Idaho State bouncing back quickly in Year 2 under Kramer

Idaho State plays BYU and hometown QB Taysom Hill with a rare trait — confidence.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comNovember 16, 2013 

BYU sophomore Taysom Hill graduated from Highland High in Pocatello, where he followed the Idaho State program as a youngster. He had a standing scholarship offer from Idaho State, but originally signed with Stanford before going on an LDS mission. “I am looking forward to playing the Bengals,’’ Hill said in a teleconference with reporters this week. “I obviously grew up right around the Bengals and saw them play. I played in their home stadium and everything else, so I am familiar with them. I had some friends that played there, and whatnot. So I am looking forward to playing the hometown university there.’’ Hill is seventh in FBS in total offense with 2,226 passing yards, 894 rushing yards and 22 total touchdowns.

MATT GADE — The Associated Press

— The Idaho State Bengals have their most wins since 2007.

To show the progress the team has made in its second year under coach Mike Kramer, it feels there should be more notches in the win column.

The Bengals (3-7, 1-6 Big Sky) have shown massive improvement in 2013 — they went 1-10 last season, losing all Big Sky games by an average of 36.9 points.

This season, Idaho State’s Big Sky losses have been by an average of 11 points, two by a touchdown or less.

“I think everyone on the team feels there are games we left on the table, and that’s a big step,” Kramer said. “We’re not facing 50-point deficits. We’re on the verge of winning those close games. The wins are the numbers that matter, but I don’t think those reflect just how far we’ve come.”

Idaho State’s defense will be challenged mightily Saturday by BYU (6-3) and dual-threat QB Taysom Hill, a Pocatello native.

It is a defense, however, that has made significant strides. Idaho State yielded 53.8 points a game in 2012. In 2013, that number has been cut nearly in half, with the Bengals giving up 30.8 a game.

Kramer cleaned house in the offseason, letting three of his four defensive coaches go, and incorporated a new system that gives him optimism it can continue to be successful.

“There have been so many changes, it’s hard to point out one reason, but you see some of those numbers and you know it’s a whole team effort,” junior linebacker Mitch Beckstead said.

Beckstead anchors the defense from his inside linebacker spot, with team highs in tackles (74) and interceptions (three). He’s aided by a line that, well, actually looks like a defensive line.

The team has gone from a 245-pound nose tackle last season to a 310-pounder this season. Gone are ends who were 224 pounds and 240, and in are a pair who are 281 and 260.

“I kind of smile like the Cheshire Cat when I think about it. … I’m pretty happy,” Kramer said. “I didn’t know if we’d be able to get back on our feet defensively. There’s so much new, but one of the biggest things is we finally have an attitude.”

Perhaps the best sign of the defense’s turnaround came last Saturday in a 38-31 loss to Portland State, which came into the game sixth nationally in total offense. The Vikings led 38-28going into the fourth quarter, but the Bengals mustered only a field goal. Last season, the Vikings beat the Bengals 77-10.

“We felt we should have won it — it still hurt, but it’s good to know we’re that much better,” Beckstead said. “A loss is a loss, by 60 or seven, it still stings in different ways. Getting blown out hurts, and knowing you could have won does, too.

“That game last year was probably my lowest moment as a football player, but in the back of my mind, I knew we’d be going in the direction we are now.”

The odds are heavily against the Bengals to beat the Cougars and produce their first four-win season since 2005, but they will get another shot the following week against Weber State in the season finale.

Regardless, Kramer is comforted knowing things are going the right way after a dark first season.

“We fight back now if we give up a play instead of just sitting there quiet,” Kramer said. “The guys talk about what to do to improve between series. We just need to start strong. If we can do that, make them grind, it’s going to be a feel-good game going into another big one.

“We’re still 3-7, but kids are realizing their potential, and that’s great to see.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420; Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service