For this week’s Five Questions, Five Answers feature, we’ve reached out to Idaho State Press sports editor Chase Glorfield, who covers the Idaho State Bengals. You can find him on Twitter @ChaseGlorfield. Many thanks to Chase for his insights into Bengals.
1. The Bengals finished 1-10 in 2012, but they’re off to a nice 2-0 start now in Mike Kramer’s third year as head coach. What have been the biggest differences in this team since last season?
Since head coach Mike Kramer took over before the 2011 season, Idaho State has never had a problem moving the ball. The Bengals use a pass-heavy attack with a little bit of run mixed in. ISU’s defense was the issue last year, giving up 53.8 points and 570.2 yards per game, including 362.1 rushing yards per game. That’s an average of 7.3 yards given up per play. Kramer fired his entire defensive staff, and the new guys installed a brand-new system. So far, so good. The biggest difference has been the intensity and spirit with which the team plays, specifically on defense. The last time ISU started a season 2-0 was 1999. Needless to say, the Bengals are a confident group right now.
2. The Bengals played a similar game last year against a ranked Nebraska team on the road. What did they learn about that game, and what do they hope to get out of this trip to Seattle?
Idaho State got smacked by Nebraska last year 73-7, and lost two defensive starters to torn ACLs. Obviously, the Bengals would like to avoid any such injuries, and hopefully keep the game a little closer than that. Kramer said that after playing a team like Washington, the game slows down. No one in the Big Sky Conference plays as fast as the Huskies, so league games will be slow compared to Washington. Kramer also said the biggest growth in his program will occur on the flight home from Seattle, meaning regardless of score, the Bengals can digest and dissect what they did well and what they didn’t do well.
3. Quarterback Justin Arias leads the FCS with 868 passing yards through two games, and the offense ranks among the best in the FCS, too. What has made him and the offense so effective so far?
Arias is a cool customer. Kramer called him the guy from the Captain Morgan’s commercial, someone with a lot of panache who is calm under pressure. Arias has a big arm and thrives in the pass-first offense Idaho State employs. He’s also surprisingly agile and swift with his feet and will take off out of the pocket if nobody is open. Speaking of getting open, ISU has a good group of receivers, young, but good, led by senior Cam Richmond.
4. Similarly, the defense leads the FCS in allowing just 8.5 points per game so far. Were there any dramatic changes over the offseason on that side of the ball?
It helps that the Bengals’ first two games were against lower-tier NCAA Division II teams. That said, those two teams were polar opposites. Dixie State passed a lot, and Western State ran all the time. ISU stuffed four straight plays on a first and goal from the four against Western State as it kept the opponent out of the endzone the entire game, two things that would not have happened last year. As I mentioned, there is a completely new defensive coaching staff that has brought new energy to the program. Former Utah and Tennessee Titans linebacker Spencer Toone (also an Idaho native, from Snake River High School in Blackfoot), is the driving force behind what the Bengals do on that side of the ball.
5. Last, I have to say I’m fascinated by CJ Reyes — Idaho State’s punter and punt returner AND backup quarterback. That’s a rare, and impressive, combination. What makes him so unique, and will we get the chance to see him do all three on Saturday?
I have little doubt that Saturday will see Reyes lining up at all three positions. He’s a talented roll punter (Kramer’s choice of punting styles), and fills in nicely at quarterback as well. In fact, Reyes threw Idaho State’s lone touchdown pass against Nebraska last year. He played quarterback at Hart High School in Newhall, Calif., and isn’t afraid to get in there when called upon. Part of the reasoning for that is the other true QBs on the roster haven’t set themselves apart (a true freshman and a redshirt freshman). Reyes is a junior, and was the backup last year. This is the first season he has fielded punts. His main job is to signal for a fair catch and hang onto the ball. Reyes is a multi-talented football player.