AZUSA, Calif. – Senior Luke Winslow, juniors Anthony Diggs and Nick Tavaglione and freshman Ben Buys received individual season honors during the Azusa Pacific football team banquet as announced by head coach Peter Shinnick.
Winslow, a 3-year starting quarterback out of Seattle, Wash., was named team MVP after completing 126-of-207 passes for 1,946 yards and 18 touchdowns in 9 games of the 2002 season. A model of consistency, Winslow threw for over 200 yards in 6 games, 4 of which he also had 3 TD strikes. Perhaps his most impressive number though came in the fact that he threw just 2 interceptions the entire season. The last remnant of Azusa Pacific’s 1998 NAIA championship team, Winslow leaves Azusa Pacific with numerous school records including most career passing yards (6,610), most career completions (490), most career touchdowns thrown (48) and highest career completion percentage (.586).
Defensive ends Anthony Diggs and Nick Tavaglione shared co-Defensive MVP honors. The 2 transfers were the cornerstones of a rebuilt Cougar defense that came on strong over the final 4 games of the season, allowing the foe to average just 207 yards in total offense and 11 points over the course of those contests. Diggs, a transfer from Antelope Valley College, finished the season with 47 tackles (18 solo), 6 sacks, 6 pass deflections and 2 fumble recoveries, one that he returned 76 yards for a touchdown at Southern Oregon.
Tavaglione, who resumed his career after sitting out last season at Eastern Washington, collected 46 tackles (11 solo), which included a team-high 10.5 sacks, more than the entire 2001 Cougar team collected as a whole (9). Tavaglione wasted little time making his presence known, posting a season-high 9 tackles in the season-opener against San Diego, including a single-game best of 3 sacks. For his effort he was named NAIA National Defensive Player of the Week. Tavaglione, who also led the team with 16 tackles for loss, additionally had 9 tackles and 1 forced fumble in the game at Southern Oregon.
After sitting out 2 years with an assortment of injuries, Buys returned to the gridiron for his first football action since his 1999 senior season at Denver Christian High, and there appeared to be little rust as the burly back went on to be named offensive MVP. In 9 games, Buys rushed for a team-high 855 yards on 172 carries, averaging 5 yards a carry. He scored 16 touchdowns, second only to the legendary Christian Okoye, for single-season bests at Azusa Pacific. Buys tallied 4 100-yard rushing games, including a career-best 185-yard effort in the second game of the season at nationally-ranked Pacific Lutheran. In that contest, Buys scored 4 touchdowns, including one with 18 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and tallied a pair of 2-point conversions, including the game-winner in the third overtime of a 44-42 Cougar victory. He was named NAIA Offensive Player of the Week for his play in that game. Buys also scored 4 TDs in the win over Humboldt State and rushed for 130 yards on just 17 carries while scoring 3 TDs in the victory at Chapman.
Senior defensive end LaRon Gordon was named most inspirational. True freshmen Rudy Carlton (quarterback) and Brian Davis (tackle) were honored as the offensive and defense scout team MVPs, respectively.
Seniors T.J. Woods, Joey Mastrosimone, Winslow and Gordon were given the “Captain” awards.
The players of the 2002 Azusa Pacific football team voted on all team awards. The Cougars went 9-1 during the season and were ranked No. 16 in the final NAIA Coaches Poll.