Eastern hopes to keep focus at Idaho State
Coming off the immense high of their 42-37 football win in Missoula last Saturday leaves Eastern Washington on a perch perfect for a fall.
That’s something the Eagles will do their best to avoid when they visit Idaho State and former EWU coach Mike Kramer for Saturday’s Big Sky Conference game at Holt Arena.
No. 3-ranked Eastern will try for its fifth-straight win this week when the 6-2 Eagles face the 3-5 Bengals. ISU is 3-1 at home, two of those victories coming against Division II foes Dixie State and Western State. The Bengals split a pair of home Big Sky games falling to North Dakota 28-25 but beating Northern Colorado 40-26.
Kramer was Eastern’s head coach from 1994-99 and led the 1997 Eagles to the semifinals of the FCS playoffs. He was at Montana State after that from 2000-2006.
In the third year of Kramer’s tenure in Pocatello, however, Idaho State has gotten EWU head coach Beau Baldwin’s attention with some of their play this year.
“They took NAU into the second half,” he said of ISU’s wild 39-30 loss at Flagstaff to Northern Arizona (4-1 Big Sky, 6-2 overall) where Kramer’s club led 14-12 before imploding giving up 20 points in the first eight minutes of the third quarter.
Idaho State was just 2-9 and 1-10 in Kramer’s first two years at the helm, and Baldwin sees a noticeable difference in this year’s ISU squad.
“A lot of credit goes to Coach Kramer for the difference you are able to see one year to the next,” Baldwin said. “You see it in all facets of their team, and that says a lot about the development they have made. It’s going to be war and a great challenge.”
Eastern didn’t play Idaho State last season, and are 24-9 all-time against ISU. Eastern has won the last six meetings, and hasn’t lost to ISU since the Bengals won 34-30 in Pocatello in 2005.
“They’ve improved everywhere,” Baldwin said. “They’ve added a dimension of being able to run the ball and they’ve always been dynamic throwing the ball.”
Defensively they are playing so much better as a group, Baldwin said. “Their defense has really made leaps and bounds in terms of what they are doing schematically.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.