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Big Sky notes: Ferris grad Cody Sorensen finds home in Idaho State defensive backfield

Idaho State Bengals safety Cody Sorensen hangs on to Utah State running back Joe Hill earlier this season in Logan, Utah. (Associated Press)
Idaho State Bengals safety Cody Sorensen hangs on to Utah State running back Joe Hill earlier this season in Logan, Utah. (Associated Press)

It’s been a season of happy returns for Idaho State safety Cody Sorensen.

Last week, it was his first collegiate interception return, a momentum-turning play that helped the Bengals to a 44-24 win over Sacramento State.

This week, Sorensen returns home: Saturday’s game at second-ranked Eastern Washington will be his first and only in the Spokane area since he helped Ferris win the State 4A title in 2010.

“I can’t wait, and I’m so excited to come back home and playing one of the best teams in the nation,” said Sorensen, whose ISU teammates include former Ferris players Drew Sharkey and Kurt Karstetter.

“This game is a great measuring stick,” the 21-year-old Sorensen said.

He could say the same of his father Paul, an All-America safety at Washington State in the early 1980s whose passion for the game rubbed off on Cody since fifth-grade Pop Warner ball.

“He’s been my biggest role model,” said Cody, who like his father exceeded expectations on the field. “I always heard stories about how passionate he is about the game, and then I got to experience that. He’s always been there for me, and he’s always been an inspiration.”

The paths were different, but followed the same thread: Both were undersized late bloomers who changed positions, got scant attention from college recruiters and made the most of their opportunities.

In Cody’s case, a position change his senior year from cornerback to safety made all the difference. A year earlier, he and the Saxons had a rough outing in the state title game against Skyline’s Kasen Williams. In 2010, Sorensen helped contain Williams in a 24-16 victory.

“He really came into his own that year, and I was very proud,” said Paul, who played two years of junior college ball in Northern California, at cornerback, running back and on special teams, and went on to play in the NFL. “I was on the field the whole time, and that’s what got me recruited to WSU.”

In Cody’s case, the choice was simple for a 5-foot-10, 175-pounder: Take a scholarship offer from Idaho State or walk on elsewhere.

Four years later, he’s a starting free safety on a 2-2 team that feels like it’s turning the corner – no small thanks to Cody. He played as a true freshman at strong safety in 2011 before a knee injury ended his season after eight games, then redshirted in 2012 – a blessing, as it turned out.

The break allowed more progress toward his degree in mechanical engineering and learning the Bengals’ defensive system.

The work paid off last year, as Cody played in all 12 games, registered 78 tackles and was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team.

“Cody’s a really smart kid, and he’s done a great job of being in the right position to help us succeed,” ISU coach Mike Kramer said. “He and (strong safety) Taison Manu have learned how to master the defense.”

Last week, the hard work paid off on the first play of the second half against Sacramento State. With ISU leading 24-17, Sorensen picked off Hornets quarterback Garrett Safron at the Sacramento State 47, returning it 44 yards to set up a two-score ISU lead the Bengals would hold the rest of the game.

“It’s great to be 1-0 in the Big Sky and get a great home win like that, not only for the players, but the entire coaching staff, and especially the fans,” Sorensen said.

Notes

Eastern Washington junior quarterback Vernon Adams threw two touchdown passes in the Eagles’ 37-14 win over UC Davis last Saturday to hike his career total to 95. Adams ranks fourth in league history and is one behind former EWU QB Matt Nichols and former Montana QB Dave Dickenson. Adams needs three to tie former Weber State QB Cameron Higgins for the all-time conference record. … For the fourth time since 2004, Idaho State has picked up back-to-back wins. The Bengals beat Sacramento State 44-24 at Holt Arena to improve to 2-2. Idaho State notched back-to-back wins over Division II teams in 2013. … Montana leads the FCS in average attendance at 25,423 fans per game. Montana State is fourth with an average of 18,955.

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