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Payton Award finalist Thomson fueled Sac State's turnaround

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - Sacramento State posted the biggest improvement in the FCS this season, and its first-year coach, Troy Taylor, was named the national coach of the year.

An innovative play caller who's been around outstanding quarterbacks, Taylor is quick to credit the Hornets' success to having a healthier Kevin Thomson. The redshirt junior had an injury-riddled campaign in 2018, but he came back this season to claim the Big Sky Conference's offensive player of the year award. He's now a finalist for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award, which goes to the national offensive player of the year.

"Kevin epitomizes what we want from a quarterback in our offense," Taylor said. "He's accurate, athletic, a strong leader and a fearless competitor. In our offense, if the quarterback doesn't play well, we won't win. Kevin has been terrific and he's the biggest factor in our resurgence."

Thomson helped Sacramento State to its best season on the Division I level: The Hornets won a share of the Big Sky title and qualified for the FCS playoffs for the first time, going from a 2-8 record in 2018 to 9-4. A 6-foot-1, 205-pound dual-threat, he averaged 319.6 yards of total offense per game (fifth-best nationally) while passing for 3,212 yards and 27 touchdowns and rushing for 619 yards and 12 touchdowns.

During a 15-day span in October, Thomson led the Hornets to three straight wins over nationally ranked opponents - Eastern Washington, Montana State, and Montana - while accounting for 1,104 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns. In the Homecoming night win over Montana, he set career highs in passing yards (369) and total offensive yards (419) and had six total touchdowns. Two days later, he was named the STATS FCS National Offensive Player of the Week.

The Payton Award winner will be announced at the STATS national awards banquet on Jan. 10 in Frisco, Texas. Also up for the award are quarterbacks Case Cookus of Northern Arizona and Trey Lance of North Dakota State and running back Pete Guerriero of Monmouth.

Updated January 1, 2020

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