Awards help to fill void before bowl games

By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

No other sport seems to have the annoying lull that college football has between its final regular season game to when its bowl onslaught begins later this month.

All it does is allow more time to debate who is the country's best team. Patience can be difficult to come by.

But playoffs are apparently in the not-so-distant future. The bowl alliance has already started lining itself up in a playoff format with a pre-determined national championship game beginning in 1996. And that thrilling Alabama-Florida Southeastern Conference championship game last weekend is further testimony of how well they can work.

This month-long break means hearing the announcement of various All-America teams the past couple of weeks and watching numerous awards being handed out with the Heisman Trophy presentation tomorrow night.

For the second straight year, an award was given to a UA player. Placekicker Steve McLaughlin was handed the Lou Groza Award for the nation's best place kicker. McLaughlin, Tedy Bruschi (a consensus pick) and Tony Bouie were also named to All-America teams.

But the aforementioned players were not the only reason the Wildcats were so successful this season. At the Arizona football banquet Sunday night, players will be honored for their contributions this season.

If the Arizona Daily Wildcat gave out awards, the following would happen:

Most Valuable Player nominees: Bruschi (linebacker), Ontiwaun Carter (tailback), Richard Dice (wide receiver), Sean Harris (linebacker), McLaughlin (kicker), Dan White (quarterback).

And the award goes to ... McLaughlin. The most consistent player on the team, McLaughlin (23 of 29) was virtually unstoppable from outside 40 yards and was perfect in extra point attempts. He was a key element in most games, particularly in the 10-7 Washington State win ─ in which his kick was the difference ─ and the 13-6 win over Cal, in which he supplied two field goals.

Offensive Player of the Year nominees: Carter, Dice (wide receiver), White (quarterback), the entire offensive line.

This one is an extremely tough one to call and could really go to any of the four. Our pick is Dice. Despite playing a big portion of the year hobbled by injuries, Dice (56 catches, 969 yards, eight touchdowns) was the Wildcats' main go-to guy and was consistently a worry of opposing coaches. His outstretched diving catch against Southern Cal was typical of the sophomore's effort all year and his attitude to put the team before himself.

Defensive Player of the Year nominees: Bouie (safety), Bruschi, Harris (linebacker), Chris Lopez (linebacker), Brandon Sanders (safety).

For us, this one is obvious ─Harris. The Wildcats' leading tackler made the majority of his 89 tackles unassisted (72) and was constantly hauling down ball carriers. No other player was a bigger presence on the Arizona defense. For some reason, he was not named to any All-America teams, but he was selected to the All Pacific 10 Conference first team.

Newcomer of the Year nominees: Kelly Malveaux (cornerback), Joe Salave'a (defensive line), Kevin Schmidtke (tailback).

We'll go with Malveaux here. Throughout the season, Arizona was inconsistent at cornerback with a four-man rotation, but Malveaux (22 tackles, five passes broken up) came in and played admirably in his five starts. Clearly, the true freshman's services will be a valuable asset to the Wildcats in years to come.

Comeback Player of the Year: Charlie Camp (linebacker), Lopez, Lamar Harris (tight end), Lamar Lovett (wide receiver), Mu Tagoai (offensive tackle).

Like a few colleges' games this year, this one ends in a tie: Harris and Lopez. Both were fascinating stories as they seemingly came out of nowhere to become important players in their senior seasons. Harris (21 catches, 234 yards, three touchdowns) filled out his spot well as the Wildcats adapted to a more tight end-oriented offense. Lopez (63 tackles) was second on the team in tackles after taking over when Thomas Demps went down with an injury.

Best Performance by an Opponent: Anthoney Hill (Colorado State quarterback), Rob Johnson (Southern Cal quarterback) Danny O'Neil (Oregon quarterback).

This one is easy to call, we'll hand it to Johnson. No other opposing player was so dominating against the Wildcats. Johnson (25 of 35, 390 yards, three touchdowns) was nearly impeccable, in connecting with receivers and difficult to sack in the Trojans' 45-28 win over Arizona Nov. 12. In terms of importance, O'Neil would get the nod for leading his the Ducks back from a 9-0 halftime deficit and ultimately to the school's first Rose Bowl berth in 37 years.

So that's how we see it and that's probably not how we would have called it before the season. The Freedom Bowl may provide some more surprises.

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