IDAHO STATE AT WASHINGTON STATE
Time: 2 p.m. (PST) Saturday. TV: None
2010 records: WSU (2-10, 1-8 in Pac-10); Idaho State (1-10, 0-8 in Big Sky)
Last week: Season opener for both.
Last time: First meeting.
The line: None.
What it means for WSU: In a lot of ways, the Cougars, who built optimism over the final three games of last season and in preseason camp, could not have picked a better opponent to open the 2011 season. Idaho State is coming off a horrible season, one that cost coach John Zamberlin his job. The Bengals averaged 15.6 points per game while giving up 33.3. And they are a FCS school, a level below WSU, a FBS school. So the Cougars should be able to work out any kinks and still post an easy victory. But if that doesn’t happen, all the optimism is blown away. WSU already has received one piece of good news this week. The NCAA granted the school’s appeal Monday, ruling senior defensive tackle Brandon Rankin is eligible to play this season.
What it means for ISU: The guy who replaced Zamberlin? Former Eastern Washington and Montana State coach Mike Kramer, whose most recent job was an off-field coaching position in Pullman. Kramer, who is 77-75 in eight years as a head coach, will bring a new attitude to Pocatello, as well as a new look. That starts with his quarterback, junior college transfer Kevin Yost, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder who threw for 2,500 yards last year at Glendale CC in Southern California. The Bengals have little to lose moving up in class in the opener and it should be expected Kramer will have them playing at an emotional level.
Key matchup: Idaho State receiver Rodrick Rumble vs. WSU cornerback Damante Horton.
The Bengals did’t run the ball at all last season, averaging just 56 yards per game and 2.1 yards per carry. In their most recent scrimmage, the offense also highlighted the passing attack, with five touchdown tosses. Two of the scoring passes went to Rumble, who Kramer calls Idaho State’s favorite receiver. They also came despite the defense keying on stopping the Oak Harbor, Wash., product, who caught 32 passes last season and averaged 14.5 yards per catch. Horton, who played just seven games as a freshman last year due to a knee injury, had an outstanding preseason camp and was the Cougars best cover corner nearly every day. The 5-10, 174-pounder from Oakland, Calif., needs to make the 6-2, 201-pound Rumble work for every catch.