LINDSBORG – Their approach is as simple as it is devastating to defenses trying to slow Kansas Wesleyan’s irrepressible wide receiving corps.
“See ball, catch ball. That’s our motto as receivers,” said Stevie Williams (SR/East Los Angeles, Calif.), the ringleader of KWU’s stable of uber-talented wide outs. “If it’s in the air it’s ours. (Isaiah) Randalle, great quarterback, when he throws the ball up to us that’s our motto.”
Eren Jenkins (FR/Chicago, Ill.) grabbed the spotlight against Bethel a week earlier, catching 11 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in the Coyotes’ 31-24 victory of then No. 10-ranked Bethel.
Saturday night it was Williams’ turn to dazzle the multitudes as he snagged six passes for a staggering 266 yards and five touchdowns as No. 12 KWU steamrolled Kansas Conference rival Bethany 54-0 at Anderson Stadium.
“It depends on the play call and who the defense is really keying on,” said Williams, who was doused with a bottle of water, complements of Jenkins, during his postgame interview. “Last week Eren Jenkins had a great game, I felt like today they were keying on him so I had to step up.”
“First off I want to say it couldn’t have been done by a person, a better leader, a better human being,” Wesleyan coach Myers Hendrickson said of Williams. “He’s come back this year and his leadership, his purpose off the field – what he’s doing in his classes – has been incredible. He does everything right.”
It was the Coyotes’ seventh consecutive victory over the Swedes, the 16th in the last 21 games and the second shutout in three years.
Randalle, who threw for 405 yards against Bethel and was named the KCAC’s Offensive Player of the Week, was just as good against the Swedes, completing 23 of 37 passes for 401 yards and six touchdowns.
Williams and Randalle brought the offense to life with 2:53 left in the first quarter when they connected on a 48-yard touchdown pass – Williams outrunning the secondary to get open – that made it 9-0.
Randalle then found Jenkins for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 2:06 left in the half for a 16-0 lead and preceded the game’s pivotal sequence.
Bethany went three-and-out and punted on its next possession. Randalle deftly drove the Coyotes 60 yards in six plays – the final 32 yards to Williams, who caught a pass in the middle of the field on a crossing pattern, raced to the far sideline, turned up field and scored for a 23-0 edge with 29.9 seconds remaining.
“That really ignited us going into halftime,” Hendrickson said.
Williams, who has 24 receptions and eight touchdowns this season, caught three more scoring passes in the third quarter – the first a 75-yarder on the third play of the second half, skirting the sideline after catching the ball at midfield and racing into the end zone. He then caught a 21-yarder with 7:03 left in the quarter and a 56-yarder with 1:35 left that increased the lead to 44-0.
KWU didn’t have much success running the ball against Bethany’s 3-3 front (102 yards) but opened the door for monstrous passing success.
“That’s kind of like our offense,” Williams said. “If you stop the run, we’re going to pass on you and if you try and stop the pass we’re just going to keep running. Today they tried to stop the running and the passing game was wide open.”
KWU’s defense was equally impressive as it has been all season. Bethany finished with just 197 total yards – 103 passing and 94 rushing – and the Coyotes had five sacks. Julian Urioste (FR/Portales, N.M.) led the charge with eight tackles followed by Tony Brown (JR/Austin, Texas) and Devante’ Gabriel with seven apiece.
Bethany missed a 40-yard field goal in an attempt to avoid the shutout with 5:14 left.
End Cole Parker (JR/Orland, Calif.), who had six tackles and a sack, said the defense is improving each week.
“Every day in practice we’re continuously pushing each other because that’s how you grow as a team,” he said. “If you’re not treating each other with a little tough love every now and then you’re not going to get better.
“We have a lot of dedicated people on defense, it’s a special defense.”
Parker said a shutout was the goal going in.
“They scored on Southwestern and Avila and we told ourselves ‘No, they don’t get to score on us,'” he said. “We’re going to prove to the nation again and again and again that we’re here and we’re here to stay.”
“1962 was the last shutout of Bethany before 2019 so we felt like we could do that again this week,” Hendrickson said. “Matt Myers (defensive coordinator) had an incredible defensive plan … and the players executed and played with incredible energy throughout the whole night.”
The Coyotes are finally back home for a game against Saint Mary at 1 p.m. next Saturday at Graves Family Sports Complex. The Spires (1-2) demolished Friends 55-7 Saturday night in Leavenworth.
*PHOTOS BY TANNER COLVIN*