ISU football notebook: Shorthanded Bengals take on EWU in final road trip
Mike Kramer was as positive as could be for a head coach who’s trudging through a 2-7 season.
Idaho State’s sixth-year coach was still riding high from the Bengals’ 62-44 loss at Montana, when ISU’s offense finally clicked like Kramer expects it to and quarterback Tanner Gueller played up to Kramer’s expectations.
The Bengals’ 44 points at Washington-Grizzly Stadium marked a Montana opponent high since 2009 and set a two-year high for the Bengals against conference competition.
And though the defense gave up 62 points — the most scored by a Big Sky foe since 2012 — Kramer praised his run defense and pass rush against one of the top offenses in the league.
“It doesn’t give notice to anybody but us that we’re capable of doing some things extraordinarily better than what we’ve showed this year,” Kramer said Wednesday at his weekly press conference.
The Bengals hope to stay in stride Saturday against No. 3 Eastern Washington, which boasts the best passing offense in the FCS and a senior wide receiver on the precipice of cementing himself as the best pass catcher in the subdivision’s history.
Here are the major takeaways from Kramer’s press conference.
GUELLER OUT, PILSTER TO START
Kramer announced Wednesday that Gueller will not play against Eastern Washington. ISU’s sophomore signal caller took a hit to the head late in the first half against Montana and didn’t play the second half.
Redshirt senior Trae Pilster, who filled in for Gueller against UM, makes his first career start against the Eagles.
Pilster played quarterback at Blackfoot High School and was named the All-Idaho 4A Player of the Year as a senior in 2011. He walked on to ISU in 2013 after a two-year LDS mission and was converted to wide receiver. He gained 66 all-purpose yards between rushing, passing and receiving last season and has one catch for 2 yards in 2016. Pilster completed 6 of 10 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown in relief of Gueller against Montana.
For the season, Pilster is 7 of 11 for 150 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He was put back at quarterback for the Southern Utah game Oct. 29 and quickly passed Tom Jewell and Robert Kvinsland on the depth chart.
“We actually moved him to quarterback because I admire the kid so much,” Kramer said. “We played him out of position throughout his career, and that’s my responsibility. He deserved an opportunity to play quarterback, and now he’s the starter.”
Kramer didn’t say if Gueller is injured or what his injury is. He also didn’t say whether Gueller or Pilster will start the season finale Oct. 19 against Weber State at home.
KUPP ON VERGE OF FCS HISTORY
Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp needs seven catches to become the top pass catcher in FCS history. He already holds all-time records for receiving touchdowns (68) and yards receiving (5,924) and will pass Elon’s Terrell Hudgins with his 396th career reception.
In three games against the Bengals, Kupp has tallied 30 catches for 498 yards and seven touchdowns, plus a 24-yard passing score and a 76-yard punt return touchdown.
Kupp missed the Eagles’ first game of the season and still leads the FCS with 1,160 yards receiving and has a Big Sky-high 78 receptions to go along with 12 touchdowns.
“Cooper Kupp has been one of the top three players in the history of the conference,” Kramer said. “The other two being (Idaho’s) Ray McDonald and (Montana’s) Dave Dickenson, and I’ll argue that over any stein of fluid that you ever wanna have.”
Saturday is Eastern Washington’s senior day. Kramer insisted that not only Roos Field be renamed, but that the conference be awarded Kupp’s namesake.
“On Saturday, we present him with a rocking chair, a travel bag, a rolling bag, and say get the hell out of the conference,” Kramer said, “and put a new sign over the Big Sky Conference: Cooper Kupp Conference.”
WILLIAMS CLOSING IN ON ISU HISTORY
ISU senior wideout KW Williams enters Saturday’s game within reach of multiple Idaho State milestones.
Williams is 93 yards receiving from fifth in school history, five receptions from fourth and one touchdown from second.
With four more touchdowns, Williams, who was a state champion wrestler and all-league quarterback in high school, will pass Ed Bell for the Idaho State record.
“It’s wonderful to see a guy who’s not a natural ball catcher become one of the dominant players in ISU history,” Kramer said.
SORENSENS ON THE AIR
Former Idaho State defensive back Cody Sorensen will call Saturday’s game on the radio with Jerry Miller. Sorensen’s father, Paul, is in his 14th year as the color commentator for Eagles football.
Cody is the second former Bengal in as many weeks to assist Miller with an ISU broadcast. Former defensive lineman Mitch Beckstead provided color commentary in the Montana broadcast.