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2012 Football Players of the Year Finalists Announced

Clockwise: Princeton's Mike Catapano, Harvard's Colton Chapple, Brown's AJ Cruz and Cornell's Jeff Mathews

Previous Bushnell Cup Presentation Coverage: 2010 | 2011

PRINCETON, N.J. --  Princeton senior defensive lineman Mike Catapano, Harvard senior quarterback Colton Chapple, Brown senior defensive back/return specialist AJ Cruz and Cornell junior quarterback Jeff Mathews were named the finalists for the 2012 Asa S. Bushnell Cup, which honors the Ivy League Football Players of the Year.

Chapple and Mathews are finalists for Offensive Player of the Year, while Catapano and Cruz are finalists for Defensive Player of the Year. Mathews is the second player to be twice named a Bushnell Cup finalist, having won the award in 2011. He joins 2010 Co-Bushnell Cup recipient and 2011 finalist Nick Schwieger of Dartmouth.

The 2012 presentation of the Asa S. Bushnell Cup is Monday, Dec. 3, the day before the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) Annual Awards Dinner, at a special reception and press conference beginning at Noon in the Vanderbilt Room of the famed Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City. The presentation will begin at 12:30 p.m. and will be streamed live on FootballFoundation.org with access on IvyLeagueSports.com.

The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) and the Ivy League are partnering for the third-consecutive year to co-host the presentation of the Asa S. Bushnell Cup. The four finalists, along with their head coaches, will be on hand at the presentation.

George Pyne, NFF Board Member and President of IMG Worldwide's Sports & Entertainment Group, will once again emcee the event, which will feature two offensive and two defensive finalists along with their respective head coaches. Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris will be on hand to unveil the winners' names in front of a packed crowd of media representatives, NFF Board members and notable Ivy League football alumni and dignitaries.

2012 ASA S. BUSHNELL CUP FINALISTS

Mike Catapano
Catapano (Bayville, N.Y.) completed a dominant season on the Princeton defensive line, earning unanimous selection to the All-Ivy first team. He led the Ivy League with 12 sacks and ended the regular season ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision with 1.2 sacks per game. He ranked second in the Ivy League in tackles for loss with 15.5, which was only a half tackle off the League lead, and ranked ninth nationally in that category. The two-year co-captain ended the season with 41 tackles, and he had five games with at least two tackles for loss, as well as five games with at least five tackles.

Catapano was at his best in Ivy League competition, when he led Princeton to its biggest turnaround in more than two decades. He had multiple sacks in four of the seven Ivy games and had at least half a sack in six games. He added five pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles during the season. After the Tigers were the seventh-ranked defense in the Ivy League in 2011, Catapano helped Princeton improve to the third-best scoring defense in 2012. Princeton produced its first winning season in Ivy League play since 2006 and remained in the championship hunt until the final Saturday.

Colton Chapple
Chapple (Alpharetta, Ga.) finished the regular season as the second-rated passer in the country with a rating of 161.51. He achieved Harvard single-season records for total offense (3,169 yards) and touchdown passes with 24, surpassing the previous high-water mark of 18. The recipient of Harvard's Frederick Greeley Crocker Award as the program's most valuable player accounted for 256.7 passing yards per game with a 66 percent completion percentage, while rushing for 602 yards and nine touchdowns. For his career, he recorded five games with at least four touchdown passes -- no other Harvard QB has more than two such performances (Ryan Fitzpatrick).
 
Chapple's efforts directed a Harvard offense that ranked fourth nationally in scoring offense with an Ivy League record 39.4 points per game. Harvard ranked fourth nationally at over 487 yards of offense per game and was incredibly consistent with both the rushing and passing games ranking among the top 20 nationally. For his efforts, he was named first-team All-Ivy and was the recipient of the New England Football Writers’ Gold Helmet Award as the region’s player of the year.

A.J. Cruz
Cruz (Lake Forest, Calif.) is one 41 players in Ivy League football history to have been selected first-team All-Ivy three times and is the 10th Brown player to be honored three times. He was also a second-team All-Ivy selection as a freshman and earned All-Ivy honors as a return specialist in 2012.

An exceptional cover corner, Cruz intercepted 12 passes throughout his Brown career, fourth best in Brown football history. He ranked second on Brown's 2012 team with 71 total tackles, and intercepted four passes, second best in the Ivy League. He had 10 tackles against both Harvard and Dartmouth, and nine tackles vs. both Penn and Princeton. Cruz intercepted two passes in Brown’s shutout win over Yale and had one each against Holy Cross and Cornell.

A crafty return specialist, Cruz also returned punts and kickoffs. He closed his career ranked sixth all-time in school history with 929 career kickoff return yards.

