Austin most decorated WVU player on All-Big 12 teams
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A tougher league means tougher competition. And it's not just limited to the playing field, but the ballot box, as well.
The Big 12 released its conference football awards Wednesday and only a handful of West Virginia players made any of the lists. But given the Mountaineers' 7-5 overall record and 4-5 mark in the league, that's not at all surprising.
Tavon Austin was the most decorated of the six West Virginia players mentioned anywhere in the All-Big 12 awards. He was the special teams co-player of the year (along with Oklahoma State kicker Quinn Sharp), a first-team selection at both wide receiver and kickoff/punt returner, and was one of just three players mentioned in the offensive player of the year balloting.
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein won that award, while Austin and Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams were listed as honorable mention in that category.
The only other first-team honor that went to a Mountaineer was Stedman Bailey as one of the three wide receivers on the first team, along with Austin and Williams.
Quarterback Geno Smith, the early-season Heisman Trophy favorite whose chances for that award nosedived with West Virginia's five-game losing streak in the middle of the season, lost out on the first-team quarterback spot to Klein, who is one of the three Heisman finalists.
Smith did make the second team, along with the player who has given him the football on almost every snap during his career, center Joe Madsen. They were the only WVU players on the second team.
Freshman safety Karl Joseph was the only other Mountaineer honored for his play on the field, earning honorable mention at defensive back.
The other Mountaineer recognized was senior wide receiver Ryan Nehlen. He and two others were named to the honorable mention list for the league's scholar-athlete of the year behind winner Nick Florence of Baylor.
The awards are chosen by a vote of the league's 10 head coaches, who are not permitted to vote for their own players.
League champion Kansas State filled the most positions on the first team (7), followed by Oklahoma State (5, including Sharp at both kicker and punter) and Oklahoma (4). West Virginia's three selections (Austin at two spots and Bailey) were the same as Iowa State and TCU. Baylor had two and Texas Tech and Texas one each.
Combining first- and second-team selections, Kansas State led the way with 11, followed by Oklahoma (9), Oklahoma State and TCU (7 each) and Texas Tech (6). West Virginia's five selections were the same as Iowa State and more than Kansas (4), Baylor (3) and Texas (2). Perhaps not coincidentally, the five teams with more selections than WVU beat the Mountaineers and the four with the same or fewer lost to West Virginia.
Kansas State swept the three major awards with Klein, defensive player of the year Arthur Brown and coach of the year Bill Snyder.
The Associated Press All-Big 12 honors, chosen by 18 media members covering the league, were also released Wednesday, and there were a few differences from the Big 12 coaches' all-league teams.
Bailey was again a first-team choice at wide receiver, while Austin was a first-team pick as a utility player.
Mountaineers named to the second team on the AP list were Austin at wide receiver, Madsen at center and Smith at quarterback. Earning honorable mention for WVU were Jeff Braun and Pat Eger (offensive line), Will Clarke (defensive line), Isaiah Bruce, Josh Francis and Terence Garvin (linebackers) and Joseph (defensive back).
Kansas State's Klein was also AP's Big 12 offensive player of the year. He received 14 of the 18 votes, while Austin got three and Baylor's Williams received the other one.
TCU's Fields was the AP choice for defensive player of the year. AP voters also selected two newcomers of the year - Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk on offense and Fields on defense.
The first official Pinstripe Bowl event was held Wednesday at Yankee Stadium when West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen and Syracuse coach Doug Marrone were involved in a press conference there.
Their teams meet Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium, reviving a 60-year-old rivalry that appeared dead when West Virginia left the Big East for the Big 12 this season.
"Hopefully our experience in New York playing Syracuse will be better than last year, which was not very pleasant for West Virginia,'' Holgorsen said during the largely ceremonial event.
Indeed, West Virginia's game against the Orange, last season in Syracuse, was a 49-23 SU rout. Syracuse also holds a two-game winning streak over the Mountaineers after WVU had won eight straight in a series that has been played 59 times, including 57 in a row since 1955.
"We've been talking about wanting to play a game in New York,'' Holgorsen said. "And so it's fantastic to be able to play a bowl game here and strike up one of the rivalries that existed with Syracuse.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.