WSU’s Hercules Mata’afa named AP Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and first team All-American by SI.com

How good is WSU’s Hercules Mata’afa? So good he was voted to not one, but two spots on the Associated Press’ All-Pac-12 first team defense.

Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press, which also named him a first-team All-Pac-12 selection at both defensive tackle and defensive end Thursday morning.

Mata’afa’s nomination to two positions on the All-Pac-12 first team defense was not a mistake, according to the AP. Mata’afa had the majority votes at both positions by a landslide. The Cougars’ junior pass rushing extraordinary from Lahaina, Hawaii finished the regular season as the Pac-12 leader in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (21.5)

In addition, Mata’afa was the only WSU player named a first team All-American by Sports Illustrated  Thursday morning.

Mata’afa also made The Athletic’s All-American second team defense, with that media outlet naming WSU offensive guard Cody O’Connell to its All-American first team offense.

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SI.com noted, “Mata’afa landed in the top 10 nationally with 9.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss—and he missed two games and sat out virtually the entire second half of a third after a targeting ejection in the Apple Cup.”

Perhaps it helps cushion the blow from being passed over for the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year award that went to UW’s Vita Vea on Tuesday.

Mata’afa seemed a little miffed about losing out to Vea Tuesday afternoon, tweeting his stats (21.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks) with a questioning face emoji.

Mata’afa led a list of six WSU players on the AP’s All-Pac-12 team.

Mata’afa, strong safety Jalen Thompson, right tackle Cole Madison and left guard Cody O’Connell all garnered AP All-Pac-12 first team honors.

Wide receiver Tavares Martin Jr. and kicker Erik Powell were named to the AP’s All-Pac-12 second team.

The AP named Stanford running back and Heisman Trophy finalist Bryce Love the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, while USC’s Clay Helton won Coach of the Year honors. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate was named Newcomer of the Year.

Here’s the full list of the AP’s All-Pac-12 teams,

AP All-Pac-12 First Team


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