No. 3 Eagles wary of Idaho State
Bengals will be playing for their sacked coach on Saturday
To Beau Baldwin’s way of thinking, Idaho State didn’t need any extra motivation heading into this weekend’s Big Sky Conference football showdown against his Eastern Washington University Eagles at Roos Field.
But ISU got it during the weekend when it was announced that fourth-year head coach John Zamberlin will be relieved of his command following Saturday’s regular-season finale for both teams, which kicks off at 1:05 p.m.
And now Baldwin, who was an assistant under Zamberlin for six seasons (1997-2002) at Central Washington University, is even more concerned about the cellar-dwelling Bengals (1-9 overall, 0-7 in the Big Sky) than he was before.
“I figured it was going to be a challenging game, regardless, and for a number of reasons,” Baldwin said when asked how the coaching change in Pocatello might affect ISU’s effort on Saturday.
“I think Idaho State, in a number of areas, has been playing really good football of late. It wasn’t by accident that they took Montana to overtime (before losing 23-20) and it wasn’t by accident that they barely lost to Weber State (16-13).
“And now, with this having happened, I’m sure they’ll come in here and do everything they can to send John out in the right way.”
Baldwin admitted Zamberlin’s dismissal hit him hard.
“I’ve never had a mentor like him lose a job,” Baldwin explained. “It’s not easy to see, because I know that Coach Zamberlin is a great coach, and I know the staff he has at Idaho State is a great staff.
“But even more than that, they’re great people.”
Baldwin added he wasn’t surprised to hear that Zamberlin wanted to coach his team’s final game of the 2010 season, in spite of the disappointment he must have felt from being shown the door.
“It didn’t surprise me in the least,” he said. “We had a lot of great moments together at Central, but like everyone, we had some setbacks, too. And whenever we did, John was ready to come back swinging, and that’s what he preached to his players all the time.
“I wouldn’t expect him to do anything else but come back swinging, and finish the season.”
Reaching new heights
With a couple of top-5 teams suffering losses last weekend, Eastern Washington moved up from No. 5 to No. 3 this week in both The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 and FCS Coaches Poll.
The rankings are the highest ever for the Eagles, who turned back Southern Utah 31-24 in a nonconference game at Roos Field on Saturday.
Montana State, which was idle last week, jumped up to No. 8 in both polls, while Montana, by virtue of its 27-17 nonconference home win over North Dakota, climbed from No. 13 to No. 11 in the TSN rankings and from No. 17 to No. 14 in the coaches poll.
Eastern senior cornerback and kickoff returner Jesse Hoffman was named a Big Sky co-special teams player of the week for his contributions in Saturday’s win over Southern Utah.
Hoffman not only returned a kick 82 yards for a touchdown, but also intercepted two passes, broke up four and had a hand in six tackles, one a sack. He lost out on being named the defensive player of the week to Sacramento State defensive end Zack Nash, who registered a BSC single-game record five sacks in the Hornets’ 45-17 win over ISU.
Hoffman shared the special teams honor with Northern Colorado’s Dominic Gunn, who returned six kicks for 132 yards in the Bears’ 35-30 win over Portland State.
Higgins gets it done
Despite being listed as questionable because of a bad knee for Saturday’s game against Northern Arizona, Weber State senior quarterback Cameron Higgins not only started the contest, but also hit wide receiver Joe Collins with a 64-yard touchdown pass on the Wildcats’ first play from scrimmage.
The touchdown toss was the 97th of Higgins’ career and moved him ahead of EWU’s Matt Nichols and Montana’s Dave Dickenson and made him the Big Sky’s career leader in that category.
Montana State freshman quarterback Denarious McGhee has been added to the Walter Payton Award Watch List. McGhee ranks third nationally in passing efficiency (156.7) and sixth in total offense (296.7 yards per game). … Idaho State has won its final game of the season the last two years. … EWU continues to be the highest-ranked Big Sky team in the Sagarin ratings. The Eagles are 77th among all NCAA Division I teams and fifth against FCS teams.