The most successful football season in 20 years for the University of Missouri-Rolla has resulted in the Miners earning several of the top honors from the Independent Football Alliance for the 2005 season.
Evan Gray, the Miners’ record-setting quarterback, has been named the top "Offensive Player of the Year" by the IFA, while linebacker Mario Gant was picked as the IFA’s "Defensive Player of the Year." In addition, UMR head coach Kirby Cannon, who guided the Miners to a 7-4 record this fall – a four-game improvement from 2004 – was named as the alliance’s "Coach of the Year" for his efforts in his seventh year at the school.
Gray finished the season by setting 15 school records as he completed 302 of 525 passes (57.5 percent) for 3,583 yards and 39 touchdowns. The touchdown total tied the top mark during the regular season in NCAA Division II. During the year, Gray also broke a number of career records at UMR, including passing yardage with 5,597 yards, total offense with 5,469 yards and touchdowns with 59 – which in his 19 career games broke the NCAA Division II record for average scoring passes in a game. UMR’s passing offense ranks fourth in the nation at the D-II level. Gray threw for more than 400 yards on four occasions, with a high of 499 in UMR’s 45-3 win at Austin Peay when he started a three-game run with six touchdown passes in each of them. That performance also earned him a pair of national "Player of the Week" awards and one of his three IFA weekly awards during the year.
Gant, meanwhile, posted 142 tackles on the season which was the most by a Miner since 1992. He reached double figures in tackles on eight occasions, with a high mark of 24 in UMR’s season-ending 45-28 win over Butler. Of his 142 tackles, 65 were of the solo variety and he also had three tackles for a loss from his middle linebacker spot. Gant, who along with Gray was named to D2Football.com’s all-Southwest region third team, was a two-time recipient of the IFA’s "Player of the Week" award on defense as the Miners allowed their fewest points in a season since 1994. In addition, his career average of 10.59 tackles per game at UMR is the fourth-best mark in NCAA Division II history.
Gant ended up as the only defensive player to make the first team, but six other members of the offensive unit received first-team status. Wide receivers Ashton Gronewold and Brandon Landry, offensive linemen Lou Kuelker, Kyle Marshall and Jordan Preston, as well as placekicker Marc Armbruster earned first-team honors. Three others — running back Keenan Miller, defensive tackle Clarence Chaney and defensive back Rodrick McDonald — were second-team selections, while wideout Phil Shin, linebacker Andrew Cleveland and safety Nathan Williams were named honorable mention.