In case you missed last night’s SportsChannel8 broadcast of the 2015 Pablo Awards, here’s a full list of the winners from the awards show honoring the best and worst of college football in North Carolina, and named in honor of our state’s favorite son, Petey Pablo.
Player of the Year:
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Offensive Player of the Year:
Elijah Hood, North Carolina
Defensive Player of the Year:
Jeremy Cash, Duke
Specialist of the Year:
Alex Kinal, Wake Forest
Freshman of the Year:
Hyheim Hines, NC State
Coach of the Year:
Gene Chizik, North Carolina
Team of the Year:
Game of the Year: Duke vs. Virginia Tech
A 21-19 Blue Devil win in Blacksburg would have made this game a strong candidate for game of the year by itself, but when you add that the 21-19 score was only taking into consideration the overtime periods, it’s pretty much a lock. In Michael Brewer’s first game back from injury, the highly criticized Thomas Sirk had to turn in the best performance of his career to even give Duke a chance for a win in overtime. After a 21-10 third quarter lead turned into a 24-24 tie at the end of regulation, Sirk needed to lead touchdown drives twice during the four overtime sessions to match a Hokies’ touchdown, and added a game winning two-point conversion on a scramble where he bent a defensive linemen over backwards from the two yard line in order to reach the end zone. It would be the last Duke win until the season finale, but it was the win that clinched Duke a fourth-straight bowl appearance for the first time in program history, and a rare 2nd straight win in Blacksburg.
Worst Game of the Year: Wake Forest vs. Boston College
It’s not that you can’t enjoy a 3-0 game. In fact, in this specific game, both defenses are not just legitimate, but they’re enjoyable to watch. It would have been entirely possible for Wake and BC to play to an enjoyable 3-0 outcome. But the way the game ended, even though the good guys won, was one of the most excruciating series of events of the entire football season. Trailing 3-0 with just over 5 minutes to play, Boston College starts their drive inside Wake Forest territory before losing 7 yards and punting away to Wake. The Deacs go three and out, and our Specialist of the Year Alex Kinal is only able to manage a 35 yard punt from inside of his own end zone, but the BC return man is dropped for a 9 yard loss on the return, taking the Eagles out of field goal position. BC puts together a drive to get inside of the Wake 10 yard line, but fumbles the ball away with 2 minutes left. Then Wake fumbles the ball right back three plays later, and Boston College recovers at the Wake 11 yard line with 1:05 left on the clock just needing a field goal to tie. After an 8 yard gain takes the Eagles to the Wake Forest 1 yard line, Boston College huddles on 1st and goal without spiking the ball, allowing time to run down before being stopped for no gain without enough time remaining for the referees to spot the ball for a 2nd down play.
Best Moment of the Year: Quinshad Davis Game Winner vs. VT
So there must be something about NC teams and overtime games in Blacksburg. On 3rd and goal, Marquise Williams finds Quinshad Davis along the sideline in the end zone for the game winning touchdown and the Coastal championship. After a furious comeback by the Hokies in Frank Beamer’s emotional finale at Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech had all of the momentum heading into overtime. But Davis’ catch withstood a booth review, and the Tar Heels claimed their first divisional championship in program history.
Worst Moment of the Year: Replay Booth Botches Duke/Miami
Officiating doesn’t change the course of a game, except for when it does. For the first time in as long as we can remember, the league publicly admitted a referee’s failure to end the game during a play that was allowed to stand as a game winning kickoff return with no time left on the clock, including 8 laterals over the course of about 45 seconds of real time. We’ve seen referees suspended for poor calls or failure to properly administer a game, but to our knowledge, this was the first case of the league office releasing a statement that the wrong team won the game. Of course, none of what happened in Durham in Halloween was as historically significant as our Headphone Bling video.
Best Story: Appalachian State Makes 1st Bowl Game
In their Sun Belt debut, App State ran through FBS competition towards a 10-2 finish and their first ever bowl appearance, coming on December 19th vs. Ohio in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. The match-up does beg the question … which team is more popular in Ohio?
Worst Story: ECU Fires Ruffin McNeil
ECU did Coach Ruff dirty. Yes, the Pirates went 5-7 and missed out on a bowl game for a program that should definitely be going to bowls every single year. But in a year where the American Athletic Conference chewed up and spit out every team not named Temple, Memphis or Houston, it’s understandable that a middle-of-the-pack team would slip to a 5-win season. Even then, it’s somewhat understandable for ECU to not want to lose ground in the conference. But when you add in that ex-ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley wins the award for the nation’s top assistant coach at playoff-bound Oklahoma the season after leaving Greenville, maybe, just maybe, a temporary drop-off is to be expected and forgiven. Especially when your head coach is an ECU alum and is willing to do things like this in order to earn exposure for the program:
Smartest Debate: ACC Network / Cord Cutting
There are two schools of thought on an ACC Network: look at what other conferences have and want those things, or look past what others have and target the future. When the SEC and Big Ten Networks rolled out, the big win was sliding these niche networks into packages that were included in popular tiers of programming, allowing the right to claim millions of households in distribution. Now that it’s the ACC’s turn to join the conference network party, the landscape has completely changed as subscribers are fleeing from broadcast packages in favor of a la carte streaming options, largely because of the recognition that viewers are paying for channels like the BTN and SECN while never having a desire to watch their programming. The conference TV market is not future proof. In fact, it’s an undisputed sinking ship. It makes no sense for the ACC to jump into a network now that it’s a consumer-driven market, but there’s also an immediate risk in NOT joining in because of the obvious power that ESPN has wielded in molding a perception of the SEC that serves to benefit their own financial interests. The best option for the ACC is to be the leader in cordless programming, but the prize for winning that game is much smaller than their Power 5 peers collected during the TV boom.
Dumbest Debate: Strength of Schedule
Whether it’s blasting resumes of teams you want/don’t want to be in the college football playoff or whining about which division is tougher than the other in ACC football, nothing is more punch-in-the-face worthy than someone grandstanding on strength of schedule. There are two reasons for fans of college football in North Carolina to ever complain about strength of schedule … if your favorite team’s schedule is so soft that it makes your home schedule boring, or if your favorite team’s schedule is too hard to make a bowl game. Notice I didn’t say “someone else’s favorite team” in any scenario.