The Taiwan Jones Watch is nothing new for Eastern Washington football fans who waited anxiously for several weeks earlier this fall for the Eagles’ All-American junior running back to fully recover from the abdominal contusion that forced him to miss one complete game and parts of two others.
And now it is on again after the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Jones suffered a foot injury early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 38-31 overtime win over North Dakota State in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs at Roos Field.
Jones, who rushed for a career-high 230 yards and one touchdown before limping off the field after losing his footing and then fumbling the ball out of bounds on a run around the left end, was on crutches following the game.
His injury, according EWU’s head athletic trainer Brian Norton, was diagnosed as a “deep contusion” on Jones’ left foot, pending the results of X-rays that were to be taken today.
But there is a good chance it could be worse, judging from the comments of Jones, who said he had a “sharp pain” on the top of his foot every time he stepped on it.
“I’m going to try to go next week,” he said, “but we’ll just have to see how it goes.
“Right now, our people are pretty positive about it, but we don’t know for sure. We’re hoping it’s not broken. Maybe it’s just a real bad bruise.”
In Jones’ absence, the majority of Eastern’s ball-carrying duties fell on true freshman Mario Brown, who ran for just 15 yards on nine carries but could find himself starting in place of Jones in next weekend’s semifinal against defending national champion Villanova.
Record for Sherritt
J.C. Sherritt, EWU’s two-time senior All-American linebacker, had another huge game, during which he established himself as the Eagles’ career leader in tackles.
The 5-foot-10, 220-pounder from Pullman came into the game with 391 career tackles and needing just nine more to top Greg Belzer’s school record of 399. He finished with 15 tackles, giving him a career total of 406 – and the school record – while also recovering one fumble and forcing another.
The fumble that Sherritt forced on North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen in overtime was recovered by teammate Zach Johnson in the end zone to preserve the Eagles’ win.
“He does everything for us,” junior safety Matt Johnson, the twin brother of Zach, said of Sherritt. “He’s just always flying around the ball, and when you fly around the ball like he does, you’re going to make plays.
“He’s just a great player and a great leader.”
When asked to describe the game’s final play, which ended up being reviewed by NCAA replay officials, Sherritt said: “The defensive line spilled it outside, and I saw the quarterback coming at me. We met, I drug him to the ground and the ball popped out.
“It felt like I pulled him (down) on top of me, so I felt it was hard for his knees to get to the ground. Zach said he watched it, and he thought (the ball) came out before he was down, or got into the end zone.”
The fumble by Jensen that brought an end to Saturday’s game will probably generate a lot of discussion for some time to come.
Replays of Jensen’s overtime keeper from the 4-yard line seemed to show he had hit the ground before losing the ball. But NCAA replay official Bill Fette told an EWU official after the game there was no indisputable evidence on the video that would require overturning the fumble call that was made on the field.
North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl was diplomatic about the decision.
“The ruling on the field stood, so that’s the way it was,” he said. “I appreciate the replay system, and we were pleased that it was used today.”
But when asked if he had heard any comments from his assistant coaches stationed in the press box, who might have seen replays of the fumble, Bohl deferred.
“I think for me to make any comment like that is, obviously, very dangerous to do,” he said. “You guys need to understand (commenting) puts us on a pretty slippery slope.”
Renard on the loose
The numbers posted by EWU junior defensive tackle Renard Williams might not have been as impressive as those of teammate Sherritt, but Williams’ effort was enough to draw praise from Eagles head coach Beau Baldwin.
“Renard has been devastating to the opposition the last two weeks,” Baldwin said of the 6-2, 300-pound Williams, who finished with four tackles – including two sacks – while also forcing a fumble and breaking up a pass. “His stat line will never be able to fully say what he does to disrupt an offense.
“He was in the backfield causing havoc, and you just always have to know where No. 98 is when he’s playing like that.”