And throughout it all, he’s been a great leader and helped lead our program to a national championship. To have him even mentioned in the same breath as some of the great Eastern quarterbacks we’ve had here – including Payton Award winner Erik Meyer – would have been an incredible accomplishment in itself. In terms of winning the national title and leading us to 19 victories in two seasons, we’ve never had a quarterback more successful than Bo.”
After transferring from Southern Methodist University, Mitchell was an honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection in 2010. He transferred to Eastern in January 2010, won the starting job in the spring and started his first game for the Eagles on Sept 2, 2010, versus Nevada. His 26th and final start came on Nov. 19, 2011.
“His development in just two years wasn’t easy and it took some time,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “He got better as the 2010 season went along, and we all expected that. A first-year starter is never going to be perfect at the start of the season, but you want to see serious progress. He worked at it and we saw the growth -- he worked hard to develop his skills and was tireless at studying video in order to better understand and operate our offense. It culminated with his production this season and the way our team ended the year with six wins in our last seven games. I couldn’t be more proud of what he accomplished here.”
“In a lot of ways, he played much better this year than a year ago,” he added. “It was just that a lot of other parts of our team didn’t necessarily go as well. In terms of his growth of a quarterback, he made huge strides and really worked at it.”
Junior wide receiver Nicholas Edwards broke Eastern’s school record for receptions in a single season, finishing with 12 catches for 106 yards versus ISU. He finished the season with 95 grabs to break the record previously set by Eric Kimble with 87 in 12 games in 2005. His receptions ranks 20th in FCS history and third all-time in the Big Sky, and his average of 8.64 catches per game is fifth in BSC history.
The 19 touchdown receptions Edwards had equaled the school record of 19 set in 2004 by Kimble, who owns the top two receiving yardage marks with 1,453 in 2004 and 1,419 in 2005. Edwards finished the season with 1,250 yards to rank fifth all-time at Eastern. Kimble also holds the touchdowns record with 19 in 2004 and the top two receiving marks with 1,453 in 2004 and 1,419 in 2005.
Edwards finished the season ranked fourth in FCS in receptions per game (8.64) and fourth in receiving yards per game (113.6). In his career, Edwards already has 29 touchdown receptions to rank second in school history, and has caught a total of 178 passes (fourth all-time at EWU) for 2,198 yards (10th).
Edwards, a 2008 graduate of Foss High School in Tacoma, Wash., had performances of 13 catches (second in school history), two of 12 (eighth), 11 (12th) and two of 10 (20th) in the 2011 season, and had nine catches for 166 yards and three touchdowns versus Portland State on Oct. 29. His 13 receptions – second-best in school history behind the record of 17 – came against South Dakota on Sept. 10.
Edwards earned a variety of national NCAA Football Championship Subdivision honors, including The Sports Network/Fathead.com co-National Player of Week, after tying a school record with four touchdown receptions in EWU’s 42-35 come-from-behind overtime victory over Sacramento State on Oct. 22. He also earned National Performer of the Week and National Wide Receiver of the Week from College Football Performance Awards. Edwards was named Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week as well, giving EWU a string of three-straight weeks in winning the award. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell won the previous two BSC awards for the Eagles.
Edwards finished with 11 catches for a career-high 192 receiving yards, and had TD catches of 35, 16, 39 and 22 yards from Mitchell. Jamie Buenzli had four touchdown catches versus Nevada on Sept. 12, 1987, and Joe Pierce had four against Central Washington on Sept. 13, 2003.
Three of his TD catches came in the fourth quarter, and he added a 17-yard reception in overtime that set-up a go-ahead 1-yard touchdown run by Jordan Talley. The 11 catches for Edwards versus the Hornets equaled the 11th-most in school history and his yards ranks eighth.
“When you have on your team Jerry Rice, I mean Nick Edwards, it’s hard not to get him the ball,” joked Mitchell after the Sac State win, in which the Eagles rallied from a 28-13 deficit. “He works hard and puts in the effort and time. He deserves everything he gets and deserves the credit for this win. The plays he made were just ridiculous.”