LINCOLN — Idaho State quarterback Kevin Yost offers no complicated explanation for why 30 of his passes this season already have found their way to receiver Derek Graves.
It's simple, says Yost.
“It's just wherever the read takes me, and the read's been taking me to where he is,” Yost said.
Graves has started the season by becoming the first player in Big Sky Conference history to catch 15 passes in back-to-back games. And the senior from Stockton, Calif., has no better explanation for it than his quarterback.
“It's just how the games are going,” Graves said. “It's just happening like that. My goal is just to catch the ball if it comes my way.”
Now here's the complicated part: Graves is actually the backup Z receiver for the Bengals. He pounced on opportunities against Air Force and Black Hills State because starter Rodrick Rumble was “unavailable,” according to coach Mike Kramer.
So you get the idea of what Idaho State will do when it visits Memorial Stadium on Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. game with Nebraska.
“We're putting up some video game numbers in our offense, simply because that's the way we want to play,” Kramer said Wednesday.
Idaho State has averaged 443.5 passing yards a game during a 1-1 start. Graves and four others already have at least a dozen receptions this season.
The Bengals run the ball almost as an afterthought.
“We select to go fast with our passing game, and we like to use screens as our running game,” Kramer said. “So the fact that our running game doesn't necessarily produce a 1,000-yard rusher is of no regard to us.”
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Kramer started this system in 2004 at Montana State, and former quarterback Travis Lulay is now in the CFL. Kramer brought it to Idaho State a year ago, and Rumble immediately set a single-season school record with 112 receptions.
“We love the geometry of the sport in that we can throw the ball in all the alleys, the angles, all the hidden areas,” Kramer said. “We try to utilize every square inch of the field to spread the defense out as far as possible and find some running space in between all those defenders.”
Yost is completing 74.3 percent of his passes, and the Bengals are throwing the football twice as often as they're running it (121 attempts to 59). Yost (from Glendale College) and Graves (San Joaquin Delta College) are among several junior college transfers brought in a year ago by Kramer and offensive coordinator Don Bailey to run the pass-heavy offense.
Yost said it's hard to compare the Idaho State offense to another in college football, but the amount of passing does bring to mind Texas Tech.
“Coach Kramer and Coach Bailey said we're going to throw the ball 50 to 60 times a game, and I said, ‘Where do I sign?' ” Yost said. “You don't expect it to be like that until you do it. To be able to throw it 60 times, it's crazy.”
Graves said he was surprised after each of the first two games to find out he had 15 catches, which is more than any Nebraska receiver has through three games. He thought it might be more like a half-dozen each game.
“Once you get in a flow,” Graves said, “it's kind of like basketball when you make a couple shots and next thing you know you've got a few more points than you expected.”
Kramer said the sport is leaning “very hard towards the pass.” Kids grow up winging it around on Xbox and PlayStation. Kramer said they are better prepared to understand what defenses are all about.
So the Bengals will throw it Saturday. A lot. And that won't change just because Idaho State is playing a Football Bowl Subdivision team that ranks among national leaders in all-time victories.
“It's a fun offense to play in,” Kramer said. “And I think all receivers and quarterbacks want to be a part of something like this.”
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