Besides four turnovers, Northern Colorado football coach Earnest Collins Jr. took away something even more important from the Bears’ season-opening 13-12 loss this year at UNLV.
“We knew in that first game that we were on the right track,” said Collins, now in his fourth – and so far most successful – season at his alma mater.
Six weeks later, the Bears are 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big Sky Conference, with a 24-17 win over Northern Arizona and a 43-38 loss to Sacramento State offering cause for optimism in a program that’s won just 10 conference games in 8 1/2 seasons.
“Our guys are starting to believe in one another, starting to trust one another,” said Collins, who will lead the Bears onto Roos Field on Saturday to face second-ranked Eastern Washington.
The Bears certainly trust their ability to take the ball away; they lead the nation in interceptions with 14, and their plus-12 turnover margin is five better than anyone else in the Big Sky.
“They beat a good NAU team and they play with tremendous passion,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said. “They create turnovers and it will be an absolute battle.”
Strong safety Kyle Griffin leads the pick parade with four, including an 84-yard return for a score that proved to be the winning points against NAU.
All it took was a few early completions for Eastern Washington quarterback Jordan West to feel at ease last week at Southern Utah.
West, a redshirt sophomore who was pressed into service after a foot injury to All-American Vernon Adams Jr., said he wasn’t nervous before the game.
“Going over everything (in the playbook) actually calmed me down and I got some sleep,” West said.
Eastern went three-and-out on its first series, which included a sack, but “after that, the heart started to slow and I could just play football,” said West, who finished 20 of 27 for 288 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
More importantly, the Eagles won 42-30, their 13th straight Big Sky win. Eastern trailed for most of the first half, but took the lead for good on West’s 15-yard TD pass to Kendrick Bourne 2 minutes before halftime.
While West lamented the pick “and a few incompletions that should have been completions,” EWU quarterbacks coach Zak Hill praised West’s ability to take some hits and hang in the pocket.
“I thought he played very effectively for us, and it’s nice having a game under his belt,” Hill said.
Kramer gets extension
Idaho State football coach Mike Kramer has been given a three-year contract extension, ISU athletic director Jeff Tingey announced Wednesday.
The deal keeps Kramer – the third-winningest coach in Big Sky Conference history – in Pocatello through 2017.
“Now we are beginning to see the fruits of coach Kramer’s vision for Idaho State football on the field,” said Tingey, with Kramer at his side.
“I believe in him and his vision for the program,” Tingey said of Kramer, who was the head coach at Eastern Washington from 1994-99.
Academically, the ISU football program has carried a 3.0 GPA or better in five of the last six semesters and the team has boasted one-year APR scores of 975 and 1,000 the last two years.
EWU red-zone ‘perfect’
Officially, the Eastern offense is 31-of-33 in the red zone this year, a not-too-shabby 94 percent. Unofficially, the Eagles are perfect.
Going into the UC Davis game on Sept. 27, Eastern was 19 of 19, but took a knee at the Davis 18 on the final play of the game.
The same thing happened a week later against Idaho State on Oct. 4, when the Eagles preserved a 56-53 win with a last-play kneel-down just inside the ISU 20-yard line.
Idaho State and Montana State set school records for total offense in victories last Saturday. Idaho State rolled up 770 yards of offense in a 66-14 win over Division II Simon Fraser. The 770 yards are the most by an FCS team this season. Montana State amassed a school record 737 yards of total offense in a 77-37 conference win over UC Davis. The 77 points marked the most points ever scored by the Bobcats against a Division I opponent and the second-most in school history. … Cal Poly quarterback Chris Brown became the first player in the Mustangs’ Division I history to rush for a touchdown, throw for a touchdown and catch a pass for a touchdown in a game. Brown accomplished the trifecta in Cal Poly’s 30-24 win over Weber State. … Road teams went 4-1 last week in conference games. Home teams are now 10-7 in conference games.
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