Willamette Football Places 14 Players on All-Northwest Conference Team

Three Bearcats Selected First Team All-NWC, Four Receive Second Team Honors

By Timothy Walsh and Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University placed 14 players on the 2013 All-Northwest Conference Football Team in voting by the NWC head coaches. Three Bearcats earned First Team All-NWC honors at four different positions, while four received Second Team recognition, and seven were chosen for Honorable Mention.

Overall, 94 players from the seven conference teams received All-NWC honors. Twenty-six athletes each were chosen for the First Team and the Second Team, with 44 athletes receiving Honorable Mention.

Willamette's Tyson Giza (Sr., Salem, OR/Sprague HS) was the only athlete named to the First Team on both offense and defense. Offensively, Giza was selected as a kick returner. On defense, he was recognized for his accomplishments at cornerback.

The Bearcats' other First Team selections were junior Derek Traeger (Mount Angel, OR/John F. Kennedy HS) at wide receiver and junior Jack Nelson (Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) at linebacker.

WU athletes named to the Second Team on offense were Josh Dean (Sr., QB, Dana Point, CA/Dana Hills HS), Taylor Wyman (Jr., RB, Bellevue, WA/Issaquah HS), and Ryan Springer (Jr, OL, Eureka, CA/Eureka HS). Wyman also was named Honorable Mention All-NWC as a punter this year.

Tait Stephens (Sr., FS, Sammamish, WA/Skyline HS) was chosen Second Team All-NWC on defense.

Named Honorable Mention from the Bearcat offense were Dylan Jones (Jr., RB, Santa Maria, CA/Ernest Righetti HS), Beau Smith (Jr., WR, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS), and De'Zhon Grace (Fr., WR, Castro Valley, CA/Bishop O'Dowd HS).

In addition to Wyman at punter, players chosen Honorable Mention from the WU defense were Corey Walsh (Sr., LB, San Pedro, CA/San Pedro HS), Wyatt Briggs (Sr., DL, Scio, OR/Scio HS), Kyle Davey, (Sr., DL, Atwater, CA/Buhach Colony HS), and T.J. Matsumoto (Sr., FS, Union City, CA/James Logan HS).

The NWC head coaches chose quarterback Josh Yoder from Linfield College as the NWC Offensive Player of the Year, named Linfield linebacker Dominique Forrest as the NWC Defensive Player of the Year, and selected Linfield Head Coach Joseph Smith as the NWC Coach of the Year.

Willamette finished the year 7-2 overall, 4-2 in the NWC (3rd place). For the second year in a row, the Bearcats' only losses came against nationally-ranked NCAA Division III playoff participants Pacific Lutheran and Linfield. Overall, WU is 15-4 (.789) in two years under head coach Glen Fowles.

First Team All-Northwest Conference

Tyson Giza Tyson Giza (Sr., CB) was named First Team All-NWC at defensive back and kick returner this season. He previously earned Second Team All-NWC honors at defensive back in 2012 and was an Honorable Mention selection in 2011.

This year on defense, Giza registered 42 total tackles, including 33 unassisted stops and 2.0 tackles for loss. He led the Bearcats and ranked second in the NWC with four interceptions, which he returned a total of 70 yards. In addition, Giza topped the Bearcats with 11 pass break-ups.

During his career, he provided WU with 110 tackles, as he made 77 unassisted tackles and 33 assists. He intercepted 13 passes and broke up 24 passes. He recovered two fumbles, forced a fumble and blocked a kick.

Giza ranked 16th in NCAA Division III -- and led the NWC -- in kickoff returns this season with an average of 28.7 yards on 20 returns. He returned two kickoff for touchdowns covering 85 yards against Hardin-Simmons University and 84 yards against Pacific Lutheran University. He also averaged 9.7 yards on seven punt returns.

In his career, Giza gained a Willamette record 1,537 kickoff return yards. He broke the previous record of 1,348 set by Jose Green ('11) from 2007-10.

During his final game as a Bearcat at the University of Puget Sound on Nov. 16, he played offense, defense and special teams. He caught six passes for 129 yards and a touchdown, earned four tackles and a pass break-up on defense, and returned two kickoffs a total of 62 yards.

