Vea is the Huskies' first defensive player of the year since Jason Chorak in 1996.
First, Vita Vea got the Apple Cup victory. Tuesday, he took the Pac-12’s top defensive honor away from Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa.
Vea, the Huskies’ 340-pound defensive lineman, has been named the Pac-12’s Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year, the first UW player so honored in 21 years.
Defensive lineman Jason Chorak in 1996 was the last Husky to win the conference’s defensive player of the year award.
Mata’afa, the Cougars’ junior defensive lineman, appeared to be the front-runner to win the award heading into the Nov. 25 Apple Cup. During the regular season, Mata’afa led the Pac-12 in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (21.5).
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But it was Vea’s dominant performance in the Huskies’ 41-14 thrashing of the Cougars that seems to have sealed the player of the year distinction. Vea had seven quarterback pressures on WSU’s Luke Falk in the Apple Cup, despite facing regular double teams.
Mata’ata had just two tackles in the Apple Cup and was ejected for targeting after his helmet-to-helmet hit on UW’s Jake Browning in the third quarter.
Pac-12 of the year awards are determined by a vote of league coaches.
The Pac-12 Networks’ Yogi Roth last week polled coaches around the league about who they would select as their defensive player of the year. “And everyone I talked to said (Vea) was just a game-wrecker,” Roth said. “His numbers don’t necessarily reflect that, and that to me is the definition if you want to (be) a dominant defensive player. … Nobody consistently changed the game like he did.”
The Pac-12’s defensive award capped quite a day for Vea on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, he was named to the all-Pac-12 first-team defense for the first time and then, in a vote of Pac-12 players, he was named the winner of the Morris Trophy, presented to the league’s top defensive lineman. He’s UW’s first Morris Trophy winner on defense since D’Marco Farr in 1993. (UW’s Chad Ward won it on offense in 2000.)
Tuesday morning, Vea also joined Mata’afa as one of five finalists for Polynesian Football Hall of Fame’s national player of the year award.
A junior from Milpitas, Calif., Vea anchored a UW defense that leads the Pac-12 in rushing defense (92.3 yards allowed), total defense (277.4 yards allowed) and has allowed the fewest points (14.5 per game) in the conference since 2008 (USC, 9.0).
Behind Vea, the Huskies gave up just eight rushing touchdowns on the season. He had 38 tackles (26 solo, 12 assisted) in 12 starts, with 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Vea is widely expected to declare for the NFL draft after the Huskies’ play in the Fiesta Bowl, and many considered him a potential top-10 pick next spring.
Stanford running back Bryce Love was named the Pac-12’s offensive player of the year, and Stanford coach David Shaw was named coach of the year.
UW’s Pac-12 defensive players of the year:
1990 — Steve Emtman, dl
1991 — Steve Emtman, dl
1992 — Dave Hoffmann, lb
1996 — Jason Chorak, dl
2017 — Vita Vea, dl
— UW Football (@UW_Football) December 6, 2017