Ladies and Gentleman, the Hollingbery Awards:
Offensive Player of the Year
Matt Kegel. He was under perhaps more pressure than any Cougar QB ever, stepping into the shoes of WSU's most prolific passer at the end of the greatest two-year run in school history. Not to mention the highly touted freshman quarterbacks nipping at his heels and a group of critics constantly reminding him of his failures as a backup. But despite the ridiculous expectations and paper-thin fan club, Kegel delivered, passing for nearly 3000 yards and 21 touchdowns on the way to a third straight 10 win campaign. The rest of the league took note, as well, naming him second-team All Pac-10. Oh yeah, and just to make it a challenge, he did it with two separated shoulders and a torn MCL.
Defensive Player of the Year
Erik Coleman. The defensive captain was a rock, plain and simple. His 90 tackles, seven interceptions, two blocked kicks, and four forced fumbles don't begin to account for how much this honorable mention All-American safety meant to the Cougar defense. Erik was the brains, organizing the defense and making adjustments; the brawn, delivering the crushing hits that kept receivers heads on a swivel; and the heart, rallying the troops when the chips were down. Erik the Great, indeed.
Game of the Year
WSU 28 Texas 20, Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30. ‘Nuff said.
Comeback Player of the Year
Matt Kegel. See above.
Runner Up: Tai Tupai. After conquering weight problems and climbing out of the shadow of last year's Outland Trophy winner, Tupai took over Rien Long's defensive tackle spot in outstanding fashion, ensuring that no one ran up the gut on WSU.
Surprise Player of the Year
Jonathan Smith. Smith committed to a vigorous off-season workout routine and came into 2003 stronger and faster than he had ever been in his life. While many preseason pundits were placing him No. 3 on the depth chart, it was to be Smith who would lead WSU's ground attack, racking up 1419 all-purpose yards, a team-best 11 touchdowns, and second team All Pac-10 honors.
Runner-up: Don Jackson. The linebacker, who had injuries nagging him much of 2002, led the '03 Cougs with 101 tackles, including four sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss. Yet another second team All Pac-10 honoree.
The Cougar Defense. By merely walking onto the field, Jason David, Jeremey Williams, and company turned the Martin volume up by several notches.
Runner-up: Jeremy Bohannon. No matter the game, no matter the weather, no matter the score, there was Bohannon getting the crowd fired up as he lined up for kick-offs.
Newcomer of the Year
Chris Jordan. The redshirt freshman caught 28 passes for 341 yards and two TDs.
(Editor's note: Winning this award makes Jordan ineligible for the "Future Star" award.)
Hit of the Year
Will Derting's tackle of Notre Dame's Carlyle Holiday. Which one? The one he bent his facemask on, we think.
Runner-up: Don Jackson's hit on Colorado's Joel Klatt sent the Buff QB to the lockerroom.
Special Teams Player of the Year
Jason Hill. The true freshman didn't just play on special teams, he flew on special teams, seemingly at or around every point of impact. And his block of an Oregon punt was, as coach Bill Doba said, "textbook."
(Note: kickers and punters were not eligible for this award.)
Loudest game of the Year
Best Play Call
"Smooth Draw." Third quarter, Holiday Bowl: Kegel goes in motion and Mike Shelford snaps the ball directly to Smith, who fields it off the turf and takes up through the Longhorn D for six.
Best Opposing Fans
Notre Dame. "Butch, I don't think were in Columbus anymore."
Future Star Award
Like any other freshman QB, Swogger had moments he'd probably like to forget. But the Ohio native also showed poise and gave us plenty of glimpses into potential greatness.
Davis made the most of his linebacker playing time, flying to the ball in a way reminiscent of another Cougar Kennewick product: Ron Childs.
The Johnny Bley Iron Coug Award
Matt Kegel. The Montana native needed his own MASH unit, but never said "die."
(Johnny Bley, for the uninitiated, was a tough-as-nails two-way tackle for the Cougs in the 1930s. So tough, in fact, he once removed all the padding from his uniform before a game.)
Scott Lunde. Can't say for sure, but we think it safe to say a high percentage of Lunde's 42 catches came on third down, over the middle, and in heavy traffic.
Indelible Image Award
WSU flag "Ol' Crimson" waving proudly behind Chris Fowler's shoulder during several episodes of ESPN Gameday.
Indelible Moment of the Year
Kegel asking the WSU Band to play the fight song one more time during the Holiday Bowl victory celebration at Qualcomm Stadium.
Chant of the Year
"DOBA, DOBA, DOBA!"—music to a Cougar Nation's ears.
Best New Tradition
Saturday morning Ol' Crimson watching on ESPN Gameday.
Runner up: Ringing the Victory Bell at the Alumni Center.(We know the actual ringing of the VB is an old tradition at WSU, we're just amazed at the number of Martin Stadium regulars who didn't know all Cougars were welcome to ring it after a Wazzu victory.)
Future All-American Award
(Tie) Linebacker Will Derting and punter Kyle Basler