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Bison offensive lineman Cody Mauch in rare air on FCS 'Watch List'

North Dakota State senior on elite list of candidates for the Walter Payton Award

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North Dakota State's Cody Mauch celebrates with family after the win over Montana State during the FCS title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — North Dakota State had a player added to the "Watch List" of the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the best offensive player in Division I FCS football. And it wasn't a quarterback.

Senior left tackle Cody Mauch will be up for consideration for an honor that was won previously by Bison quarterback Trey Lance in 2019. Former NDSU quarterback Easton Stick was in the discussion in 2018 finishing third in the balloting. Defensive end Kyle Emanuel won the Buck Buchanan Award that goes to the best defensive player in the FCS in 2014.

The only other NDSU offensive lineman named to the "Watch List" was Joe Haeg in 2015. Haeg finished 13th in the voting that season.

Stats Perform, which covers FCS football, oversees the Payton Award. Mauch, from Hankinson, N.D., previously was named to the "Watch List" for the Reese's Senior Bowl slated for Feb. 4 in Mobile, Ala. Fullback Hunter Luepke was named to the same list before the season began.

“Offensive linemen have been a rarity on the 'Watch List,' perhaps more so than they should," said Craig Haley, who covers the FCS for Stats Perform. "The near flawless play of a lineman such as Cody Mauch probably validates that point.”

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Since 2010, only offensive lineman Ben Ijalna from Villanova and Trevor Penning from Northern Iowa were Payton Award finalists. Former Bison left tackle Dillon Radunz was slated to be on the "Watch List" in August of 2020 but changed his plans because of the pandemic.

Mauch has won two Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week awards this season. The Bison, 5-2, are averaging 246.0 yards rushing per game, which is tops in the Valley and fifth in the FCS, and are second in fewest tackles for loss allowed (2.86 per game) and third in quarterback sacks allowed (0.71 per game).

The Payton Award was first handed out in 1987. Fifteen of the last 16 winners have been quarterbacks with the exception of Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp in 2015.

Mauch, a second team All-American last year, is the second offensive lineman on this year's list along with Mark Evans II of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. With the regular season just over halfway completed, there doesn't appear to be a bona fide front runner for this year's Payton. Quarterback Tim DeMorat from Fordham is leading the FCS in passing yards and Monmouth running back Jaden Shirden is the top rusher with 1,013 yards.

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