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.
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 definitely struggled early on this season,” said Williams, who went into the game 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 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 unsportsmanlike 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 words prior to that play, so I think that might have played a role in it,” Williams said. “I’ve just got 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.”
Brother to brother
The old backyard passing combination of Mitchell-to-Mitchell was officially reunited during Eastern’s win over WSU 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 brothers had done that since they were throwing the ball around in the backyard at their home in Katy, Texas.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Bo Levi, a senior. “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 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 attend 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.
Jordan Talley, Eastern’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/Fathead.com 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).