EWU’s Williams makes presence known

EWU defensive lineman Renard Williams appeared to be back in top form last weekend against Weber State. (Christopher Anderson)
EWU defensive lineman Renard Williams appeared to be back in top form last weekend against Weber State. (Christopher Anderson)

There was a much-anticipated, and welcomed – for Eastern Washington University football fans, at least – Renard Williams sighting at Roos Field last weekend.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time for a struggling EWU football team that was trying to snap a four-game losing streak against a physical Weber State team, dedicated to punishing opponents with its power running game.

Williams, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound senior defensive tackle and consensus preseason All-American who ranks No. 8 on Eastern’s career sacks list with 19.5, had been all but invisible during the Eagles’ disappointing 0-4 start.

But in last Saturday’s 27-21 Big Sky Conference win over WSU, he made himself impossible to ignore by becoming a fixture in the Wildcats’ backfield.

And while Williams numbers – four tackles, including two for losses and one-half of a sack, along with two quarterback hurries – weren’t all that impressive, his overall effort was.

“I definite struggled early on this season,” said Williams, who went into Saturday’s showdown with just nine tackles and one sack, “so this was big game for me.

“I had a lot of people counting on me, and asking ‘Where are you? When are you going to show up? We need you to be the Renard of last season.’ So that’s who I tried to be out there.”

Part of being Renard again meant the former South Kitsap prep standout did his share of celebrating his biggest tackles with his signature salute to Eastern fans in the stands. And one of those post-tackle celebrations nearly cost the Eagles in a big way.

With his team leading 24-7 early in the second half, Williams broke through to drop Weber running back Tanner Hinds for a 4-yard loss on third down, setting up an apparent Wildcats punt from the EWU 39-yard line. But after making the tackle, Williams launched into a prolonged celebration that drew an unsportmanlike conduct penalty and gave WSU a first down at Eastern’s 24.

The ’Cats scored three plays later to cut the Eagles’ lead to 24-14, and Williams was understandably a bit more subdued the rest of the game.

“Me and that ref had some word prior to that play, so I think that might have played a role in it,” Williams said, when asked about the potentially devastating penalty. “I’ve just go to watch getting too excessive with celebrating, I know, but I tend to do that after every big play.

“I did tone it down after that, though, because I can’t cause my team too many of those kinds of penalties.”

Eastern coach Beau Baldwin spoke to Williams after the penalty, but did not make a big deal out of it.

“I told him to just be smart,” Baldwin said, “but at the same time, he’s an emotional player and you don’t want to take all of that emotion away. The penalty hurt, but when you have an emotional guy like Renard making a big play, that kind of thing can happen.”

Baldwin seemed more interested in the way Williams made life miserable for Weber’s offense.

“I saw them in their backfield quite and bit, and it was awesome to see,” he said. “And I think we’re going to see even more of it. “We’re going to see Renard down there at Northern Arizona (in Flagstaff on Saturday) raising havoc, too.

“I can’t wait.”

Brother to brother

The old backyard passing combination of Mitchell-to-Mitchell was officially reunited during Eastern’s win over WSU on Saturday when Eagles quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell connected with his older brother Cory on an early second-quarter pass play that resulted in a 7-yard gain.

It was the first time the two brothers had been able to do that since they were throwing the ball around in the backyard at their home in Katy, Tex.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Bo Levi, a senior and the youngest of the two. “We’ve been talking about it, and finally got to do it.

“(Cory) made two good catches, and I thought he played great. Now it just about getting him more comfortable and working him into the offense more.”

Cory Mitchell, a redshirt freshman, and Bo Levi both played football at Katy High School, but Cory graduated in 2006 – two years before his younger brother – and the two were never on the field together until this fall.

Cory went to work right out of high school and did not attended college. But after Bo Levi transferred to Eastern in the spring of 2010, he decided to join his brother in Cheney, and redshirted as a member of the football team last fall.

His two catches on Saturday were the first of his college career.

Ratings update

Sacramento State’s 31-21 loss to previously 4th-ranked Montana State last Saturday, dropped the Hornets, who had been ranked No. 25, out of both of the two major Football Championship Subdivision polls and leaves the Big Sky with just two ranked teams this week.

MSU, on the strength of its win over Sac, moved up from fourth to third in both The Sports Network/ and FCS Coaches’ polls, while Montana, a 55-28 winner over Northern Colorado last weekend, jumped from 19th to 16th in the TSN/ rankings and from 16th to 14th in the FCS Coaches’ top 25.

Third and shorts

Jordan Talley, Eastern Washington’s freshman running back, is one of 15 players who have been named to the watch list for the Jerry Rice Award that is presented annually by The Sports Network/ to the top Football Championship Subdivision freshman in the country. … Portland State was called for a Big Sky single-game record 21 penalties in last weekend’s 42-38 win over Idaho State. The previous mark of 19 was set by Idaho in 1970. … PSU’s Cory McCaffrey leads the nation in rushing (169.7 yards per game) and scoring (18 points per game), while Idaho State’s Rodrick Rumble leads all FCS receivers in receptions per game (11) and receiving yards per game (151.4).

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