Utah State sophomore Dominik Eberle was named a finalist for the 2017 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award, presented by the Orange Bowl, it was announced Monday by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.
Eberle is one of three finalists to land on the list, joining Daniel Carlson of Auburn and Matt Gay of Utah. He and Gay are just the second and third players from the Beehive State (Utah’s Louie Sakoda in 2008) to be named a Lou Groza finalist, and Eberle is the fifth player from a current Mountain West institution.
Other than Merlin Olsen winning the Outland Trophy in 1961, this is the first time Utah State has had a player named a finalist for a national award.
Of the 20 Lou Groza Award semifinalists, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Eberle was one of three from the Mountain West as he was joined on the list by Wyatt Bryan of Colorado State and Bryce Crawford of San José State.
Eberle currently leads the Mountain West and is tied for sixth in the nation in field goal percentage (.889). He also ranks second in the Mountain West and 26th nationally in field goals made (1.45 pg), and he is fifth in the conference and 43rd in the nation in scoring (8.0 ppg).
The native of Nuremberg, Germany, is 16-of-18 on field goal attempts this year, and his 88.9 percent conversion rate currently ranks first all-time in school history for a single season, topping Russ Moody, who made 86.7 percent of his field goals in 1988 as he was 13-of-15.
Eberle’s 16 field goals on the season are tied for the sixth-most in a single season in school history, along with Dene Garner (1985) and Al Knapp (1974).
Through the first 11 games of the 2017 campaign, Eberle has made all 40 of his extra point tries. Those 40 made PATs rank tied for fourth all-time in school history for a single season, while his 40 attempts are tied for sixth all-time with Nick Diaz (2012). For his career, he is a perfect 40-of-40 on extra points, and that percentage ranks tied for first all-time in school history for both a single season and a career.
Eberle is now 19-of-23 on career field goal attempts and his 82.6 conversion percentage ranks second all-time in school history, trailing only Russ Moody, who made 84.6 percent of his field goals (22-of-26).
Eberle has scored 88 points this season with his 40 extra points and 16 field goals, and he is just two points shy of tying Nathan Morreale’s single-season school record for most points scored by a kicker (90 in 1993, 19 field goals and 33 extra points). He is also just three made field goals away from entering the Aggies’ top-10 list for that category.
So far this season, Eberle is 5-of-6 on field goal attempts of at least 40 yards, including a career-long 52 yarder. The last Aggie kicker to make at least five field goals of 40-plus yards in a single season was Nick Diaz in 2012 when he was 5-of-7. Furthermore, Brad Bohn was the last USU kicker to make more than five from that distance, when he was 6-of-10 from 40-plus yards in 2000.
In the Aggies’ 61-10 win at San José State on Sept. 24, Eberle set the single-game school record for points by a kicker with 19, as he was 7-of-7 on extra points and 4-for-4 on field goals (23, 52, 20, 27). Those 19 points were also the second-most in Mountain West history by a kicker and the most by a non-senior.
A panel of more than 100 Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches, sports information directors, media members, former Groza finalists and current NFL kickers voted to select the three finalists.
The finalists will be honored at the 26th annual Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Awards Banquet on Dec. 4, in Palm Beach County, Florida. The same panel then selects the winner, who will be announced live on ESPN at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Thursday, Dec. 7.
The award is named for National Football League Hall of Fame kicker Lou “The Toe” Groza, who played 21 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Groza won four NFL championships with Cleveland and was named the NFL Player of the Year in 1954. Although an All-Pro offensive lineman, as well, Groza ushered in the notion that there should be a place on an NFL roster for a kicker.
Since the first Lou Groza Award was handed out in 1992, 25 finalists, including 14 winners, have gone on to appear in the NFL, earning nine trips to the Pro Bowl and taking home five Super Bowls.
Eberle and the Aggies (6-5, 4-3 MW) close out the 2017 regular season this weekend in a Mountain West road game at Air Force (4-7, 3-4) on Saturday, Nov. 25, at 8:15 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.