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Hercules Mata'afa named to freshman all-american team

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The WSU defensive end's first year campaign got some love from the national media.

Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The USA Today's Freshman All-American team was announced Thursday, and Cougar redshirt freshman defensive end Hercules Mata'afa was named to the list. Mata'afa was joined by some of the country's elite newcomers, including UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen and USC linebacker Cameron Smith.

Mata'afa, while not a starter on defense this year, commanded a considerable amount of playing time in the defensive line rotation, and often made the most of it. The defensive end has six sacks on the season, with the first two coming in the Cougars 34-28 loss to Cal.

His sack total tied him for the team lead, and was the sixth best number posted in the Pac-12. Of all the defensive lineman selected to the freshmen team, only Mizzou's Terry Beckner Jr. has more sacks than Hercules.

His numbers speak for themselves, and Mata'afa deserves this honor even if he doesn't fit the prototype for a freshman all-american. He didn't come in as a four or five star prospect, and his offer list pales in comparison to Rosen's. But the Maui native has proven to be a play maker since he arrived in Pullman. Last season he was a star on Thursday nights and this year he made plays on Saturdays

Mata'afa projects as a starter next year, as the Cougs lose both of 2015's starting defensive ends to graduation. After another offseason training he will likely come back a bit heavier, with hopefully a minimal reduction in speed. As a sophomore the sky will be limit for Mata'afa, who will be one of the premier returning pass rushers in the conference. Hopefully we see even more plays like this in 2016.

Basketball:

Vandals do little things right, hold off Cougars for 78-74 win - Spokesman.com - Dec. 10, 2015
Perrion Callandret scored 25 points and Victor Sanders chipped in 20 as Idaho defeated Washington State 78-74 Thursday night at the Cowan Spectrum.

Football:

USA TODAY Sports Freshman All-America team
College football's next wave of stars begin their careers on the USA TODAY Sports Freshman All-America team, which features a collection of first-year talent from each of the five major conferences.

Cougars coach Mike Leach revises recruiting philosophy - Spokesman.com - Dec. 10, 2015
The bowl practices, All-America lists and other post-regular season ephemera currently occupying headlines mask something currently happening at Washington State that will have a much more lasting impact for the Cougars.

WSU Cougars offensive QC assistant Joel Filani takes WR coaching job at North Texas | The Seattle Times
Washington State offensive quality control assistant Joel Filani is leaving to become the receivers coach at North Texas under Seth Littrell.

For WSU football, bowl game is financial windfall for assistant coaches and staff | The Seattle Times
Getting a bowl bid signifies a successful season, the extra bowl practices help with player development, and the bowl experience is often a welcome reward for players after a long season. For the coaching staff, it usually means a nice holiday bonus.

Pac-12 top five games of the season - Pac-12 Blog- ESPN
We look back at the best five games in the Pac-12 in 2015, with Stanford's late-season win over Notre Dame leading the way.

The Empire strikes back this morning ... or something like that | The Spokesman-Review
From a new name for our local indoor football franchise to one of the longest-running college basketball rivalries in the nation, there is a lot to get to this morning. So let’s get to it. Read on.