COLUMNS

The awards circuit

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

This week ESPN handed out ESPY Awards to the year's best athletes, coaches and teams. Now, it's my turn.

As I've done the past two years, I've decided to give my choices for the best college and pro sports in 2014-2015.

I'll start things off with best college coach. Though it's hard to ignore Mike Krzyzewski winning his fifth national title or Geno Auriemma winning his 10th, I'm going with Ohio State's Urban Meyer.

When Meyer took over, the Buckeye football program was in a state of disarray. They were staggered by NCAA sanctions and appeared to be one more misstep away from mediocrity.

Meyer stepped up and in just three years, Ohio State won their first national title in 13 years.

Not only did the Buckeyes beat mighty Alabama in the first ever college football semifinal and then destroy heavily-favored Oregon in the title game, they did it all with their third-string quarterback.

With the championship victory, Meyer is now an amazing 38-3 at Ohio State and has three championship rings (one with the Buckeyes, two with Florida).

Best college athlete was a tough call, but I'll go with Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Winning the Heisman Trophy gives him the slight edge over Wisconsin basketball star Frank Kaminsky.

Mariota's season did not have a happy ending. The Ducks were hammered by Ohio State in the title game, but Mariota was extraordinary in Oregon's run to the championship.

He passed for 4,454 yards with a ridiculous 42-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also added 770 yards rushing and 15 scores.

We go to Columbus once again for best college team. The way Ohio State shook off an embarrassing early-season loss to Virginia Tech and then rode the arm of second and third-string quarterbacks to a national title was simply superb.

Moving up to the professional ranks, I'd choose the Warriors' Steve Kerr as the coach of the year.

In his first season as a head coach, Kerr instantly revitalized a Golden State squad that had just been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the previous year.

They quickly flourished in Kerr's up-tempo system. Right out of the gates, they established themselves as the best team in the league.

They finished the regular season with the NBA's best record at 67-15 and eventually beat LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals to bring the Warrior franchise their first championship in 40 years.

Kerr did have the luxury of having Stephen Curry lead the charge. Curry has my vote for best professional athlete.

What he did this year for the Warriors was phenomenal. He went from being one of the brightest young stars in the game to being a bona fide superstar.

On the strength of 24 points and eight rebounds per game, Curry was named NBA MVP.

With Golden State down 2-1 in the finals, he stepped up and led them to three straight victories to close out the series. In those three wins, he scored 28 a game and hit 45 percent of his 3-pointers.

Finally, I had to make a decision on best professional team. The Warriors in basketball, Giants in baseball and Blackhawks in hockey were all heavily considered, but I'm going with the Super Bowl champion Patriots.

Despite starting the season at just 2-2 and having to deal with injuries to the defense and a topsy-turvey situation at running back, New England went 12-4 and took home their fourth title in franchise history.

In the second round of the playoffs, they fought off 14-point deficits on two separate occasions to escape with a 35-31 victory over the Ravens and in the AFC Championship – they obliterated the Colts, 45-7.

And even when the ridiculous scandal known as "Deflategate" reared its ugly head, the Patriots remained focused and knocked off the defending champs in the Super Bowl.

Staring down a 24-14 fourth-quarter deficit to the Seahawks and their top-ranked defense, Tom Brady and the Patriot offense put up two clutch touchdowns to take a 28-24 lead.

It set the table for one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history.

With Seattle just one yard away from another championship victory, rookie Malcolm Butler made a lightning-quick break on a Russell Wilson pass. He intercepted it with just 20 seconds remaining, allowing the Patriots to claim the exhilarating victory.

Like the great Ric Flair always said, "To be the man, you gotta beat the man." New England's victory over the defending champs separated them from all of the other champions in professional sports this year.