SIOUX FALLS – Harlon Hill Trophy finalist Gabriel Watson and Gene Upshaw Award finalist Trey Pipkins of the University of Sioux Falls Football Team (7-4) have been selected to the first-team offense on the NCAA DII Associated Press All-American Team. The Associated Press announced their team on Wednesday, Dec. 12.
Watson, who led NCAA DII in rushing during the regular season, earned selection to his second All-American Team this year. Pipkins earned his third All-American honor and the first postseason honor. This is the first AP honor for both Watson and Pipkins and the first time that USF had two players named in the same year to the AP All-American team. Watson, who was named to the first team of the AFCA Team earlier, had 269 carries for 1,957 yards and 26 touchdowns and Pipkins had 234.5 knockdowns in his career and allowed just two sacks.
The selection of Watson and Pipkins gives USF 120 All-Americans in school history, including student-athletes selected to five straight Associated Press teams. A year ago, Dennis Gardeck was named to the first team defense. USF Offensive guard Antonio Green was named second team in 2016 while Solomon St. Pierre was a first-team selection in both 2014 and 2015. Watson and Pipkins were the only NSIC selections to the AP first team offense.
In addition to his two All-American honors (AP, AFCA), Watson was named the D2 Conference Commissioner's Association (D2 CCA) All-Super Region 4 Offensive Player of the Year. Watson, who was earlier named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Player of the Year, was also named to the D2CCA first team all-region squad.
Watson is the first student-athlete at USF to advance into the Harlon Hill finalist group and the first to be named D2CCA Super Region 4 Offensive Player of the Year. He had a school-record 11 straight games of 100 yards or more rushing while churning for a regular season NCAA-high and school single season mark of 1,957 yards on 269 carries with an NCAA DII-high 26 TDs. The 1,957 yards by Watson ranks second overall nationally but was the top total for the regular season. He still owns the top per game average of 177.8 yards per carry in DII.
In 2018, Watson had 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the first game he played at USF, which was a 27-24 win over Concordia-St. Paul in the home opener. A junior exercise science major, Watson followed up that opening game performance with games of 172 yards and 193 yards. Against Minot State, he accumulated 205 yards rushing on 15 carries with two touchdowns and played just one half.
Originally of Piedmont, Calif., Watson had a breakout season in his first year with USF. The first-team All-NSIC honoree set eight school records and averaged 7.3 yards per carry, which currently ranks seventh in DII. He was named the D2Football.com National Player of the Week after setting a single game USF record of 320 yards on 19 carries with five TDs against MSU Moorhead. A three-time NSIC Player of the Week, he recorded seven games of 150 yards or more with three games of at least 200 yards or more. Watson scored two or more TDs in a game eight times and had at least three TDs four times.
Pipkins, who has accepted an invitation and will participate in the 94th annual East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 19 in St. Petersburg, Fla., was one of the nation's top offensive lineman this season. Pipkins was recently named to the D2 CCA First Team offense.
A sports management graduate from Apple Valley, Minn., Pipkins led USF to a 7-4 record, including 5-2 in the South Division; a 37-11 record, an NSIC title in 2016, and top-10 rushing team in NCAA DII in two of his final three seasons. Pipkins, who finished third in the balloting for the Upshaw Award, is currently preparing for the NFL Draft in 2019.
One of four team captains for USF, Pipkins has been named to the Senior Bowl Watch List and two preseason All-American Teams - D2Football.com and The Podyum. This season, Pipkins, a three time All-NSIC honoree, was named first team all-league for the first time. He has been the leader on one of the league's top offensive line units. In 2018, he graded at 91.7 percent (651 positive reps in 710 plays) with 90.5 knockdowns.
Pipkins, who had 234.5 knockdowns in 43 career starts, has allowed just one sack this year and two in his career. An Academic All-NSIC performer in 2017, he has a 90 percent grade in 10-of-11 games with a season high of 96 percent vs Minot State and graded 94.5 percent against Wayne State, 92.4 percent vs No. 1 Minnesota State and 92.1 percent from Winona State, both road games.