Lewis, Wannstedt Up For Maxwell Awards

The Maxwell Football Club today announced that Pitt freshman running back Dion Lewis and head coach Dave Wannstedt are semifinalists for two of its most prestigious college football honors.

Dion Lewis is one of 16 players named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, given to the College Player of the Year, while Wannstedt is one of 15 semifinalists for the George Munger Award presented to the College Coach of the Year.

Finalists for the respective awards will be announced on Nov. 23. Voting for finalists will be done by Maxwell Football Club members, college head coaches, sports information directors and select national media members.

The 2009 Maxwell Award winner will be announced as part of the "Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show'' Dec. 10.

In just his first collegiate season at Pittsburgh, Lewis (Albany N.Y./Blair Academy [N.J.]) has established himself as one of the country's elite running backs. He is the nation's fourth-leading rusher at 128.63 yards per game. His 1,029 total rush yards also rank fourth nationally.

Lewis matched the legendary Tony Dorsett's Pitt record by needing just eight games to reach 1,000 yards as a freshman. (The NCAA record is seven games, achieved by only five players.)

Lewis is also one of college football's top touchdown producers as well. He has scored 12 total touchdowns (11 rushing) to rank 12th nationally in scoring at 9.0 points per game.

He could become the first player since quarterback Michael Vick in 1999 to be selected the Big East's Offensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the same season. Lewis leads the Big East in rushing, scoring, rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns.

This is the latest accolade for the 5-foot-8, 195-pound Lewis. Last month he was named a "Midseason All-American'' by SportsIllustrated.com and CBSSports.com.

Wannstedt, now in his fifth season coaching at his alma mater, has the Panthers off to their best start in 27 years. Pitt is 7-1 record, its best mark after eight games since the 1982 season when Dan Marino was the quarterback. Pitt also had a 7-1 start that season and finished 11-1.

The Panthers also are 4-0 in the Big East and are tied atop the Conference standings with Cincinnati. The Bearcats travel to Pitt Dec. 5.

The Panthers are 13th in this week's Bowl Championship Series ratings, their highest listing ever. Pitt is ranked 14th by both The Associated Press and USA Today coaches' polls.

Dating back to its monumental 13-9 victory over West Virginia to close the 2007 season, Pitt has won 17 of its last 22 games (17-5).

Pitt returns to action against Syracuse Saturday at noon at Heinz Field.

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