Bowling Green, Ky. — Smith was joined on the all-SBC first-team defense by junior linebacker Andrew Jackson and sophomore free safety Jonathan Dowling. Junior running back Antonio Andrews, senior tight end Jack Doyle and senior offensive lineman Adam Smith earned first-team offensive honors. Additionally, Andrews was selected as a first-team all-purpose runner and second team return specialist. Rounding out the WKU honorees were senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes and senior defensive lineman Jamarcus Allen, who both earned honorable mention all-conference accolades.
WKU’s seven total first-team selections (including Andrews twice) was the most of any team in the conference this year. Arkansas State senior quarterback Ryan Aplin was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year for the second straight season, while Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning earned Offensive Player-of-the-Year honors. ASU receiver J.D. McKissic was selected as the league’s freshman of the year, while ULM head coach Todd Berry took home Coach-of-the-Year honors.
Before suffering a season-ending knee injury late in the game against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 17, Smith was poised to put his name at the top of the league record books with his nation’s best 12.5 sacks. That total fell just a half sack shy of equaling the Sun Belt Conference regular-season record, and give him 24 career sacks — tying a league mark. Smith also leads the conference, and ranks fourth nationally averaging 1.85 tackles for loss per game, and is third in the league in forced fumbles. The Loganville, Ga., product also set a conference record when he finished with 5.0 sacks in a win at Florida International – the second-highest single-game total in NCAA history. Additionally, he was also credited with 3.5 sacks at Arkansas State and 3.0 sacks at Alabama. That was the most sacks the Crimson Tide offensive line allowed to an opposing player this season. Smith posted multiple tackles for loss in five games, including a career best 5.5 at Arkansas State. He was also credited with three forced fumbles, and returned his one fumble recovery 75 yards for a touchdown late in the game against Florida Atlantic. Smith is the first Hilltopper to be named SBC Defensive Player of the Year.
Andrews has also put his name in the record books this season, currently leading the nation in all-purpose yards averaging 248.1 per game. His 2977 all-purpose yards on the year are third most in NCAA history, just 273 away from equaling Barry Sanders’ record set during his Heisman Trophy winning 1988 season. Andrews shattered the previous Sun Belt Conference record of 2,264 yards by Troy’s Jerrel Jernigan in 2009. He was the only player in the nation to have four games with 300 or more all-purpose yards, doing so in the final four games of the regular season. The Fort Campbell, Ky., product ranks sixth in the nation – and first in the conference – averaging 134.1 rushing yards per game. He also leads the league and ranks 13th nationally averaging 12.78 yards per punt return, and is third in the league (16th nationally) with 27.96 yards per kickoff return. Andrews rushed for over 100 yards in nine of the final 10 games of the season, and posted three 200-yards game. He was one of only three players in the nation to rush for 200 yards three times in 2012 as he finished with 215 yards at Arkansas State, and closed out the season with 238 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette and 230 against North Texas. His 15 total touchdowns (11 rushing, 3 receiving, 1 punt return) is tied for the most in the league. He recorded three rushing touchdowns in WKU’s win at Kentucky, while running for two scores at ULL.
Doyle is on the all-conference team for the second straight season after earning a second-team selection in 2011. The Indianapolis, Ind., native ws one of eight national semifinalist for the 2012 John Mackey Award in 2012. He led WKU in both receptions (47) and receiving yards (530) from the tight end position – the second straight year he has led the team in both categories. Doyle averaged 11.3 yards per catch and a 44.2 yards per game. He recorded at least one catch in all 12 games, and had at least three receptions in 11 contests. He posted a season-best seven receptions against #1 Alabama, while racking up a season-high 82 receiving yards against Louisiana-Monroe. He also pulled in two of his four touchdown receptions on the year against ULM.
Smith is also a two-time all-league selection on offense after also being selected on the second team last season. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., product started all 12 games at right guard in 2012, finishing with an average grade of 85.3% for the season. Smith graded out at 86% or better seven times, including a season-best 91% against Austin Peay and 90% against North Texas. He was in for 764 total plays on the season, recording 55 knockdown blocks and 41 pancake blocks. He allowed just one sack on the season, and aided the Hilltopper offense to 186.2 rushing yards per game (2nd best in the Sun Belt).
Jackson earned first-team honors at linebacker for the second straight season. The Lakewood, Fla., product ranks second in the Sun Belt and tied for 23rd nationally averaging 9.7 tackles per game. He posted his second straight 100-tackle season, finishing with a career-best 116 in 2012. Jackson recorded 10 or more tackles six times — all in Sun Belt Conference games — including a career-best 19 tackles against Florida Atlantic. He finished the year with 17.5 tackles for loss (1.38 per game), which ranks tied for 22nd nationally, and second in the conference behind Smith. In addition to his tackles, Jackson was also credited with four forced fumbles — tied for the most in the Sun Belt.
In his first season in uniform, Dowling led the Sun Belt and is tied for fifth nationally in interceptions with six (0.55 per game). He returned one of those INTs 39 yards for a touchdown in the regular-season finale against North Texas, helping spark a WKU fourth-quarter comeback. The six interceptions is tied for the sixth-highest single-season total in Sun Belt history. Dowling also finished with three interceptions in WKU’s overtime victory at Kentucky. The Bradenton, Fla., product credited with six additional pass breakups (second most in the league) in addition to his interception numbers. He also ranks among the league leaders with 5.5 tackles per game, recording a season-best 10 tackles against Middle Tennessee.
Jakes completed his fourth year as WKU’s starting quarterback in record-setting fashion, throwing for a school-record 21 touchdowns during his senior season. The St. Augustine, Fla, product also has 50 career touchdown throws, which ties a WKU record. He led the conference in pass efficiency for most of the season, finishing with a 147.77 efficiency rating (ranked 28th nationally). Jakes completed 186 of 288 passes for 2,289 yards — averaging 190.8 yards per game. He recorded four-touchdown games against both Austin Peay and Louisiana-Monroe, while throwing for three touchdowns against both Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee. He ranked ninth in the conference in both total offense (195.5 yards per game) and passing yards per game. Jakes threw for a career-best 308 yards against ULM, and finished with over 20 completions three times.
Allen was credited with 34 total tackles, starting all 12 games on the Hilltopper defensive line. That total tied for eighth on the WKU defense, and was second among lineman behind Smith. The Orlando, Fla., senior was also credited with 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks on the year, while forcing and recovering a fumble during the season. Allen posted a season-high six tackles against Florida Atlantic, and had five stops in a victory at Troy. He has started 39 career games on the interior of the WKU defensive line, including 23 consecutive starts.
The Hilltoppers learned on Sunday night that they will face Central Michigan on Dec. 26 in the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. (CST) from Ford Field in Detroit, Mich.