Derek Traeger Derek Traeger (Jr., WR) led Willamette's offense with 67 pass receptions for 808 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was first in the NWC in touchdown catches and was second in yards and receptions. He hauled in more than 10 passes four times, including a career-high 12 catches against Lewis & Clark College on Oct. 19.

He earned a career-high 171 yards on 11 receptions versus Whitworth University on Oct. 5. His longest catch of the season covered 74 yards for a touchdown against East Texas Baptist University on Sept. 28.

Traeger also scored by catching a two-point conversion pass in a 33-28 win over Sewanee. He finished the year second on the team with 68 points.

In three seasons at Willamette, he has played in 25 games. His career totals include 85 catches for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Jack Nelson Jack Nelson (Jr., ILB) was named First Team All-NWC for the second year in a row, after recently earning First Team Capital One Academic All-District honors.

He was the NWC's top tackler this season, as he contributed 112 total stops, with 67 solo tackles and 45 assists at inside linebacker. He ranked ninth in NCAA Division III in total tackles per game and was seventh in solo tackles per game.

He tied for the team lead with 9.5 tackles for loss (37 yards), including 2.5 quarterback sacks (21 yards). He also intercepted two passes, broke up two passes, recovered two fumbles and forced a fumble. He recorded at least 10 tackles in all nine games.

Nelson's three-year totals for the Bearcats are impressive. He has accumulated 211 total tackles on 128 unassisted stops and 83 assists. He has intercepted three passes and broken up six passes. He has achieved 16.0 tackles for loss and 6.0 quarterback sacks. He was named NWC Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week once this season and twice in 2012.

He produced a career-high 19 total tackles against Lewis & Clark on Oct. 13, 2012. He has reached double-digit tackles 12 times in the past 15 games.

Second Team All-Northwest Conference

Josh Dean Josh Dean (Sr., QB) received Second Team All-NWC honors for the second year in a row. Earlier this year, he was named First Team Capital One Academic All-District.

Dean completed 192 of 303 passes (63.4%) for a total of 2,489 yards in 2013, while also carrying the ball 119 times for 493 yards and four touchdowns. His 28 passing touchdowns led the NWC and ranked eighth in NCAA Division III. Additionally, Dean ranked ninth in Division III in points responsible for per game (21.8), and was second in the NWC in passing yards per game (276.6). Dean set a Willamette record with seven touchdown passes in the Bearcats' 56-30 win at Lewis & Clark College on Oct. 19.

Last year, Dean set all of Willamette's single season passing records, completing 273 of 422 passes for 3,345 yards and 34 touchdowns. He concluded the season ranked third in the nation in NCAA Division III in passing yards, fifth in passing yards per game (334.5), sixth in total offense per game (351.6 yards) and sixth in completions per game (27.3).

He concluded his career with 468 completed passes on 729 attempts for 5,877 yards and 62 touchdowns.

Taylor Wyman Taylor Wyman (Jr., RB/P) was named All-NWC at multiple positions this year. As a running back, he was chosen Second Team All-NWC after leading the Bearcats with 555 rushing yards on 87 attempts (6.4 avg.). Wyman's team-leading 10 rushing touchdowns ranked third in the NWC, while his average of 61.7 rushing yards per game ranked fourth. He set a career high with 140 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 15 carries at Puget Sound on Nov. 16.

Wyman was also selected Honorable Mention All-NWC as a punter. This season, he boomed 44 kicks for 1,779 yards (40.4 avg.), including a 66-yard punt against Lewis & Clark that fell just one yard short of a school record. 

In three seasons at Willamette, Wyman has played in 28 games, rushing 151 times for 990 yards and 15 touchdowns, caught 19 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns, and punted 54 times for 2134 yards (39.5 avg.). Additionally, he has taken 49 kickoffs for 2,696 yards (55.0 avg.).

Ryan Springer Ryan Springer (Jr., OL) started seven games for Willamette at center this year. His quality blocking helped WU rank second in the NWC in points per game (41.1) total yards per game (471.9), passing yards per game (283.4), rushing yards per game (188.4), first downs per game (23.8). Overall, he has played in 15 games during his career.

Tait Stephens Tait Stephens (Sr., FS) started all nine games for Willamette in 2013, achieving a career-high 55 total tackles, including 39 solo stops. Both totals ranked second on the team. He also achieved two interceptions, five pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble in 2013.

