Blog Entry

Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien wins Unitas Award

Posted on: December 6, 2010 7:20 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2010 10:10 pm

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the nation's top senior quarterback, announced its 2010 winner today. Wisconsin signal-caller Scott Tolzien , who led the Badgers to an 11-1 record and a berth in the 2011 Rose Bowl, won the award today.

[Check out the rest of the awards and nominees here.]

Now obviously, the pool for this award is always going to be diluted on account of it being limited to senior quarterbacks, and the tendency of high-level QB prospects to declare for the draft before their senior season only further weakens the available list of candidates. Tolzien won this award over a rather tepid list of finalists: Andy Dalton , Colin Kaepernick , Christian Ponder , and Ricky Stanzi.

Or, more to the point, Tolzien wasn't up against Cam Newton , Kellen Moore , Andrew Luck , Ryan Mallett , Dan Persa , or Brandon Weeden. And that's good for Tolzien, because his statistics and the context surrounding them are totally underwhelming. While Tolzien led all seniors with a 169.80 passing efficiency and 74.8 completion percentage, he was hardly the focal point of the offense or the main engine getting it into the end zone; Tolzien recorded just 16 passing touchdowns, compared to his team's otherworldly 46 rushing touchdowns (of which Tolzien had none). Tolzien's total yardage accounted for just 42.6% of Wisconsin's yards, which compares rather unfavorably to Colin Kaepernick's 57.7%. And yes, Wisconsin is ranked higher than Nevada and was involved in more blowouts in which Tolzien's services weren't needed ... but TCU just so happens to be ranked even higher than Wisconsin, was involved in many blowouts of its own, and Dalton's total yardage was still 51.6% of his Horned Frogs' total yards. Also, keep in mind Tolzien was facing a defense with eight men in the box basically all the time, thanks to Wisconsin's thundering ground game. That's a luxury Dalton and Kaepernick didn't enjoy, and they still outperformed Tolzien in every category except passing efficiency, where Tolzien's lead is utterly marginal.

Beyond this year, though, Tolzien's numbers scarcely fit the typical profile of a Unitas Award winner. Beginning in 1995, when noted option enthusiast Tommie Frazier won the award with Nebraska, the average passing touchdown total of the Unitas winner has been 32.5 TDs ... or basically twice that of Tolzien and his 16 touchdowns. The only winner in that timespan with fewer than seven more touchdowns than Tolzien was (no surprise) Frazier, and even he threw for 17 TDs his senior year.

It just seems, like John Clay inexplicably being named a Doak Walker finalist, as if Tolzien is being given this award in lieu of a team award, since Wisconsin is ranked fourth and hooray for that. And it's not as if Tolzien had a bad season, either; his performance against the Iowa defense, especially when he drove the team down the field for a touchdown in the third quarter with only Montee Ball healthy (and Ball lining up at wideout since Nick Toon was out, no less), was really a fantastic display of passing. But by and large, there's just no way Tolzien was a more deserving recipient of this award than Dalton or Kaepernick.


Since: Apr 26, 2010
Posted on: December 7, 2010 12:36 pm

Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien wins Unitas Award

I don't see how anyone can say that Kaepernick didn't get jobbed playing for a non-AQ on this one.

First of all, I know there has been a lot made of Tolzien's charity work and community services.  I applaud him for that and acknowledge that he's a good young man and works hard in the community.  With that said, I also know that Kaepernick is in the same boat in the community and have read many stories in regards to the things he's done in the community in Reno.  The biggest difference between the two is that Kaepernick doesn't have the media support to get the word out that a guy like Tolzien has playing for a huge program like Wisconsin.

With that said, just look at the stagering stats that Kaepernick has put up while at Nevada.  And consider that he's led his team to it's highest ever ranking, knocked off the #3 team in the nation as a huge under dog, and basically has put Nevada on the map.  So with that said:

Is the ONLY PLAYER IN NCAA history to pass for 2,000 and rush for 1,000 in three seasons (did it consecutively).

Is the ONLY PLAYER IN NCAA history to pass for over 9,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards in a career.

Tied Eric Crouch's ALL TIME NCAA RECORD for rushing TD's by a QB with 59 in his career.

Ranks 2nd IN NCAA behind only Kellen Moore in INT ratio in the NCAA throwing 23 INT's in 1,237 attempts (1.86%) in his career.

Is the 2nd PLAYER IN NCAA history (and one of only three to ever do it) to go for 20/20 in a season.

Is a member of THE FIRST AND ONLY trio of teammates IN NCAA history to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

Is one half of the NCAA's ALL TIME GREATEST RUSHING DUO breaking both the scoring record (held by Reggie Bush and LenDale White) and yardage record (held by Eric Dickerson and Craig James) this season.

Is 2nd all time in TD's in his conference behind only Marshall Faulk.

Is 1st all time in rushing TD's scored in his conference, ahead of Marshall Faulk, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Ian Johnson.

