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Ewu Lives And Dies By Garske After Being Schooled By Montana, Growing Quarterback Tests Isu

OK, so a few warts have surfaced. Griffin Garske isn’t Troy Aikman or Steve Young. Heck, he might not even be Harry Leons - yet.

But Eastern Washington coach Mike Kramer loves his redshirt freshman quarterback just the same. And he can’t wait to see where the 6-foot-4, 217-pound Mead High School product takes his Eagles from here.

“When you watch him throw early in the ballgame and he’s wild high, you still know that in time - with a little more maturity and experience - he’s just going to be magnificent,” Kramer said of Garske, who was prematurely shoved into a starting role three weeks ago when Leons, a junior, suffered an apparent season-ending knee injury in a 20-13 victory over Montana State.

“He really has some strong gifts, but he’s also still maturing into the kind of calm, cool quarterback he’s going to need to be.”

Garske, who has been touted as Eastern’s quarterback of the future ever since he reneged on the letter of intent he signed with Utah State out of high school, has made some humbling mistakes in his first two starts.

The biggest came in last Saturday’s 34-30 homecoming loss to No. 2-ranked Montana, when he stared down his intended receiver long enough for Grizzlies free safety Blaine McElmurry to sprint out of deep zone coverage, make the interception

and return it 44 yards for a touchdown that gave UM its first lead of the day.

Still, the Eagles (5-2 overall, 2-2 in the Big Sky Conference) have won two of the three games Garske has started and come into today’s 1 p.m. game in Pocatello, Idaho, against Idaho State (3-3, 1-2), ranked 22nd among Division I-AA schools.

In addition, they are one win away from giving Kramer his first winning season in his three years as a collegiate head coach.

How they fare against injury-riddled ISU will probably depend a great deal on Garske and how much he learned from last week’s disappointing loss to Montana.

“We learned from it,” Garske claimed. “That’s the way it is in any sport. You put yourself in position to win at the end - just like we did against Montana.

“But every time you get yourself in that position and don’t get it done, you better learn from the loss.”

Garske, who has completed 42 of 95 passes for 696 yards and seven touchdowns, admits there has been no shortage of learning opportunities.

“The toughest thing has been having to learn all of the different defenses,” he explained. “They’re a lot more complex at this level than they were in high school.”

Kramer has learned patience in the throes of unpredictability that comes from having to rely on a rookie quarterback.

“But Griffin’s time will come,” he said. “This kid can really, really play, and - in time - he’ll prove it.”

Game notes

It’s homecoming for Idaho State, which comes off a bye week hoping to stretch its winning streak over EWU to three… . Kramer said he is “99-percent certain” that Leons, who quarterbacked the Eagles to a 4-1 record before rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, will not return this season… . Senior Scott Bond, a former scholarship player, who was talked into returning to the team after Leons was injured, is progressing well, according to Kramer, and remains the No. 2 quarterback… . QB Jason Lewis, a freshman walk-on from Mead, was cleared academically last week by the NCAA, but Kramer said it would take “a catastrophe of major proportions for us to use Jason at this point in the season.” … ISU has lost AllAmerican running back Alfredo Anderson (broken ankle) and his backup, Kennedy Nkeyasen (broken foot), to season-ending injuries.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Eagles at Idaho State

MEMO: Changed from the Idaho edition.

This sidebar appeared with the story: EAGLES NEED BACKUP JUST TO GET AIRBORNE Coach Mike Kramer insists the word “forfeit” was never uttered. But the thought of such a reality undoubtedly passed through his mind Friday afternoon during the 6-1/2 frantic hours it took for him, several other Eastern Washington officials and the vice president of the Seattle Seahawks to rescue the aborted travel plans of his Eagles football team. Kramer and an 87-person travel party that included 48 players and a group of boosters, was scheduled to depart Spokane International Airport at 1 p.m. on a nonstop flight to Pocatello, Idaho, for today’s 1 p.m. game at Idaho State. But because of mechanical problems, the Great American Charters plane that was to have picked them up never made it out of Nevada, where the charter company is based. As a result, Kramer and several other athletic department administrators were forced to canvas the country with phone calls in an effort to secure another plane. “It was a heckuva save,” athletic director John Johnson admitted, after an Alaska Airlines 727-400 was located - with a huge assist from Seahawks vice president Gary Wright - in Seattle and prepped for an unscheduled late-night flight to Spokane and on into southeastern Idaho. If all went well, the Eagles were to arrive at 2 a.m. MDT, 11 hours before kickoff. - Steve Bergum/Staff writer

Changed from the Idaho edition.

This sidebar appeared with the story: EAGLES NEED BACKUP JUST TO GET AIRBORNE Coach Mike Kramer insists the word “forfeit” was never uttered. But the thought of such a reality undoubtedly passed through his mind Friday afternoon during the 6-1/2 frantic hours it took for him, several other Eastern Washington officials and the vice president of the Seattle Seahawks to rescue the aborted travel plans of his Eagles football team. Kramer and an 87-person travel party that included 48 players and a group of boosters, was scheduled to depart Spokane International Airport at 1 p.m. on a nonstop flight to Pocatello, Idaho, for today’s 1 p.m. game at Idaho State. But because of mechanical problems, the Great American Charters plane that was to have picked them up never made it out of Nevada, where the charter company is based. As a result, Kramer and several other athletic department administrators were forced to canvas the country with phone calls in an effort to secure another plane. “It was a heckuva save,” athletic director John Johnson admitted, after an Alaska Airlines 727-400 was located - with a huge assist from Seahawks vice president Gary Wright - in Seattle and prepped for an unscheduled late-night flight to Spokane and on into southeastern Idaho. If all went well, the Eagles were to arrive at 2 a.m. MDT, 11 hours before kickoff. - Steve Bergum/Staff writer


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