AMHERST, Massachusetts -- Rich Willard (Johnstown, NY), a senior Co-Captain of the Amherst College football team, was named the winner of the College Division Coca Cola Gold Helmet Award for his performance against Williams College on November 8. This Gold Helmet is bestowed weekly upon the most outstanding player in Divisions II and III. The University Division honors the New England Player of the Week among all Division I programs.
Willard ushered out his collegiate football career with the best game in his four years, racking up 378 yards with 26 completions in 44 attempts. His five touchdown passes broke a College record for most in a single game and brings his season total to 16. This ties two other quarterbacks for the most in a single year and brings Willard's career total to 24.
The signal-caller already held Amherst-bests for all-time passing yards and attempts, and Willard's numbers from Williamstown bring his career totals to 4,387 yards in 563 attempts with 299 completions (53.1%). Before the end of the day, Willard had also challenged three other passing marks, falling one shy of most attempts in a single game (45 by Paul Foye v. Middlebury in 1986), two short of most completions in a game (28, Foye v. Bates in 1986) and 15 stripes off the most yards in a game (Foye v. Wesleyan in 1986 with 393). Earlier in the season, the quarterback's longest pass was four yards short of the longest pass in Amherst history, a 77-yard bomb in 1991 against Williams.
The English major will graduate with four passing records as one of the best quarterbacks in Amherst history. In addition to winning the Coca Cola Gold Helmet Award, Willard was also named the ECAC/Budget New England Region Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Williams. This is the first time he has earned either honor, though he was named to the ECAC Honor Roll for his performances against Trinity in both 1996 and 1997, and he was the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week against the Bantams in 1996. His junior-year leadership earned him All-NESCAC and All-ECAC Second Team recognition.
Amherst football finished its 1997 campaign with a 7-1 record as the No. 5 team in New England. For the second straight year, the Jeffs jumped out to a 7-0 record before falling to archrival Williams in the final seconds of the season. Despite a series of amazing comebacks orchestrated by Willard, Amherst fell 48-46 on an Eph field goal with just two ticks left on the clock. Last year, the Jeffs suffered a 19-13 loss on a touchdown in the final 36 seconds of play. Willard will graduate with a 24-7-1 football record as the first class since the Class of 1987 to never experience a losing season. Willard was a three-year starter.
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