CU'S MARISCAL WINS RAY GUY AWARD

ORLANDO, Fla. - University of Colorado senior Mark Mariscal was honored here Thursday night as he was named the winner of the Ray Guy Award, presented to the nation's top punter during the Home Depot ESPN College Football Awards Show.

"I was so excited. I didn't think I was going to win until they called my name," Mariscal said from Orlando. "I thought I had a pretty good chance, but I had my brother in my ear, talking trash, telling me I wasn't going to win it. He was kidding me and it kept me loose.

You see the talented players you're up against and you realize it could go to anyone." The other finalists for the award were Tennessee's Dustin Colquitt and Kentucky's Glenn Pakulak.

He's enjoyed quite a senior year, leading the nation in punting with a 48.2 gross average as well as with a 43.0 net average. He led the NCAA since the second week of the season (Sept. 7), and averaged over 50 yards per kick well into October.

In 13 regular season games, he had 61 punts overall, with 16 inside-the-20 (nine inside-the-10), with a school record 29 for 50-plus yards, with 10 of those carrying 60 or more yards. He averaged 51.5 yards per punt on CU's side of the 50, and on kicks inside the Buff 25, he averaged a gaudy 52.6 yards per punt. Only 10 punts went for touchbacks, and some of those were by design to eliminate any chance of a return.

CU head coach Gary Barnett completed a whirlwind day, as following an Alamo Bowl function in San Antonio, he made it to Orlando in time for the awards show. "It's always a special evening when you get this many great players in the same room, and it's even more special when one of your players comes away with an award. We're all proud of Mark; he worked really hard to get to this point. I'm happy for him and his family, which was out in force."

Mariscal had nine on Thursday night's guest list. Mariscal earned first-team All-America honors from the AFCA, Walter Camp and The Sporting News, and was the unanimous All-Big 12 punter (Associated Press and Big 12 Coaches, as well as by several regional newspapers). He set CU records for career gross (46.8) and net (41.9) average, as his season average of 48.21 bested a 52-year old school record for a single year, as he edged out Zack Jordan's 48.16 back in 1950. He was CU's special teams player of the week on six occasions, and was twice recognized for the same by the Big 12 (for the Texas Tech and Nebraska games).

"I thought he was a great weapon for us, the kind of weapon a defensive coordinator really likes, because he has the ability to pin the opposing the offense," said CU defensive coordinator Vince Okruch.

"When I first got here (CU), I didn't know what it really took," he reminisced. "I thought kickers could have it easy. But I soon realized that you had to focus, to pick up your work ethic. I really worked hard the last couple of years, especially at being more consistent."

Mariscal was also thrilled to meet Guy, who helped present the award in his name. "He's a really cool guy, real mellow, a great guy to get to know," Mariscal said. "It meant a lot to meet him and to get time to visit with him."

"I really have to credit Randy Brown, my punting coach, who I've stayed in touch with," he added. "But I also need to thank my coaches at CU, guys like Marcus Moore and J.J. Billingsley for racing down there and making tackles, and guys like Kory Mossoni for not getting kicks blocked. It's really a team thing, and a lot of guys can share in this honor."

In its third year, Mariscal joins previous winners Wisconsin's Kevin Stemke (2000) and Purdue's Travis Dorsch (2001) as those who have claimed the prestigious trophy.

CU's junior tailback Chris Brown was also in Orlando as one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, but the honor went to Penn State's Larry Johnson, who was the ninth running back to top the 2,000-yard mark in a single season. Brown was well on his way to doing the same until missing CU's last two games due to a severely bruised sternum. He finished with 1,744 yards and as the nation's third leading rusher.

Mariscal becomes the seventh CU player to win a major postseason trophy since 1990, joining Alfred Williams (Butkus, 1990); Deon Figures (Thorpe, 1992); Chris Hudson (Thorpe, 1994); Rashaan Salaam (Heisman, Doak Walker, Walter Camp Player of the Year, 1994); Matt Russell (Butkus, 1996) and Daniel Graham (Mackey, 2001). Including all of this year's awards to date, the nine collective trophies won by the seven Buffaloes are the fourth most by a team in the nation over the last 13 seasons, trailing only Ohio State (12), Miami, Fla. (11) and Florida State (10). Penn State and Florida are behind the Buffs with eight apiece.


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