Bowling Green, Ky. — After recording the program’s 12th consecutive winning season in the first of two years transitioning to the NCAA Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) level, Western Kentucky University recognized the accomplishments of the 2007 football team Friday at its annual postseason banquet at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Hilltoppers posted a 7-5 mark against a schedule that included six NCAA I-A/FBS opponents, which was four more than the school had ever faced coming into the season. A highlight of the season for WKU, which will be eligible to compete in the Sun Belt Conference and earn a bowl bid in 2009, was a 20-17 victory over future league foe Middle Tennessee on the road in September.
Andre Lewis was one of two multiple award winners after claiming both Team and Defensive Most Valuable Player honors. The Madison, Tenn., resident led the team with a career-best 103 tackles and 10.5 stops for loss while adding 3.5 sacks and three passes broken up. It was the first time in three years that a Topper has recorded a triple-figure tackle total.
He was joined by Somerset, Ky., native Clay Stephens, who claimed both the Special Teams MVP and Al Almond Awards — the latter honor is given to the player who displays the same devotion to character, loyalty, ability and love of fellow man exhibited by Almond, the longtime coach at WKU’s University High School. It’s the second straight year that Stephens, who finished with a career-high 25 tackles and a forced fumble, has earned the team’s season-ending special teams award.
Curtis Hamilton, who is departing as the school’s all-time leader in both catches and receiving yards, was voted Offensive MVP. A native of West Paducah, Ky., Hamilton caught 66 passes for 873 yards and four scores in his final year on the Hill, which not only led the team in each category but tied the standard for receptions in a season.
Dusty Bear joined Stephens as a repeat winner after claiming the Defensive Tenacity Award for the second season in a row. Bear, who hails from Osprey, Fla., posted career-high totals with 50 stops, 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks despite missing two-and-a-half games with a dislocated ankle. He also intercepted two passes and forced a pair of fumbles. The Offensive Tenacity Award went to Bradenton, Fla., resident Cody Hughes, who in his first year as a full-time starter, graded out at better than 90 percent following eight of 12 contests while racking up 148 pancake blocks. That included a WKU season-best 28 in a win over Eastern Kentucky in the “Battle of the Bluegrass” as well as 21 in the Hilltoppers’ defeat of Morehead State.
Scout Team Awards were presented to Tyler Bruce (Lizton, Ind.) on offense, Marcus Patterson (Middleburg,Ky.) on defense and Braxston Miller (Stanford, Ky.) on special teams. Jared Holland, a native of Franklin, Tenn., was given the program’s Academic Award while Jessie Quinn — who is also from Bradenton — was selected the Trey McMiller Big Brother Award winner.
Plaques were also presented to WKU’s five captains, who were determined by a team vote at the end of the year — Hamilton, Chris James (Fayetteville, Ga.), Lewis, Stephens and Zach Thuney (Dayton, Ohio).