Is top 10 all time in passing in his conference ahead of players like Steve Young, Ty Detmer, and Jim McMahon.

Is top 10 all time in TD passes in his conference.

At his school he holds the record for Scoring, Touchdowns, Total Offense, Rushing TD's, Passing TD's and is second in Pass Yards, Pass Completions, Pass Attempts

On the NCAA's list of active players, Kaepernick leads the nation in the following categories:  Touchdowns Responsible for (141 vs. 2nd place being 127 and 3rd place being 101!), Rushing TD's (59 vs. 2nd place DeMarco Murray with 49), and Yards per Carry at 6.9

He ranks in the top 20 in the following:  Rush Yards (4th), Pass Attempts (8th), Pass Completions (8th), Pass Yards (7th), Pass TD's (4th), Pass Efficiency (17th), Total Plays (3rd), Total Offensive Yardage (2nd), Yards per Game (6th), Yards per Play (7th), Total Touchdowns (2nd), Total Points including kickers (4th).

With a bowl game left to play, he's 90 pass yards away from crossing 10,000 passing yards and 170 pass yards away from becoming only the 3rd player in NCAA history to achieve 3,000 pass yards and 1,000 rush yards in a season (Vince Young, Dan LeFevour)

Since: Nov 10, 2010
Posted on: December 7, 2010 8:05 am

Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien wins Unitas Award

Well like every award and voting in the polls this COULD be based upon strength of schedule. I mean who cares Andrew Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick had good numbers. I know that Scott Tolzien has played Ohio St, Iowa, Michigan St, Michigan, Northwestern and put up solid numbers. Andy Dalton: New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming, Colo St. Kaepernick numbers were against: San Jose st, New Mexico St, Utah St and IDaho. I mean common are those guys NOT supposed to have solid seasons given the inferior compitition? Tolzien week end and week out lead his team to victory and was never the goat. Congrats Tolzien!

Since: Nov 25, 2007
Posted on: December 7, 2010 8:02 am

Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien wins Unitas Award

I generally have enjoyed Adam Jacobi's blogs on They come with an opinionated angle. But after this one I detect a tendency for Adam to go against the grain just to get irritated reactions from the readers. I note that on the first page no one saluted Jacobi's opinion, and there was only one among the bloggers who had a Wisconsin symbol by his name.
    Why? Because whoever the votors were for this award for a senior quarterback they were smart enough to recognize that Tolzien played a very important role in the Badgers' 11-1 season and their first Rose Bowl bid in 11 years in a difficult conference rated one of the 2-3 best this year by most accounts. Wisconsin's calling card always has been its powerful running game. But not until Tolzien came along with his ability to intelligently lead a team under pressure and his extreme passing accuracy to take the pressure off the ball carriers were the Badgers able to beat Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan in the same season in about four decades.
    For a team known for grinding it out Tolzien was the difference in this Wisconsin team and all the others before it. Because of him other quality high school quarterbacks likely will be more inclined to choose Wisconsin. And anyone who saw the ESPN feature before the Ohio State game on Tolzien dedicated to helping an ailing youth learned that Tolzien is not just an athlete. 
    This is not to diminish the achievements of Dalton and Kapernick. But they like Tolzien were not invited to the Heisman ceremonies. The voters simply chose to commend an underrated quarterback who commanded a team to greatness. This from a member of Jacobi's sportswriting profession.    

Since: Dec 6, 2010
Posted on: December 6, 2010 9:08 pm

Wisconsin QB Tolzien smarter than Adam Jacobi

For someone who gets paid to do this, your understanding of the situation seems less impressive than one might expect. Just as Tolzien had the benefit of the play action, the running game had the benefit that opponents were forced to defend against the pass on some level. This has not always been the case at Wisconsin. Perhaps Tolzien's stats would have impressed you had he played on a team where his services were needed more often. Teams should really choose between a running game and a passing game in order to make things easier for the Jacobis of the world to comprehend. In any case, this is the reality: Wisconsin is better than all but a small handfull of teams this year, and Scott Tolzien has been a necessary element of that success. And in all likelihood, TCU's Stevie Smallprogram will go on to a career in accounting without a Rose Bowl ring, and without the Unitas Award.

Since: Dec 28, 2006
Posted on: December 6, 2010 8:17 pm

Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien wins Unitas Award

You might want to go take a look at what the award stands for before you write something about how someone isn't fitting for it. They have a board that decides who is best deserving of the award and exemplifies the meaning of the award. It isn't American Idol, thank goodness not all awards are popularity contests.

Since: Jul 12, 2008
Posted on: December 6, 2010 8:00 pm

Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien wins Unitas Award

Why are you always hating on the Badgers, Jacobi?  First you bash John Clay, now you're bashing Tolzien.  Who's next, JJ Watt?

Since: Dec 28, 2006
Posted on: December 6, 2010 7:50 pm

Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien wins Unitas Award

Guess he was just born in the right year. This isn't the Heisman so relax.

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