DURHAM, N.H.-On the heels of UNH's impressive come-from-behind victory at Massachusetts on Oct. 13 (35-24), tailback Stephan Lewis (Coatesville, Pa.) was named the recipient of the Coca-Cola Gold Helmet Award which is presented on a weekly basis to the top player in New England as decided by the New England Football Writers. Lewis received the honor today at the organization's weekly luncheon held on the campus of Harvard University. In addition to the Gold Helmet Award, Lewis received this week the Sports Network National Offensive Player of the Week honor for the second time this season, and was also named the Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in 2001.
Lewis was the key to victory for the 'Cats, which saw themselves down 17-0 as the final second closed on the first half. But that is when it started for Lewis, who was on the receiving end of a 49-yard Hail Mary pass from Granieri with no time left on the clock to make it 17-6 at the half after the missed PAT. In the second half, the Minutemen could do little to stop Lewis, who ran 25 times in the game for a career-high 258 yards, which is the 10th-best rushing performance in Atlantic 10 football history. Much of the damage he inflicted took place in the final 11 minutes of the fourth quarter. UNH was down by a 24-14 margin and Lewis (and kicker Shawn MacLean) went on to score 21 unanswered points to lift the 'Cats to the Atlantic 10 victory. UNH's starting tailback scored on rushes of 56 yards with 10:33 to play, 2 yards with 3:34 left, and then iced the game for UNH with a 77-yard jaunt for paydirt with 1:38 to play.
Lewis also moved up in the UNH history books in the contest as he topped the 2,000-yard rushing mark for his career. He now has 2,053 career rushing yards, good for seventh all-time at UNH.
In addition, Lewis also compiled an impressive total of 364 yards in the all-purpose yardage category after catching four passes for 94 yards.
Looking at Lewis in the national NCAA Division I-AA statistics picture, he leads the nation in scoring with 16 touchdowns (98 points). He is first in the nation in all-purpose yardage with an average of 257.5 yards per game, and he is third in the nation in rushing yardage with an average of 152.7 yards per contest. With numbers like that, it is no wonder that Lewis is listed among the nation's top players in the Sports Network "Payton Watch", which lists the top candidates from I-AA football who are being considered to win the Walter Payton Award. The last player from the Atlantic 10 to win the honor was Jerry Azumah in 1998. He is now a defensive back with the NFL's Chicago Bears.
Lewis won the Sports Network Offensive Player of the Week Award earlier this season, when he rushed for a UNH record five touchdowns vs. Hampton on Sept. 1. He was also named Atlantic 10 POW following that contest as well.
The Wildcats return to action on Saturday, Oct. 20 at undefeated and fourth-ranked Rhode Island for UNH's biggest test of the season. UNH is 4-2, 2-2 in the A-10, while Rhode Island is 6-0 and 4-0 in the conference.