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Lum Finishes Second in Payton Voting

(Photo Credit: Donna Fisher/The Morning Call)

At the end of the football season, you had to think he had an excellent chance at the Payton award.

Senior QB Chris Lum, who had the most touchdown passes and most single-season passing yards of any Lehigh quarterback - and the Mountain Hawks have had some great ones - was the most dominant quarterback statistically of all the signal-callers who made it to the FCS playoffs.

But to the voters in the Sports Network's Walter Payton award, it was not enough.

Instead, the award went to QB Bo Levi Mitchell, who had comparable statistics to Lum, but only commanded his Eagles to a 6-5 record.

I'm incredibly disappointed by the Payton voters.

Not so much from the fact that Lum lost, but that the margin of victory was so resounding.

Mitchell won more than double the points of Lum, gaining 453 points to 219.  He also had 57 first-place votes.  57!

The award goes to the a quarterback of a 6-5 team who kept Mr. Mitchell in during blowouts, ostensibly to give him a better chance at the Payton award.

(Want proof?  Check out the box scores of the Portland State and Idaho State games, where the Eastern Washington QB was still in the game late in blowouts.  Backup QB Nick Gautier got his first action of the season with 3 minutes to go in the final game of the year.)

In stark contrast with the Eagles, Lehigh head coach  Andy Coen yanked his quarterback in a multitude of different games in the 4th quarter - it's estimated that the number was 4 or 5.  Had Coen been single-minded on the record, it's conceivable he could have added hundreds of extra yards and several extra TDs to Lum's numbers.

Maybe Coen has too much class to do something like that.  But classiness doesn't appear to win the hearts and minds of Payton voters.

Before I go off, let me just say that Mitchell had a great statistical year - comparable to Lum's.

He threw for 4,009 yards and notched 33 TDs, and two rushing TDs (and -5 rushing rards).

Lum's season-ending stats - the stats from the two playoff games were not considered in Payton voting - were 3,739 yards, 31 TDs, and 2 rushing TDs (and 121 rushing yards).

But Mitchell couldn't guide his team to the playoffs. Chris did.

Did that count in the eyes of the voters?  It must not have.

Did Mitchell have a great day against a great team, for example, against the two Big Sky teams that qualified for the FCS playoffs, Montana or Montana State?

In two games, he averaged one touchdown pass and 270 yards per game.  In neither game was his quarterback play a huge factor.  In a 17-14 loss to the Griz, he had four chances to get a touchdown or get into scoring position, and didn't do so - a game I watched.  The story was similar in a 36-21 loss to the Bobcats.

Compare that to Lum, who threw for 6 touchdown passes and 401 yards in the epic 48-41 overtime loss to New Hampshire, where the Lake Orion, Michigan native rallied for three touchdown passes to recover from an 18 point deficit to take a 44-41 lead.

"Lum would get sacked once on a drive by [all-American] DE Brian McNally " I wrote, "but otherwise, he engaged on a fantastic drive, hitting 5 for 5 passing.  Two key plays was a beautiful 34 yard pass downfield to junior TE Jamel Haggins to move the sticks, and converting a beautiful 3rd down run where senior OL Keith Schauder forced McNally to the outside, and Lum just tucked and converted the third down."

The definition of the Payton Award is the most valuable player.  Coming back from an 18 point deficit against a perennial FCS playoff team - that's not valuable?

Don't get me wrong, Mitchell had some great games, too - like the 3 overtime game against Cal Poly, where the Eagles came from behind to tie the game before regulation, and lost by the Mustangs on a failed 2-point conversion by a 53-51 score.

But the fact remains that Cal Poly was not a playoff team, and New Hampshire was.

I find myself asking questions.

Do the Payton voters do any analysis aside from looking at some statistics, and saying (incorrectly) that Eastern Washington plays in a better conference than Lehigh, and therefore "deserves" the award?

Would it have killed them to actually watch the Lehigh/New Hampshire game - or any Lehigh game, for that matter?

Do they think Patriot League games don't actually count in the FCS standings - that those games, somehow, don't count?  That 8-3 Georgetown somehow cannot compare to 2-9 Idaho State?

From this Lehigh fan's perspective, you cannot ever convince me that Mr. Mitchell was as valuable to his team as Mr. Lum was to Lehigh.

As far I'm concerned, the Payton voters got this one dead wrong.


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