Stephen Johnson, a junior from the University of Kentucky, has been selected as the Manning Award Quarterback of the Week. He earns the win over seven other Manning Award Stars of the Week in the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Facebook contest. The contest has recognized 61 players from 59 schools this year.
Johnson completed 16-of-27 passes for a career-best 338 yards and three touchdowns while adding a career-high 83 rushing yards to lead the Wildcats to a 41-38 upset of No. 11 Louisville on the road. Two of his three touchdown passes showcased his arm strength with a 75-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and a 63-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native engineered a seven-play, 60-yard drive that consumed 1:33 and led to the winning, 47-yard field goal with 00:12 remaining in the game.
His performance earned him the Howard Schnellenberger Award, presented to the Most Valuable Player for the winning team of the Kentucky-Louisville game each year. Kentucky ends the regular season 7-5 overall, and now leads the series against Louisville 15-14, snapping a five-game losing streak. The Wildcats are Bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
Johnson’s top competitors this week were Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald and Skyler Howard of West Virginia. Fitzgerald completed 8-of-17 passes for 109 yards and three touchdowns, and added a school-record 258 yards and two touchdowns as he led the Bulldogs to a 55-20 SEC road win over archrival Ole Miss. Howard completed 12-of-21 passes for 330 yards and five touchdowns, matching his career-best, in a 49-19 Big 12 road victory over Iowa State.
While the Manning Award selected 30 quarterbacks for its preseason Watch List all quarterbacks remain eligible for the honor. Midseason additions to the Watch List will be announced on Wednesday, October 12. The list of 10 finalists will be released on Wednesday, November 30. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, January 11.
In its first 12 years, the Manning Award has recognized the top names in college football. It has honored quarterbacks from 11 different schools and from four different conferences. The Southeastern Conference leads the way with four Manning Award winners (Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, JaMarcus Russell, Tim Tebow), while Texas is the only school with two winners (Colt McCoy and Vince Young). Watson is the third winner from the Atlantic Coast Conference, joining Matt Ryan (Boston College, 2007) and Jameis Winston (Florida State, 2013).
All of the Manning Award winners follow in the footsteps of the Mannings themselves. In college, Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning combined for over 25,000 passing yards and 201 touchdowns while playing in 10 bowl games and earning four bowl MVP awards. Archie was the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft, while both Peyton and Eli were selected No. 1 overall.
In addition to the Manning Award’s yearly honor, each week during the regular season, eight quarterbacks are recognized as Manning Quarterbacks of the Week. Fifty-five players from 52 different schools were honored during the 2015 season.