Where does time go? It’s hard to believe we are already at the halfway point of the CAA football season. There has been some great football played this season with some real surprises.
Only two of the eleven CAA football programs have losing records (Villanova and Rhode Island). Still any team can win the conference title with plenty of games remaining in the regular season.
There are some great stories that have emerged 5-6 games into the season. Without a doubt, the best story of the first half has to be the emergence of the Towson Tigers (2-0, 4-1) program. Already with more wins than they had the previous two seasons combined. What Head Coach Rob Ambrose has accomplished is simply amazing.
Another team on the rise, well, in its infancy of existence, Old Dominion (2-1, 5-1) is competing for the first time as a CAA program. If ODU were a student, the football program would be in its junior year. With as much pure talent as any program in the conference, Bobby Wilder’s squad is very close to making this a special season.
Ironically, Towson visits Old Dominion this week. We’ll get a chance to see which program is closer to competing for a CAA Championship.
There have been some disappointments as well this season. William & Mary (1-2, 3-3) was the preseason favorite and now their 2011 season hangs in the balance when they host New Hampshire (2-0, 4-1) this weekend. Inconsistent play at the quarterback position has resulted in the Tribe barely averaging 12 points per game. Opponents are able to lock down on All-American candidate, RB Jonathan Grimes, without the threat of a passing attack.
Villanova (0-3, 1-5) has been a contender for a CAA conference title for years. Coach Andy Talley said right from the start, he was uncertain as to the type of team he would have this season. The Wildcats had so many talented players graduate last season, it has been a daunting task for Talley to establish leadership and cohesiveness with so many young players forced into action.
Still salvageable, Richmond (0-3, 3-3), led by one of the best FCS quarterbacks in the country in Aaron Corp – Who set a single game passing record last weekend for passing efficiency against Towson completing 31 of 34 pass attempts – has the offense to play with any FCS team, but their defense has to tighten up if they are to make a run at the playoffs.
Okay, now it’s time to name the CAAZone’s CAA mid season football awards. I’m sure everyone has their opinion, especially when it comes to your team, so feel free to comment on my selections. Remember, I have had the luxury to see six of the CAA teams play live, and the other five on television replays. This is not an exact science, just one person’s observations.
If you are a fan of the television show “The Office” as I am, you’ll appreciate the title of the CAAZone’s CAA football first half awards. Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) developed the annual “Dundee Awards” for oddities involving members of his staff.
Named in honor of one of the hardest working commissioners in the country and a true professional, CAA Football Commissioner Scott Meyer, I present to you the 2011 “Scotty Awards”:
2011 First Half Most Surprising Team: And the winner is – Towson Tigers
Close second – New Hampshire Honorable Mention: Old Dominion and Maine
2011 First Half Most Exciting Offensive Team: And the winner is – New Hampshire
Close second – Maine Honorable Mention: Richmond, Old Dominion, UMass
2011 First Half Shut Down Defensive Team: And the winner is – James Madison
Close second – Delaware Honorable Mention: William & Mary
2011 First Half Special Teams Unit: And the winner is – Old Dominion
Close second – UMass Honorable Mention: New Hampshire and Villanova
2011 First Half Game of the Year: And the winner is – Maine 25 JMU 24 in OT
Close second – Richmond 23 Duke 21 Honorable Mention: ODU 45 Hampton 42
2011 First Half Comeback Award: And the winner is – UMass, who trailed ODU 24-0, took a 25-24 lead only to lose in the end 48-33. No secondary recognition awards in this category.
2011 First Half Team Ball Protection Award (turnover ratio): And the winner is – Maine
Close second – Old Dominion Honorable Mention: Towson and Delaware
2011 First Half CAA Player of the Year: And the winner is – UNH QB Kevin Decker
Close second – Maine QB Warren Smith Honorable Mention: UMass RB Jonathan Hernandez, UD QB Tim Donnelly, UD RB Andrew Pierce, Richmond QB Aaron Corp, Richmond WR Tre Gray, UNH WR R.J. Harris, W&M RB Jonathan Grimes, Maine RB Pushaun Brown, UNH LB Matt Evans, UD LB Paul Worrilow, and W&M LB Jabrel Mines
2011 First Half CAA QB of the Year: And the winner is – UNH QB Kevin Decker
Close second – Maine QB Warren Smith Honorable Mention: Richmond QB Aaron Corp
2011 First Half CAA RB of the Year: And the winner is – UMass RB Jonathan Hernandez
Close second – Maine RB Pushaun Brown Honorable Mention: UD RB Andrew Pierce
2011 First Half WR of the Year: And the winner is – Richmond WR Tre Gray
Close second – UNH WR R.J. Harris Honorable Mention: UD WR Nihja White
2011 First Half OL of the Year: And the winner is – UD C Gino Gradkowski
Close second – Maine LT Joshua Spearin Honorable Mention: JMU C Roane Babington
2011 First Half DL of the Year: And the winner is – ODU DL Ronnie Cameron
Close second – Towson DL Frank Beltre Honorable Mention: Maine DL Raibonne Charles
2011 First Half LB of the Year: And the winner is – UD LB Paul Worrilow
Close second – UNH LB Matt Evans Honorable Mention: W&M LB Jabrel Mines and JMU LB Stephon Robertson
2011 First Half DB of the Year: And the winner is – Towson DB Jordan Dangerfield
Close second – ODU DB John Darr Honorable Mention: UD DB Travis Hawkins
2011 First Half Kicker of the Year: And the winner is – UNH K Mike MacArthur
Close second – UD K Sean Baner Honorable Mention: Towson K D.J. Soven
2011 First Half Special Teams Player of the Year: And the winner is – ODU P Jonathan Plisco
Close second – UMass KR Jesse Julmiste Honorable Mention: W&M KR Jonathan Grimes
2011 First Half Freshmen of the Year: And the winner is – Towson RB Terrance West
Close second – UNH WR R.J. Harris Honorable Mention: Villanova LB Dillon Lucas
2011 First Half Coach of the Year: And the winner is – Towson Coach Rob Ambrose
Close second – UNH Coach Sean McDonnell Honorable Mention: Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove
There you have it! Like I mentioned before, this is just one individual’s opinion who has witnessed a great deal of CAA football the last six weeks. I am certain these names will change some by the end of the year however; you should watch the teams and players mentioned above a little closer. They are all deserving of some sort of recognition for their hard work to this point. Injuries and a tough CAA schedule will change the complexion of this list by year’s end, not ability or effort.
Follow CAAZone.com Editor Ed Sheahin on twitter @NFLSkins to read sideline reports each week from the CAA Game of the Week.