GWU defense places 5 on All-Big South first team
After concluding its best season since 2003, the Gardner-Webb football team was rewarded for its efforts.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (7-5, 2-3 Big South), who finished fourth in the conference, landed 11 on the All-Big South football team — including seven on the first team.
Only league champion Coastal Carolina and Liberty had more All-Conference selections than the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Gardner-Webb's defense led the conference in eight different defensive categories and set a new league record by allowing just 296.8 yards per game, had five on the first team, including three of the four defensive line positions.
Defensive end Shaquille Riddick was runner-up for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award, finishing just three votes behind incumbent Quinn Backus of Coastal Carolina. Riddick was the top vote getter on the defensive front after setting a Big South record with 8.5 sacks, finishing second nationally in tackles for loss per game and leading the nation with 109 negative yards recorded. He is the lone Football Championship Subdivision member on the Ted Hendricks Award Mid-Season Watch List — an award given annually to the nation's top defensive end.
Preston Pemasa became a four-time All-Big South Conference selection, earning a spot on the first-team defense at defensive end. The 6-foot-2, 254-pound senior was also a first-team All-Big South choice in 2010 and 2011. Pemasa finished his career with 46.5 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks. He totaled 49 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in 2013 – helping Gardner-Webb lead the league as a team in quarterback sacks.
O.J. Le’iatua Mau earned first-team All-Big South honors on the defensive line. Mau emerged as an All-America candidate himself after finishing the season with a career-high 54 total tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks and four quarterback pressures.
Linebacker Tanner Burch earned first-team All-Big South honors for the second season in a row after finishing second in the league with 107 total tackles. It marked the second consecutive season with at least 100 hits for the 6-foot-3, 241-pound junior. Burch has totaled 237 stops, 16.0 tackles for loss in 32 career games at Gardner-Webb.
Cornerback Keon Williams was also a first-team All-Big South choice at the position. The 6-0, 170-pound senior finished with 36 total tackles (24 solo) and picked off a career-high four passes (43 yards, TD) and broke up nine more passes.
Kenny Cook (Cross Hill, S.C. / Clinton HS) was the lone Gardner-Webb representative on the All-Big South first-team offense.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound redshirt junior finished his second season with the program by leading the Big South in receptions (76), yards (1,008) and touchdowns (8). Cook is the first Gardner-Webb receiver since Rodney Robinson in 1992 to cross the 1,000-yard mark and only the second in the school’s football history to do so. Cook’s 76 receptions are the second-most in school history as well.
Jordan Day was named first-team All-Big South at punter and was a second-team selection as a placekicker, capping his lone college football season. Day led the Big South in punting average with 39.1 yards per attempt and in net punting average for the season. He pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 17 times, forced 18 fair catches and boomed seven punts at least 50 yards.
Running back Juanne Blount, tight end Mike Estes, linebacker Chad Geter and long-snapper Hudson Smith all earned second-team honors.
Gardner-Webb sports information contributed to this report