Morton is finalist for Gene Upshaw football award

Morton is finalist for Gene Upshaw football award
Christian Morton of the 16th-ranked South Dakota football team (9-4) and Michael McFadden of top-ranked Grand Valley State (12-0) received the top two point totals from the North Central Region and will be among eight finalists for the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award.

This year's award winner will be announced in January and the presentation of the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award will be made at the Manheim Touchdown Club banquet in Lancaster, PN, in May.

Morton, originally of Norfolk, NE, helped the Coyotes to its first appearance in the Division II playoffs in 20 years. A two-year starter for the Coyotes, Morton and his teammates were 1-1 in the 2006 postseason. For the second straight year, USD has had both a finalist for both the Harlon Hill Trophy (Wes Beschorner, 2005; Stefan Logan, 2006) and the Gene Upshaw Award (Brian Alderson, 2005, Christian Morton, 2006).

South Dakota Head Football Coach Ed Meierkort noted that Morton has been the best offensive lineman on one of the nation's best rushing teams.

"I am regularly impressed with Morton's performance. He has been dominating many times this season. I really feel he is one of the nation's elite Division II offensive lineman and the best in our league," Meierkort said.

A first-team All-North Central Conference selection, Morton played a key role on an offense that recorded 300 or more yards rushing three times, including a season-high 398 vs. Minnesota-Crookston. USD has had 240 yards rushing seven times in 13 games.

Morton has anchored the nation's fourth-best rushing attack (260.8 yards). In fact, Morton has helped USD gain 3,294 yards on the ground in 531 attempts for a per carry average of 6.2 yards. USD was third in the nation in average yards per rush and a half-yard better than the NCC's top rushing team Nebraska-Omaha at 5.58.

He is also a key contributor on the league's top scoring offense (32.8 ppg), which ranked 14th nationally. He was also part of the fourth-best offense in the nation (434.3 total offense yards).

Morton has started 29 straight games at center including five games as a freshman. He has recorded 59 pancake blocks in 13 games and has 110 in his two seasons as a starter. Morton has graded out at 90 percent or better each game and was named USD's lineman of the week nine times in 13 weeks.

Morton has been a lead blocker for USD's All-American running back and Harlon Hill Trophy finalist Stefan Logan, who had four consecutive, 1,000-yard rushing seasons, which tied an NCAA record. Additionally, Morton has led the way to help Logan tie another NCAA Division II record with 34 career 100-yard rush games.

Morton also anchored the offensive line that allowed just 17 sacks all season, which ranked 17th in Division II.

Both Morton and McFadden will be placed on a ballot with the six representatives from the other three regions to be considered for the top lineman in Division II for the year 2006.

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