Big Sky Conference

MSU’s Flynn, three from EWU among 11 Big Sky standouts named to STATS All-America team



Offensive guard JP Flynn has been a staple on Montana State’s offensive line for the duration of his career, and for nearly that long he was a staple on preseason awards lists. On Tuesday, he made a national post-season list.

After starting 43 consecutive games, earning four All-Big Sky Conference honors and anchoring an inexperienced offensive line that blocked for the 17th-ranked rushing attack in the FCS, Flynn was named 2nd Team All-America by STATS released on Tuesday. The Bobcats averaged 212.0 rushing yards a game this season, with Flynn as the offensive line’s only senior and lone full-time returning starter. It marked the senior from Bettendorf, Iowa’s first post-season All-America award. He was a preseason All-America selection entering his junior season.

MSU senior guard JP Flynn on Montana state's senior day/ by Brooks Nuanez

MSU senior guard JP Flynn on Montana state’s senior day/ by Brooks Nuanez

“JP is very deserving of this honor,” Bobcat head coach Jeff Choate said in an MSU press release. “He’s a young man who is a very durable and consistent player who set records (for consecutive games played). I’m really happy for JP, and excited for the his future holds.”

Flynn joining Montana State’s all-time All-American honor roll extends a string of success for the Bobcat offensive line, which has now produces an All-American for the second straight season and the 12th time in the past 16 seasons. In that time, nine different Bobcat offensive linemen have become All-Americans, including senior John Weidenaar last season.

“It’s all about finding the right fit, the kids that embrace Bozeman and understand what Montana State University is about,” Choate said of the program’s legacy of tremendous offensive line play, “and it speaks to good coaching. (Former long-time offensive line coach) Jason McEndoo did an excellent job for many years, and Brian Armstrong did a great job this year.”

Choate was pleased with the development of MSU’s offensive line under Armstrong, a process that began in the spring and was spurred by Flynn’s absence. The senior captain tore his patella tendon in MSU’s 2015 season finale, missed spring drills but but never missed a start.

“JP was really a player-coach in the spring when he was injured,” Choate said. “When you look at how we ran the ball down the stretch this year, I think JP did a great job not just this fall but with his willingness to help in the spring.”

Flynn graduated from MSU last week with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering technology.

EWU wide receiver Cooper Kupp, pictured here last year, is a four-time STATS All-American/ by Brooks Nuanez

EWU wide receiver Cooper Kupp, pictured here last year, is a four-time STATS All-American/ by Brooks Nuanez

For the second-straight day, a trio of Eastern Washington players received All-America recognition with the release of the STATS list on Tuesday.

Senior wide receiver Cooper Kupp was named to the team for the fourth straight year, while sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud and senior defensive end Samson Ebukam earned recognition for the first time. Gubrud will be either a first team or second team choice, pending the outcome of the announcement of voting totals on Jan. 6 for the Walter Payton Award. Sam Houston State quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe will be either first or second team according to STATS once the Payton results are release. Ebukam was selected to the third team.

A total of 11 Big Sky Conference players earned recognition on the STATS list. Cal Poly junior fullback Joe Protheroe, the Big Sky’s leading rusher, and North Dakota junior safety Cole Reyes, the Big Sky’s Defensive Player of the Year, each earned first-team All-American honors from STATS. Southern Utah senior punter Tate Lewis and North Dakota sophomore kick returner John Santiago joined Flynn on the second team.

Weber State tight end Andrew Vollert, the Big Sky’s Newcomer of the Year, was a third-team selection. Cal Poly senior offensive lineman Matt Fisher and Northern Arizona senior defensive end Siupeli Anau joined Ebukam on the third team.

