Known for one of the most prolific passing offenses in NCAA D-III, the Puget Sound football program made strides in both its rushing offense and overall defense during the 2017 season. The Loggers ranked among the top 10 teams in the country for passing offense in both 2015 and 2016, but the 2017 campaign generated a more balanced approach.
The Loggers recorded the program's most single-season rushing yards since the 2009 season, and the most rushing touchdowns since 2008. Paul Thomas led the ground attack with 313 of Puget Sound's 891 rushing yards, and six of its 16 rushing touchdowns. Vance Wood ran for five rushing touchdowns and 196 yards. Duncan Varela (147) and Tanner Diebold (146) nearly matched each other in ground production.
Diebold's ground game and arm made him one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in recent Puget Sound history. He ranked second in the Northwest Conference for passing yards per game (240.2), and was named an All-NWC Honorable Mention. Diebold had four games with at least 300 passing yards: 322 at La Verne; 313 vs. Occidental; 318 vs. Lewis & Clark; 347 at Whitworth.
All-NWC Second Team selection Dustin Harrison was often on the receiving end. He led the NWC in both receiving yards per game (74.8) and receptions (66). Harrison finished the season with three 100-yard receiving games: 129 at Pacific; 115 at Whitworth; 100 vs. Willamette. The senior finished his collegiate career with 14 receptions against George Fox. Offensive lineman Zach Losach joined Harrison on the All-NWC Second Team.
On the other side of the football, three more Loggers earned All-NWC honors: Todd Blakely (Honorable Mention); Jason Clayton (Second Team); Zackary Teats (Second Team). The trio led the Puget Sound defense to 21 takeaways, which ranked third in the NWC.
Teats led all of NCAA D-III with 2.7 passes defended per game, and Clayton followed closely with 2.6. Clayton was named the NWC Student-Athlete of the Week for defense following the Loggers' 14-13 home win over Willamette (Oct. 28). He single-handedly kept nine points off the board by intercepting a pass in the end zone and blocking a chip-shot field-goal attempt. In additions to his All-Conference nod, Clayton was nominated for the Cliff Harris Award, which recognizes the top defensive player from NCAA Division-II, NCAA Division-III, and NAIA programs.
Blakely and Braden Ash combined to form arguably the most formidable defensive-end duo in the NWC. Blakely (10) and Ash (12.5) combined for 22.5 tackles for a loss. Linebacker Keanu Songcuan also played a significant role and matched Ash's 12.5 tackles for a loss. In the NWC, only Puget Sound and George Fox had three defensive players with at least 10 tackles for a loss.