Eastern Washington’s Mike Kramer thought he knew Montana State’s Cliff Hysell as well as any of his Big Sky Conference football coaching peers.
That was before the normally ultra-conservative Hysell let Bobcats quarterback Rob Compson throw the ball 53 times in a 28-26 non-conference loss at Southwest Texas State two weekends back.
Now Kramer’s not so sure.
But he is banking on Hysell to retreat to his comfort zone and keep the football on the ground this afternoon when his Eagles (4-0 overall, 2-0 in the Big Sky) invade Reno H. Sales Stadium to face MSU (2-1, 1-0) in a 12:05 game.
“I think their game against Southwest Texas was just an aberration; a result of what Southwest Texas was trying to do to them defensively by forcing them to throw,” Kramer said this week. “Last week, when they played Idaho State and threw the ball 16 times and completed seven (in a 14-13 win), that’s the Montana State we’re preparing for.”
The Bobcats and Eagles are two teams that prefer the run as their main offensive staple, which means today’s game should be a straightforward, physical affair that is decided by the behemoths on the line of scrimmage rather than the skill position players.
And Kramer wouldn’t want it any other way.
“There’s something beautiful about the sport when guys are pushing guys,” said the former standout offensive lineman at Idaho. “I love the part when you get eight guys working together trying to push the line of scrimmage up the field, and I know Cliff feels the same way. There’s not going to be a lot of trickery.”
Surprisingly, Montana State has thrown the ball 107 times and rushed it 89.
Freshman Lathian Tyler, junior Travis Wright and sophomore Erick Kinnaman have all lined up and run behind bruising fullback Travis Cormany, but none averages more than 50 yards per game.
Eastern has shown remarkable balance offensively. The Eagles boast the Big Sky’s most efficient passer in senior Harry Leons, who has completed more than 62 percent of his passes while throwing for 893 yards and 10 TDs. But they also feature two of the league’s top running backs in Rex Prescott, who is averaging 71.5 yards per game, and backup Mike MacKenzie, who is averaging 116.5.
Eastern has won the last six meetings and has a 15-5 edge in the series… . Eagles’ defensive tackle Avont Grant has recovered sooner than expected from the knee sprain he suffered in the second game of the season and played several snaps in last Saturday’s 35-11 win over Weber State.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Eagles at Montana State