NAU defensive end Siupeli Anua (90) celebrates a sack of MSU quarterback Tyler Bruggman (11)

NAU defensive end Siupeli Anua  celebrates a sack against Montana State/ by Brooks Nuanez

Kupp also received recognition for the third time on the Walter Camp Football Foundation FCS All-America team (2013-2015-2016). He has now earned first team honors on all five teams which have been announced thus far – STATS, Walter Camp, American Football Coaches Association, Associated Press and College Sports Madness. He was an All-American for the fourth-straight season by STATS, AP and the AFCA, marking the first time a player has made the first-team for each of the organizations.

Gubrud and Kupp combined for a record-breaking season of offense for the Eagles. In all, Gubrud broke three FCS records, seven Big Sky marks and 15 school records. Kupp broke one all-division collegiate record, 15 FCS records, 11 Big Sky marks and 26 EWU records during his illustrious career. That duo finished in the top three in the voting for the Walter Payton Award presented this year by STATS, and the winner will be presented on Jan. 6, 2017.

Kupp led FCS in receiving yards per game (130.8), was second in receptions per game (9.0), and tied teammate Shaq Hill for the FCS lead in receiving touchdowns (17). Kupp had a Big Sky record 117 catches (sixth in FCS history) for 1,700 yards (fourth in FCS history) in just 13 games played this season, already ranking first and second, respectively, in school history.

His all-division record of 6,464 career receiving yards was set after a pair of early catches in the first quarter against Richmond on Dec. 10. He surpassed the NAIA record of 6,177 by Chris George of Glenville State from 1991-94 after surpassing NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III records earlier this season. His yardage, 428 receptions, 73 touchdown catches, 124.3 average yards per game, 31 games with at least 100 receiving yards and 1.40 average TDs per game were all FCS records.

Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud is pressured during EWU's game at No. 1 North Dakota State on Saturday/ photo courtesy of EWU athletics

Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud is pressured during EWU’s game at No. 1 North Dakota State on Saturday/ photo courtesy of EWU athletics

Gubrud is a 2014 graduate of McMinnville (Ore.) High School and passed for 5,160 yards, 48 touchdowns and a .677 completion percentage, and also rushed for a team-leading and EWU quarterback record 606 yards (4.5 per carry) and five more scores. He finished as the FCS leader in total offense at 411.9 per game, passing yards (5,160) and passing yards per game (368.6), and was second in points responsible per game (22.9), total points responsible for (320) and passing touchdowns (48). He was also third in completion percentage (.677) and third in passing efficiency (166.6).

Ebukam had a team-high 9.5 sacks this season to go along with totals of 71 tackles, 14.5  total tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, eight quarterback hurries, two passes broken up and an interception. He is a 2013 graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Ore.

He has 24 sacks in his career to rank sixth in school history, and 188 total tackles total in 53 games (38 as a starter). One of six Eagle co-captains for the 2016 season, he received second-team All-Big Sky honors in both 2014 and 2015, and first team accolades in 2016. He was a second team Freshman All-America selection in 2013.

Tyler Ingham Santiago

John Santiago/ by Tyler Ingham, UND athletics

Reyes continues to pile up the All-America honors as the North Dakota defensive back was named to the STATS FCS All-America first team on Tuesday. The honor is the fourth of the postseason for Reyes, who now has three first-team mentions (Associated Press, STATS, Walter Camp Foundation) and a second-team accolade (AFCA).

Joining the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year on the STATS team was sophomore John Santiago, who landed a spot on the second team as a kick returner. For Santiago, the All-America honor is the first of the season and third of his career after he was named to the 2015 STATS FCS and Associated Press All-America second teams as an all-purpose player.

Santiago equaled the school-record with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open UND’s win over Weber State on Oct. 29. He finished his second year as a collegian with 1,600 all-purpose yards, which were the second most among Big Sky players. Santiago is averaging 163.4 all-purpose yards per game in his career, which is the second best clip among active FCS players.

The last player to earn more than three first-team All-America honors in a season was wide receiver Weston Dressler, who secured five first-team nods following UND’s final season at the Division II level.

Protheroe rushed for 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns to lead a Cal Poly offense that piled up 344 yards per game on the ground.

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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