PSU’s Abenoja named Harlon Hill Finalist

Pittsburg State claims MIAA Touranment title
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Press Release MIAA:
Pittsburg State University senior quarterback Anthony Abenoja was named one of nine national finalists for the 2014 Harlon Hill Trophy as the NCAA Division II College Football Player of the Year Tuesday (Dec. 2).

Abenoja, the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Offensive Most Valuable Player, passed for a school record 3,871 yards and 32 touchdowns while leading the fifth-ranked Gorillas to an 11-2 record. Pitt State finished its season Nov. 29 with a 24-21 overtime loss to No. 1 ranked Minnesota State University-Mankato in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The finalists were selected by the NCAA Division II sports information directors in regional voting and will now be placed on the national ballot where all 168 of the division’s SIDs will select the award’s 29th winner. The top two players from each of Division II’s Super Regions advanced to the national ballot, with the exception of Super Region 4 where three players advanced due to a tie in the voting.

The list of 2014 finalists is comprised of seven quarterbacks and two running backs.

Abenoja was joined by Henderson State University senior quarterback Kevin Rodgers as the two finalists selected from NCAA Super Region Three. Rodgers finished third in the 2013 Harlon Hill Trophy race.

In Super Region One, LIU-C.W. Post senior quarterback Steven Laurino and West Chester University junior quarterback Sean McCartney were selected as finalists. Super Region Two honorees are Carson-Newman College senior running back Andy Hibbett and Delta State University sophomore quarterback Tyler Sullivan. Lake Erie (Ohio) University junior running back Anthony Bilal, Ohio Dominican University senior quarterback Mark Miller and Ferris State University junior quarterback Jason Vander Laan all advanced from Super Region Three.

A native of Overland Park, Kan., Abenoja completed 263 of 432 passes (.609) for 3,871 yards and 32 TDs with 10 INTs, averaging 298.7 passing yards per game and compiling a 155.96 passer rating. He also carried he ball 70 times for 65 net yards with three scores.

Abenoja ranks third in Division II in passing yards (3871), 10 th nationally in passing yards per attempt (8.96 ypa), 12 th in the country in passing yards per completion (14.72 ypc) and 15 th nationally in passing efficiency (155.96 rating).

He set an NCAA Division II record with 314 consecutive passes without an interception in 13 games, spanning from Oct. 19, 2013 to Oct. 18, 2014.

Abenoja holds seven of Pitt State’s 10 top single-game passing totals, including a school record 442 passing yards vs. Lincoln on Sept. 27, 2013. He also set the Pitt State single-game total offense record (463 yards) that day. Abenoja enjoyed a pair of 400-yard passing days in 2014. During his 438-yard passing day vs. Emporia State on Oct. 11 he helped teammate Gavin Lutman break the MIAA’s two-decade old single-game receiving record. Lutman caught 10 passes for 268 yards and four TDs.

Abenoja finished his career with a 28-7 (.800) record as a starting quarterback. He also ranks fifth in MIAA history in career passing yards (9,419 yards) and sixth in MIAA history in career total offense yards (10,034 yards).

National voting for the 2014 Harlon Hill Trophy will conclude Dec. 13.

The winner of the 2014 award, which is presented by the National Harlon Hill Award Committee, will be announced via webcast Friday, Dec. 19, and the winner will be honored at a luncheon on the University of North Alabama campus Jan. 9, 2015.

The Hill Trophy is sponsored by the City of Florence, Ala., Florence-Lauderdale Tourism, Opti-Net, the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa and Herff Jones.

Abenoja is bidding to become the third Pitt State player to earn National Player of the Year honors. Wide receiver Ronnie West won the award in 1991 and running back Ronald Moore garnered the trophy the next year in 1992. Pitt State running back Germaine Race finished third in voting in 2006.

The MIAA and the Gulf South Conference share the lead in all-time Harlon Hill Trophy winners with five apiece. Running backs have won the award 14 times, including six of the last eight year, while quarterbacks have garnered the trophy 12 times. One wide receiver (Pitt State’s Ronnie West, 1991) and one linebacker (North Alabama’s Ronald McKinnon, 1995) also have claimed the coveted honor.