Oct. 14, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. -
Western Carolina senior linebacker Rock Williams was named the Steak `n Shake Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Week as selected and released today by the staff of SouthernPigskin.com. Williams compiled a career-high 24 tackles including 17 solo stops, while also forcing and recovering a fumble in Saturday's road loss at The Citadel.
Williams was playing in his first game against a triple-option offense after a nagging ankle injury sidelined him in both the Wofford and Georgia Southern games. He had recorded 14 tackles by halftime including eight hits in the second quarter alone - seven of which recorded as solo tackles.
It is just the second time since 2000 that a WCU defender had 20-or-more tackles in a single game, joining former linebacker Quintin Phillips who had 20 tackles, also against The Citadel, during the 2007 season. The 24 stops are the most for a Catamount since Marcus Bradley - who is WCU's single-season leader for tackles with 145 - had 24 total hits against Georgia Southern in the record-setting 1997 season.
Williams' 24 tackles were also the most-ever by a Citadel opponent.
Tied at 17 apiece in the third quarter and coming on the heels of a Catamount interception that setup The Citadel with its best starting field position of the afternoon at the WCU 27-yard line, Williams helped turn the tide back in favor of the Purple & Gold. On the second play from scrimmage following the turnover, the linebacker ripped the football out of the hands of Bulldog quarterback Ben Dupree on a keeper around the left edge, negating what was a nine-yard gain and giving his offense the football back.
Freshman quarterback Troy Mitchell and the Catamounts turned the takeaway into six points on an eight-play, 82-yard drive capped by senior Michael Vaughn's second rushing TD, a 24-yard romp to put WCU ahead, 24-17.
According to available records on Sunday afternoon, Williams' 24 tackles are the most by a single player in a game at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level this season to date, while matching Boston College's Nick Clancy at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) who had 24 combined hits against Northwestern back on Sept. 15. With a career-best 17 solo stops, Williams also holds the most at the FCS level and is tied with LSU's Kevin Minter who was also credited with 17 solo stops at the FBS level in a loss at Florida on Oct. 6.
A native of Howell, Mich., Williams leads the Catamounts with 69 tackles this year coming in just five games - an average of 13.8 tackles per game. He has recorded double-digit tackles in four of his five starts this season. Williams is tied for the team lead with freshman defensive back Sertonuse Harris with three forced fumbles after his theft of Dupree on Saturday afternoon.
With 280 career tackles, Williams is just 26 hits shy of 10th place in the Catamounts' career record books currently held by WCU Hall of Famer, Steve Yates (306, 1971-74).
Western Carolina (1-6, 0-5) remains on the road next Saturday as it travels to Elon, N.C., to face the Phoenix (2-4, 0-3 SoCon), which was idle this week. The Catamounts look to snap a six-game slide in the series with Elon, seeking their first road win in the series since 2004.