Priore Named Finalist for National Coordinator of the Year

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PHILADELPHIA - Under the guidance of defensive coordinator Ray Priore, the University of Pennsylvania football team's defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation, gave up the fewest points in a 10-game season at Penn since 1927. For what may have been statistically the best defense of his 23-year tenure, Priore was nominated by his coaching peers as one of four finalists for the FCS National Coordinator of the Year award on Monday. The award is presented annually by

Fans can vote for the award through December 13th. Winners will be announced beginning on December 14th. A panel of current and former coaches along with past recipients of the awards will evaluate the finalists and will select the winners. Votes will be considered, however, the panel has final decision over the awards.

In his 23d season at Penn, Priore's defenses somehow keep getting better. Consistently one of the top defenses in the Ivy League, the Quakers were dominant to historic proportions this year:

* The Red and Blue led the nation in total defense, giving up just 217.6 yards of offense a game. For perspective, there were 35 teams in the country this year that gave up more passing yards per game than that.

* The Red and Blue led the nation in scoring defense, giving up fewer than 10 points per game. The 9.5 average (which is the lowest in the FCS and FBS) includes a kickoff return and interception return for a touchdown against the Quakers. They had two shut outs. They would have had a third at Brown - the best offense in the Ivy League and the team with the active league record for consecutive games without being shut out - but the Bears returned a Penn interception for a touchdown.

* Penn led the nation in red zone defense. The opposition did not score on half of their red zone possessions. On 22 attempts, opponents had almost as many turnovers (five) as touchdowns (seven).

* Penn was the least penalized team in all of Division I.

*The Red and Blue were second in the nation in rushing defense and pass efficiency defense. In all, Penn finished in the top 10 in the nation in eight different defensive categories.

* Penn led the Ivy League in nearly every single defensive category: scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, pass defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks, first downs allowed, opponent third-down conversions, fewest penalties, fewest penalty yards, turnover margin, time of possession and red zone defense.

* Penn gave up no more than seven points in any of the last five games.

* At home, Penn's defense gave up just two touchdowns all year and just 17 total points in five games (3.2 per game).

* Penn gave up a total of just 10 points in the fourth quarter all year.

* During one stretch, Penn's defense held opponents scoreless for 183 minutes, 42 seconds. A span of more than 12 quarters without giving up a single point.

With an offense riddled with injuries, the Quakers relied on the Penn defense early in the season and rode the unit to the program's 14th Ivy League championship. Priore has been around for more than half of those as he will don his eighth Ivy championship ring.

Penn's only two losses came to top 25 opponents - one on the road in overtime. The Quakers won their last eight as Priore coached senior linebacker Jake Lewko to co-Ivy League MVP honors this season.

Also up for the award are defensive coordinator Bob Shoop of William & Mary, offensive coordinator Brian Scott of Old Dominion and offensive coordinator Sam Venuto of Villanova - a unit that Priore's defense dominated, holding the No. 2 team in the nation to just one touchdown (the only time they've been held under 21 points all season).

Prairie View A&M defensive coordinator Heishma Northern won the award last season.