Dec. 11, 2012
HOUSTON – Seven Houston players were named to the Phil Steele All-Conference USA Team that was released Tuesday afternoon. Four of the seven received first-team honors in Jacolby Ashworth, Phillip Steward, D.J. Hayden and Richie Leone.
A linebacker with 47 consecutive starts, Steward led the league and was 14th nationally with 11 sacks. The senior led Conference USA and was fourth nationally with five forced fumbles. He was second in the league and ninth nationally with 19 tackles for loss.
The Missouri City, Texas, native led Houston and was ninth nationally with 128 tackles. Steward also had three interceptions, three pass breakups, one fumble recovery and 10 quarterback hurries.
Hayden was second in the league with four interceptions despite only playing nine games after suffering a life-threatening tear of the inferior vena cava in the heart from a collision in practice. The defensive captain returned two of his interceptions for touchdowns, both returns over 75 yards.
Prior to his injury, just 45 of 362 pass attempts (12.4%) from UH opponents went Hayden's way. Of the 45, just 11 were completed, representing just 5% of the 216 completions from UH opponents with Hayden in the lineup. The senior also had eight pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Leone led Conference USA and set a Houston single-season record with an average punt of 45.6 yards including a conference-best 20 punts over 50 yards and four over 60 yards with a career-long 77-yard punt. Placed 18 of his 60 punts inside the 20-yard line including nine inside the 10-yard line. Just 21 punts were returned with opponents calling for 24 fair catches and just six touchbacks on the year. Also handled kickoff duties for Houston with 25 touchbacks on 71 kickoffs this season.
A 2011 second-team All Conference honoree, Ashworth helped lead the league's No. 2 offense along the line at right guard. He started at the position in 10 games after switching from left tackle the first three years of his collegiate career. Ashworth ended his career with 39 starts along a line that was second in the conference with 18 sacks allowed (1.6 per game) and in total offense (479.6 yards per game). The Lufkin, Texas, native helped pave the way for four 100-yard rushing games from Sims, the league's No. 3 rusher, on the season.
Sims led Houston with 851 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns to go along with 37 receptions for 373 yards and three TDs. The junior finished third in Conference USA with 94.6 rushing yards per game, third in scoring with 9.3 points per game and second in all-purpose yards with 136 yards per game despite missing three full games and the second half of three others with injuries. Sims compiled four 100-yard rushing games and one 100-yard receiving game this season.
Mathews finished third in Conference USA and 20th nationally with 17 tackles for loss and fourth in the league and 12th nationally with 126 tackles on the season. The Houston native was also eighth in the league with six sacks for a loss of 46 yards and had eight games this season with at least 10 tackle. Mathews also had two forced fumbles, five pass breakups and nine quarterback hurries.
McMillian was forced to step up as Houston's No. 1 corner following the season-ending injury to Hayden and finished tied for the conference lead with five interceptions including an interception in all three games that Hayden missed. McMillian also finished with six pass breakups on the season along with 51 tackles.