After Penn and Princeton split the Ivy League football title this year, they had one final competition against one another: the Asa S. Bushnell Cup. Awarded to the Ivy League’s top offensive and defensive players annually, the 2016 finalists for Offensive Player of the Year were none other than the Tigers’ John Lovett and Penn’s Justin Watson.
Unfortunately, like the last time the two squads met, Princeton came out on top. On Monday, Lovett beat out Watson for the Bushnell Cup, the second straight time Watson has finished second in the award’s voting. Watson led the Ivy League in receptions (89), receiving yards (1,115) and receiving touchdowns (8) on the year, setting Penn single-season records in receptions and yards as the Red and Blue won their Ivy record-tying 18th league championship.
Through three seasons, Watson is already second in program history in both receptions (205) and receiving yards (2,694) — and is the only player to log multiple 1,000-yard seasons. He also ranks ninth and 12th for career receptions and receiving yards in the Ancient Eight record books.
From 1970 to 2010, the award was given to the overall league player of the year, but, since then, the award has been split between offensive and defensive honorees. In 2015, then-senior linebacker Tyler Drake took home Defensive Player of the Year laurels, but the Quakers have never had an Offensive Player of the Year in the two-winner era.
Watson, a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection for the second straight year, is also one of 25 finalists for the Walter Payton Award, given to the FCS Offensive Player of the Year. In total, the Quakers had 14 players named All-Ivy, including six first-teamers. Among them, Watson, offensive lineman Nick Demes, quarterback Alek Torgersen and running back Tre Solomon were unanimous selections. They were joined by defensive back Mason Williams and defensive lineman Louis Vecchio among first team honorees.
As a sophomore in 2015, Watson was also one of two finalists for the Bushnell Cup, ultimately losing to Harvard quarterback Scott Hosch. Fortunately, he will have a third shot at the award, returning for his senior year in 2017 as the Red and Blue seek their third straight Ivy title.