Jeff Mathews
Mathews (Camarillo, Calif.) was named second-team All-Ivy after another record-setting season despite playing through numerous injuries. The 2011 Bushnell Cup winner was one of 20 players named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List to start the season. The first-ever sophomore to win the Bushnell Cup, he was a two-time conference Offensive Player of the Week in 2012 who led the Ivy League in passing attempts (405), completions (251) and yards (3,196). Mathews also finished second in passing touchdowns (18), completion percentage (.620) and pass efficiency (137.5) for players with at least five starts. He ranked second nationally in passing yardage (355.1), third in total offense (338.4), 21st in points responsible for (13.8) and 32nd in pass efficiency (137.5). Mathews became Cornell's career passing leader with his 315-yard, three-touchdown effort against Dartmouth, surpassing Ricky Rahne's record of 7,710 yards. His 8,331 yards after three seasons is second all-time in Ivy League history.

Mathews passed for at least 300 yards in seven of the nine games in which he appeared. He completed 35-of-51 passes for 525 yards and four touchdowns (0 interceptions) in the win over Princeton. Mathews opened the season by completing 38-of-56 passes for 489 yards and three touchdowns (0 interceptions) in a 34-27 loss at Fordham. He also ran for a score. Mathews passed for 340 yards and four touchdowns without a pick in the win over Yale en route to earning co-Offensive Player of the Week honors and threw for 445 yards and a touchdown, along with a late two-point conversion to tie the game, in a 35-28 loss to Ivy League champion Penn.

ASA S. BUSHNELL CUP HISTORY
Presented annually since 1970, The Asa S. Bushnell Cup honors its namesake, a 1921 Princeton alumnus and the commissioner of the Eastern College Athletic Conference from 1938 to 1970. The Bushnell Cup is awarded by a vote of the Ivy League's eight head football coaches to the players who display outstanding qualities of leadership, competitive spirit, contribution to the team and accomplishments on the field.

From 1970 to 2010, the Bushnell Cup recognized an Ivy League Player of the Year (or co-Players of the Year if there was a tie in voting). Beginning with the 2010 season, the award was presented as a part of the festivities surrounding the NFF Annual Awards Dinner with four finalists named a week prior to the presentation. In 2011, the Ivy League began recognizing both an offensive and a defensive player of the year.

All-Time Recipient List
1970 - Jim Chasey, QB, Dartmouth & Ed Marinaro, RB, Cornell
1971 - Ed Marinaro, RB, Cornell
1972 - Dick Jauron, RB, Yale
1973 - Jim Stoeckel, QB, Harvard
1974 - Walt Snickenberger, RB, Princeton
1975 - Doug Jackson, RB, Columbia
1976 - John Pagliaro, RB, Yale
1977 - John Pagliaro, RB, Yale
1978 - Buddy Teevens, QB, Dartmouth
1979 - Tim Tumpane, LB, Yale
1980 - Kevin Czinger, MG, Yale
1981 - Rich Diana, RB, Yale
1982 - John Witkowski, QB, Columbia
1983 - Derrick Harmon, RB, Cornell
1984 - Tim Chambers, DB, Penn
1985 - Tom Gilmore, DT, Penn
1986 - Rich Comizio, RB, Penn
1987 - Kelly Ryan, QB, Yale
1988 - Jason Garrett, QB, Princeton
1989 - Judd Garrett, RB, Princeton
1990 - Shon Page, RB, Dartmouth
1991 - Al Rosier, RB, Dartmouth
1992 - Jay Fiedler, QB, Dartmouth
1993 - Keith Elias, RB, Princeton
1994 - Pat Goodwillie, LB, Penn
1995 - Dave Patterson, LB, Princeton
1996 - Chad Levitt, RB, Cornell
1997 - Sean Morey, WR, Brown
1998 - Jim Finn, RB, Penn
1999 - James Perry, QB, Brown
2000 - Gavin Hoffman, QB, Penn
2001 - Carl Morris, WR, Harvard
2002 - Carl Morris, WR, Harvard
2003 - Mike Mitchell, QB, Penn
2004 - Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Harvard
2005 - Nick Hartigan, RB, Brown
2006 - Jeff Terrell, QB, Princeton
2007 - Mike McLeod, RB, Yale
2008 - Chris Pizzotti, QB, Harvard
2009 - Buddy Farnham, WR, Brown & Jake Lewko, LB, Penn
2010 - Gino Gordon, RB, Harvard & Nick Schwieger, RB, Dartmouth
2011 - Offensive Player of the Year: Jeff Mathews, QB, Cornell
           Defensive Player of the Year: Josue Ortiz, DT, Harvard

Six Bushnell Cup recipients have been named NFF National Scholar-Athletes: Dick Jauron (Yale, 1972), Kevin Czinger (Yale, 1980), Richard Diana (Yale, 1981), Tom Gilmore (Penn, 1985), Keith Elias (Princeton, 1993) and Nick Hartigan (Brown, 2005). Ed Marinaro (Cornell) is the only past recipient inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Several past Asa S. Bushnell Cup recipients currently hold impressive coaching positions, including: Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys Director of Pro Scouting Judd Garrett, Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, Princeton offensive coordinator James Perry and Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens.