Austin Peay’s Healy wins Eddie Robinson Award

(STATS) – When Will Healy accepted the Austin Peay coaching position in December 2015, there were more than a few people who questioned his decision.

“I don’t know if I had a person that didn’t ask me why I took it,” said Healy, who spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Chattanooga before arriving in Clarksville, Tenn.

After all, the Governors’ program at the time had won just one game in three seasons. But Healy knew what he was doing, and that he could make the impossible very much possible.

“The more people tell me I can’t do something …,” he said, “the more I’ll show you I can.”

What Healy did this season earned him the STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Award – honoring the national coach of the year – on Wednesday. A national panel of 151 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries voted on the 31st annual award following the regular season.

After an 0-11 campaign in his 2016 debut season, Healy guided the Governors to an impressive 8-4 finish in 2017. They snapped a 29-game losing streak with a 69-13 win over Morehead State on Sept. 16, then ended a 45-game road slide the next week against Murray State.

Though Austin Peay narrowly missed qualifying for the FCS playoffs, it tied a school record with the eight overall victories, set the program’s mark with seven wins in the Ohio Valley Conference and went 3-0 against the league’s other Tennessee-based teams to claim the coveted Sgt. York Trophy for the first time ever.

The Governors, who finished second in the OVC and suffered three of their losses to FBS schools, ranked sixth in the FCS averaging 258.8 rushing yards. They were 17th in the nation allowing 310.1 total yards per contest after giving up 506.6 to rank 123rd out of 125 teams one season earlier.

Healy, who also was named OVC Coach of the Year, is the third OVC coach to win the Eddie Robinson Award, joining Houston Nutt (Murray State) in 1995 and Tony Samuel (Southeast Missouri State) in 2010.

As the Governors turn their attention to a potentially bigger encore next season, Healy says their goals will look very pretty familiar.

“If I told you our goals at the beginning of the season were to win the OVC, win the Sgt. York, make the playoffs and win a national championship …,” Healy said. “Those are the same goals we’ll have next year.”

Healy, who will turn 33 next month, received 49 first-place votes to beat out James Madison’s Mike Houston, whose undefeated Dukes continue their quest to win back-to-back FCS national titles by hosting South Dakota State in Saturday’s semifinals.

Houston received 28 first-place votes while Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon, who finished third in the voting, garnered 15.

Healy will be recognized at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation in Frisco, Texas on Jan. 5, the eve of the FCS Championship Game.

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The final voting results:

1. Will Healy, Austin Peay: 49-19-11-6-8-374

2. Mike Houston, James Madison: 28-18-21-21-15-332

3. Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State: 15-27-26-14-12-301

4. Curt Cignetti, Elon: 11-20-15-16-10-222

5. Rod Broadway, North Carolina A&T: 9-18-9-13-13-183

6. Demario Warren, Southern Utah: 11-6-8-10-12-135

7. Al Bagnoli, Columbia: 6-7-12-9-11-123

8. John Grass, Jacksonville State: 4-1-14-6-8-86

9. Tim Rebowe, Nicholls: 5-5-6-5-9-82

10. Kevin Callahan, Monmouth: 2-4-6-13-10-80

11. Chris Klieman, North Dakota State: 2-7-5-5-13-76

12. Mike Ayers, Wofford: 3-5-4-8-6-69

13. Charlie Fisher, Western Illinois: 2-5-4-6-5-59

14. Pete Rossomando, Central Connecticut State: 2-4-5-4-6-55

15. Mike London, Howard: 0-4-2-12-6-52

16. Dan Hunt, Colgate: 1-1-1-3-1-19

17. Dave Cecchini, Valparaiso: 1-0-2-0-4-15

18. Fred McNair, Alcorn State: 0-0-0-0-2-2

A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place vote three points, a fourth-place vote two points and a fifth-place vote one point.