CHENEY, Wa. — Cal Poly running back Deonte Williams will remain one of the nation’s leading rushers despite the Mustangs’ 34-17 loss at Eastern Washington on Saturday, where the senior continued his ascent on the program’s single-season rushing list.
Though it was the second lowest rushing total of the season for a player ranking sixth in the FCS with 136.8 yards per game, Williams had 100 yards on 20 carries.
It was the seventh time in eight games the former Big Sky Newcomer of the Year had racked up triple digits. Williams had 63 yards in the first half alone.
“I really don’t care about the 100 yards,” Williams said. “I want to win. I’m a competitor, and I want to be sure I’m playing my best so we can get the win. We didn’t get the win, so 100 yards is irrelevant to me right now.”
For now, Williams remains focused on the No. 16 Mustangs (7-2, 5-1 Big Sky Conference) and their pursuit of a conference title and a first-ever playoff berth under fourth-year head coach Tim Walsh.
But by season’s end, Williams will be in some well-respected company. His rushing total against the No. 7 Eagles (7-2, 5-1 Big Sky) upped his season total to 1,195 yards, enough to move him past Bob Trudeau (1,180 yards in 1977) and into fifth place on Cal Poly’s all-time single-season rushing list.
James Noble leads the program with 1,578 yards in 2005, and trailing him are Louis Jackson, who had 1,424 yards in the 1980 Division II national championship season, and Craig Young, who had 1,380 yards in 1999. Former NFL Draft pick Gary Davis ran for 1,244 in 1975.
Williams’ current pace would land him at 1,461 yards, which would be enough to rank him second.
INJURY TO INSULT
A second-half drive where the Cal Poly offense was stuffed on fourth-and-goal from inside the
1-yard line was particularly deflating for the Mustangs.
With Eastern Washington already leading 31-10 late in the third quarter, Cal Poly’s slim hopes of a comeback seemed snuffed on the play.
But the drive was also memorable and equally crushing for another reason.
Senior center Geoff Hyde, who’s been a part-time starter since his true-freshman season in 2009, was lost to a knee injury a few plays earlier, leaving Cal Poly with two redshirt freshman fill-ins playing on the offensive line.
Stephen Sippel lined up at center after Hyde went down, and former Atascadero High standout Weston Walker came in at right tackle, where Mike Freeman and Karl Winkelman have already been lost for the year.
EVEN GOOD GOES BAD
Cal Poly did not have much to celebrate as penalties and turnovers marred offensive possessions where scores were needed and within reach.
On the other side of the ball, the Eastern Washington offense seemed unstoppable, scoring five times on seven first-half possessions. Even when the Mustangs did stop a second-half drive with a big play, it didn’t work out.
With the Eagles driving at the Cal Poly 47 and looking to build on a 24-10 halftime lead, Jordan Williams stepped in front of a Vernon Adams pass in the third quarter and picked it off.
Williams returned the interception 10 yards before Eastern Washington offensive lineman Brandon Murphy poked it out of his hands and onto the red turf.
Eagles receiver Brandon Kaufman jumped on it at the Mustangs’ 41-yard line and five plays later caught his second touchdown of the game, a 10-yarder that put the Eagles up 31-10.