When asked about the next quarterback who will confront the Eastern Washington defense, linebacker Ronnie Hamlin chose his words carefully.
“We haven’t faced a guy like him before,” Hamlin said before practice Tuesday at Roos Field. “He’s accurate, and he has a great arm.”
The Eagles already know that about big-armed Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen, who led a near-upset of the eventual national champions in Cheney in 2010. In that game, Sorensen completed 34 of 53 passes for 434 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles were outgained 161-4 yards in the third quarter but scored a late touchdown to win 31-24.
“It was a battle,” Eastern defensive tackle Evan Cook said. “That’s the key – he’s the engine that keeps that car rolling.”
Sorensen doesn’t keep it rolling with his legs. But what the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Sorensen lacks in mobility is more than offset by one of the best arms in the Big Sky Conference. Through eight games, the BYU transfer has completed 198 of 326 passes for 2,159 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Last year he was the Great West Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year and also was a Payton Award Watch finalist after completing 288 of 425 passes for 3,143 yards and 17 touchdowns. He set an SUU record with his 425 attempts, while his 288 completions are fourth most in a season at the college in Cedar City.
“He’s helped us cover up a lot of deficiencies,” said Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb, whose club (3-5, 2-3 Big Sky) averages just 77.9 yards on the ground, next to last in the conference. “He’s not afraid to stand in the pocket and able to keep us competitive.”
This week, Sorensen is helping out the defensive staff as well as they prepare for Eastern’s Kyle Padron and Vernon Adams.
“He looks a lot like Padron as a traditional pocket passer,” Lamb said.
Last week, in a 27-22 loss to Weber State, Sorensen recorded his 11th career 300-yard passing game, throwing for 320 yards while completing 33 of 47 attempts.
“(He’s) one of the best in the nation, and more athletic, I think, than some people give him credit for,” EWU coach Beau Baldwin said.
The teams tied with Eastern atop the Big Sky standings also hit the road this weekend. Undefeated and No. 11 Cal Poly guns for its ninth straight win as it travels to Sacramento State. Since moving to Division I in 1994, this is the third time Cal Poly has started 7-0. No. 13 Northern Arizona travels to Northern Colorado, where the Lumberjacks hope to pick up a seventh straight win.
North Dakota set a school record with 660 passing yards in a 40-34 victory over Montana last weekend. North Dakota senior quarterback Branden Hanson threw for a Big Sky single-game record 660 yards, the second most in an FCS game. Hanson completed 42 of 61 passes with five touchdowns and three interceptions. At halftime, he had 410 passing yards and four touchdowns. His 660 yards broke the single-game Big Sky mark of 624 set by Weber State’s Jamie Martin in 1991 against Idaho State.
Four Big Sky teams are ranked in the top 14 of this week’s Sagarin Ratings. Cal Poly is ranked third among FCS teams and 82nd overall. Eastern Washington is fifth in the FCS and 86th overall. Northern Arizona is 10th, and Montana State is 14th.
Montana needs to win its final three games to avoid its first losing season since 1985. … Home teams won five of the six conference games last week. Road teams still hold a 16-13 edge in conference games. … There have been 22 300-yard passing games by 14 quarterbacks in the Big Sky this season. … Idaho State has allowed at least 52 points in five straight games. … EWU and Northern Arizona are tied for the national lead in lost fumbles with one. Southern Utah has lost just two fumbles. .. Cal Poly ranks second in the nation in third-down conversion percentage at 56.76 percent. Montana State is third at 56.53.