Last year, Stephens earned 25 tackles (16 solo), two tackles for loss, two interceptions, and two pass break-ups. He accumulated 91 tackles (63 solo) in his four years playing for the Bearcats.

Honorable Mention All-Northwest Conference

Dylan Jones Dylan Jones (Jr., RB) was chosen Honorable Mention All-NWC this season despite missing three games due to injury. He was named Second Team All-NWC in 2012. This year, he was third on Willamette's rushing chart with 319 yards on 58 carries (5.5 avg.). He scored four rushing touchdowns. He also caught six passes for 85 yards.

In 2012, he carried the ball 158 times for a career-high 716 yards and seven touchdowns, while catching 21 passes for 223 yards and two more scores. During three seasons at WU, he has rushed for 1,258 yards and 16 touchdowns on 247 carries. He has gained an additional 310 yards on 28 pass receptions.

Jones established a singe-game best against Lewis & Clark on Oct. 13, 2013, when he rushed for 168 yards on 24 carries.

Beau Smith Beau Smith (Jr., WR) caught 17 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns this season. He averaged 18.3 yards per catch.

Against Sewanee on Sept. 14, he earned two touchdowns on pass receptions, including a 36-yarder for the winning score with 6:46 left. He caught five passes for 120 yards in Willamette's 21-17 victory over Pacific University on Nov. 9.

Smith has seen action in 18 games during his Willamette career. He has achieved 19 receptions and has scored five touchdowns.

De'Zhon Grace De'Zhon Grace (Fr., WR) was a key contributor on offense as a freshman this fall. He opened his career with 13 catches for 205 yards and a touchdown in WU's 64-34 win over Hardin-Simmons. Later, he grabbed nine receptions for 104 yards against Pacific Lutheran.

Grace played in all nine games. He concluded the year with 42 catches for 546 yards and four touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs for an average of 20.5 yards per return.

Corey Walsh Corey Walsh (Sr., OLB) ranked fourth on the team this season with 48 total tackles, evenly split between 24 unassisted stops and 24 assists. He also recorded 7.5 tackles for loss (32 yards) and 2.5 quarterback sacks (16 yards). He broke up two passes and forced one fumble.

During his Willamette career, Walsh played in 22 games and registered 65 total tackles. He earned 33 unassisted tackles and 32 assists.

Wyatt Briggs Wyatt Briggs (Sr., DL) recorded the top statistics of his career this season. He achieved 25 total tackles , while earning 14 solo tackles and 11 assists as a starting defensive end. He registered 4.0 tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks. He was credited with two quarterback hurries, one pass break-up and one fumble recovery.

As a Bearcat, he earned 38 career tackles, including 22 solo stops. He made 6.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

Kyle Davey Kyle Davey (Sr., DL) finished a solid career by earning 39 tackles this season with 25 solo stops. He made a team-leading 9.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, to go 7.5 sacks. His sack total ranked third in the NWC.

Davey played in 30 games at WU. He received a medical hardship waiver earlier in his career. He amassed 47 career tackles, including 37 unassisted stops. He made 11.5 tackles for losses and recorded 9.5 sacks.

T.J. Matsumoto T.J. Matsumoto (Sr., FS) made 36 tackles this year, including 19 unassisted stops, and achieved key interceptions in back-to-back games against nationally-ranked Pacific Lutheran and Linfield College. He earned 1.0 tackles for loss and three pass break-ups.

In his career, Matsumoto registered 47 total tackles, including 24 solo tackles, while appearing in 32 games. He played in all 19 games during the past two seasons.

COMPLETE LIST

2013 All-Northwest Conference
Football Team

Senior cornerback Tyson Giza intercepted 13 passes during his Willamette career. He also set a school record with 1,537 kickoff return yards.

Senior cornerback Tyson Giza intercepted 13 passes during his Willamette career. He also set a school record with 1,537 kickoff return yards.

Wide receiver Derek Traeger led the Bearcats with 67 catches for 808 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Wide receiver Derek Traeger led the Bearcats with 67 catches for 808 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Jack Nelson topped the NWC with 112 total tackles from his inside linebacker position. In three years at WU, he has earned 211 tackles.

Jack Nelson topped the NWC with 112 total tackles from his inside linebacker position. In three years at WU, he has earned 211 tackles.