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College Football Awards 2015: Hackett, Fairbairn and Garnett earn honors

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A trio of the Pac-12's best players came home with some major awards on Thursday night, with the conference being honored with awards for the nation's best interior lineman, kicker and punter.

Stanford's Joshua Garnett, UCLA's Ka'imi Fairbairn and Utah's Tom Hackett were all honored at the annual Home Depot College Football Awards show in Atlanta, each taking home awards after stellar seasons in the Pac-12

Garnett established himself as one of the most dominant linemen in the nation, opening holes all season for arguably the nation's most dynamic athletes in Christian McCaffrey. The open space that helped McCaffrey break the NCAA's all-time single season record for all-purpose yards came courtesy of Garnett, the recipient of this year's Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman. He's the first Pac-12 player to earn the honor since Washington State's Rien Long won the award in 2002.

Garnett was a key leader and cog in an offensive line that helped McCaffrey set that all-purpose yards record and gave quarterback Kevin Hogan enough time and space to complete passes at a rate of 68.6 percent.

Hackett, meanwhile, once again brought home the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter. He's the 3rd player to win the award in consecutive years after averaging 47.8 yards per punt in 2015, including 20 punts of more than 50 yards and 24 of them pinning the opposition inside the 20 yard line.

And who was happiest to hear about it? His partner in crime on the Utes squad of specialists, kicker Andy Phillips.

Speaking of kicking bacon, when the game is on the line, you want to know that your kicker has your team's back. In Westwood, UCLA's Ka'imi Fairbairn did all year, and that's why he's the 2015 Lou Groza Award winner. The senior was spectacular this season, going 20-for-23 on field goals and nailing a 60-yarder against California, breaking the record for the longest FG in a Pac-12 conference game.

McCaffrey was a finalist for both the Maxwell and Doak Walker awards, both of which went to Alabama running back Derrick Henry. But the Heisman Trophy ceremony awaits and McCaffrey remains in the hunt for that.

His stats certainly support his candidacy - his 3,496 all-purpose yards broke the all-time NCAA single-season all-purpose yards record previously held by Barry Sanders. The fact that he helped lead the Cardinal to their 3rd Pac-12 championship in four seasons and a spot in the Rose Bowl doesn't hurt, either.

McCaffrey was also a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year, which also went to Henry. His teammate at Stanford, tight end Austin Hooper, was a finalist for the John Mackey Award. That honor went to his counterpart at Arkansas, Hunter Henry.

The 2015 Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday evening in New York City. McCaffrey will be joined by Henry and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

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