PHILADELPHIA – The Ivy League has announced its four finalists -- two on offense, two on defense -- for the Asa S. Bushnell Cup, which is presented annually to the Ancient Eight’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year. The University of Pennsylvania will be represented on both sides of the ball, as sophomore wide receiver Justin Watson is an offensive finalist while senior linebacker Tyler Drake is a defensive finalist.
“I am very proud of these two young men,” said Penn’s George A. Munger Head Coach of Football, Ray Priore, who was named the Ivy League’s Coach of the Year last week. “Their effort and outstanding production this season is deserving of their selection as finalists for this prestigious award. This is a fantastic honor for Tyler as he caps his outstanding career. His leadership as one of our captains and his ability to make a big play on defense when we needed it most were huge factors in the success we had this season. Justin has emerged as a premier weapon on offense, respected across the league. In his short career he has been a true game-changer. His ability to deliver while being the focus of opposing defenses all season long is especially impressive.”
Drake is joined by Dartmouth’s Will McNamara as a finalist for the Bushnell Cup as Defensive Player of the Year, while Watson is joined by Harvard’s Scott Hosch as a finalist on the offensive side of the ball.
The Asa S. Bushnell Cup will be presented at a special reception and press conference presented by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses in the Vanderbilt Room of the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7. A free live stream of the presentation will be available on http://www.ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com.
Watson is the first Penn offensive player to be named a finalist for the Bushnell Cup since Billy Ragone in 2010, while the last defensive player for the Red and Blue to be named a finalist was linebacker Erik Rask in 2011. The most recent Bushnell Cup winner for Penn was linebacker Jake Lewko, in 2009. The Quakers’ last offensive player on the offensive side of the ball was quarterback Mike Mitchell, in 2003. Overall, eight Penn players have been honored as Ivy League Player of the Year since the award was first presented in 1970.
A unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection, Tyler Drake finished the 2015 season as the Ivy League’s leader in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (12.5) while sharing the Ivy lead in forced fumbles with four. At the conclusion of the regular season, his 8.5 sacks were 12th among all FCS players. He also added two interceptions, tied for third on Penn’s defense.
Drake had three games in 2015 where he reached double figures in tackles, including a career-high 15 against Dartmouth and 12 against both Fordham and Harvard. He registered at least one sack in half of Penn’s games this past season, and his four sacks against Fordham on October 10 were the most by a Penn player since 2003. Drake’s 8.5 sacks for the season were the most since 2003, and second-most by a Penn defender since 1999.
Drake will graduate with 17.5 career sacks, fifth-most in school history. His 80 tackles during the 2015 campaign were the most by a Quaker since 2011 and second-most since 2006. A two-time All-Ivy selection, Drake has been named one of 25 finalists for the STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Also a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection, Justin Watson recently completed one of the finest seasons by a receiver in Penn’s football history.
The Ivy League’s leader in receptions (74), receiving yards (1,082) and receiving touchdowns (9), Watson finished the regular season ranked No. 7 among all FCS receivers in receiving yards. His 108.2 yards-per-game average ranked fifth in FCS. He totaled seven 100-yard games in 2015, just the fourth Ivy League player to do so. His five consecutive 100-yard games to close the 2015 season mark just the third time in Ancient Eight history that a player posted five straight games with 100 yards receiving.
Watson made his mark on the Penn record book in 2015, becoming just the third receiver in program history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark (1,082, second on Penn’s single-season list). Through just two seasons, Watson already ranks seventh all-time at Penn in receiving yards with 1,579. His 74 receptions this season rank fourth all-time by a Quaker, and his 116 receptions through two seasons are already seventh-most by a Penn player in program history. Watson consistently found the end zone in 2015, finishing with 10 touchdowns -- nine via reception, the third-most in program history. Through two seasons, Watson already is tied for eighth in touchdown receptions in a career by a Quaker.
About the Asa S. Bushnell Cup
The Asa S. Bushnell Cup was first presented in 1970. Presented by the Eastern Association of Intercollegiate Football Officials, the Bushnell Cup is awarded by vote of the Ivy League’s eight head football coaches to the players who display outstanding qualities of leadership, competitive spirit, contribution to the team, and accomplishments on the field. From 1970 to 2010, the Bushnell Cup recognized a Player of the Year (or Co-Players of the Year if there was a tie in the voting). Beginning with the 2010 season, the award is presented as a part of the festivities surrounding the National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner in New York City with four finalists named a week prior to the presentation. Beginning with the 2011 season, the award recognizes Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, honoring both as Bushnell Cup recipients.