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Big Sky notebook: Idaho State’s new QB Michael Sanders finding his groove

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 14, 2015

Idaho State's quarterback Michael Sanders (10) looks to pass during against Cal Poly on Oct. 3. After a slow start, Sanders is finding his groove in time for key Big Sky contest against Eastern Washington on Saturday. (AP / AP)
Idaho State's quarterback Michael Sanders (10) looks to pass during against Cal Poly on Oct. 3. After a slow start, Sanders is finding his groove in time for key Big Sky contest against Eastern Washington on Saturday. (AP / AP)

Idaho State football coach Mike Kramer paid Eastern Washington counterpart Beau Baldwin the ultimate compliment Wednesday.

“Beau has set a pretty high standard … we want to be more Beau-like,” said Kramer, referring to Baldwin’s talent for developing quarterbacks and making Eastern’s passing game the envy of the Big Sky Conference.

That could be the difference in the programs, both of which fielded all-Big Sky quarterbacks last year; eighth-ranked Eastern (3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Big Sky) hasn’t missed a beat since Jordan West took over for Vernon Adams Jr., but ISU (2-4 and 1-2) has struggled to replace Justin Arias.

His replacement, junior college transfer Michael Sanders, got off to a rough start in games at FBS schools Boise State and UNLV, but had a breakthrough in last week’s 37-31 win at North Dakota.

“In the second half he was starting to find his stride,” Kramer said of Sanders, who led the Bengals from 16 points down to beat 23rd-ranked UND. In that game, Sanders was 32 for 49 for 427 yards and four touchdowns; in the five games before that, he was only 89 for 161 for 11 scores and seven picks.

“Looking at the games on film, you can see he’s progressing,” EWU linebacker Miquiyah Zamora said “You can’t take him lightly because he’ll hurt you.”

Meanwhile, West leads the conference and the nation in passing efficiency while going 123 for 169 for 1,767 yards, 19 TDs and just three picks.

Numbers aside, Kramer said, “I really like the way their quarterback is playing … they’re the complete package.”

West got his big chance a year ago after Adams broke two bones in his right foot – ironically against ISU. West started the next four games and hasn’t looked back after Adams transferred to Oregon.

Ferris pipeline has paid off for Bengals

Several Eastern Washington players will be facing some old friends when the Eagles line up Saturday in Pocatello.

ISU’s roster includes four players from the Greater Spokane League, including three from Ferris High School – all of whom have made an impact for the Bengals.

Former Saxons Cody Sorensen and Kurt Karstetter will start at free safety and rush end, respectively, while Drew Sharkey – the son of Ferris coach Jim Sharkey - is the top backup at right end.

“We like to think of Eastern Washington as Idaho State recruiting territory,” said Kramer of his Ferris players, who won a State 4A title in 2010. “The guys off that team know how to win, and I’m really proud of their effort – they’re a great fit for our program.”

Karstetter’s younger brother, Cole, is expected to start at roverback for the Eagles.

Off the field, Sorensen is a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, an award that goes to college football’s premier scholar athlete.

Sorensen is one of 135 semifinalists; the 15 finalists will be announced on Oct. 29. Each one of the 15 finalists will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the NFF Scholar-Athlete Class.

PSU’s Barnum rewarded with five-year deal

Interim coach Bruce Barnum, who has led Portland State to wins over two FBS teams and has the Vikings ranked 17th in FCS, was given the job outright on Wednesday.

Details were not announced, but Barnum was expected to be given a five-year deal.

Barnum, a 1987 graduate of Eastern Washington, was promoted from offensive coordinator to interim coach after Nigel Burton was fired after going 3-9 last year. Since then, the Vikings have gone 4-1 and defeated Washington State and North Texas.

PSU’s 66-7 win over North Texas last week set the record for margin of victory by an FCS team over an FBS team. The previous record was held by McNeese State, who defeated South Florida 53-21 in 2013.

The Vikings meet Montana State (3-2) in a key Big Sky game in Portland.

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