If spring came into Pocatello like a lamb, it exited like a roaring lion.
Make that a Bengal.
The Idaho State football team held its Dave Kragthorpe Classic spring game Saturday afternoon inside Holt Arena — avoiding the wet conditions outdoors — and the results showed how far the team has come since the first practice session on April 1.
“Three scrimmages in, with this team, I am OK with where we are at,” said ISU head coach Mike Kramer. “Compared to years past I am ecstatic. Compared to this year, the quality, the caliber and what I think the ability is of this team, I am OK.”
Each side of the ball made its fair share of outstanding plays. Senior quarterback Justin Arias found sophomore speedster Broc Malcom deep for a pair of long touchdown passes. Arias completed nine of his 20 pass attempts for 233 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought Justin took advantage of the fact that the receivers were more and more confident in what they were doing,” Kramer said. “We pushed past the secondary.”
Malcom recorded two catches for 102 yards and the two scores.
“Broc is fast. He can catch the ball and score touchdowns,” Arias said. “He’s a playmaker and if I get the chance to throw it to him deep, I’m going to.”
“It’s what we’ve been working for all spring and it was nice to connect and get on the same page as the QB,” Malcom said.
A number of other receivers in ISU’s young core were productive. Junior CJ Hatchett had four receptions for 89 yard and two touchdowns.
Thirteen players recorded catches for a total of 394 yards. Sophomore KW Williams added two catches for 23 yards.
“At the end of 15 practices we have begun the replacement of Luke Austin,” Kramer said. “Out of Rodrick Rumble’s numbers and Josh Hill’s numbers, Luke Austin was the most valuable player because he was running the routes in the middle. One thing I saw today that I really enjoyed was KW Williams. (He was) fearless running in the middle as a big, strong physical guy.”
Backup quarterback James Delacenserie, a freshman, was 12 for 23 for 161 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw a pair of interceptions.
“I think James will be OK, but I think (incoming freshman) Tanner Gueller will come in and compete,” Kramer said. “I have said that since the day I signed him.”
Running backs Xavier Finney, a junior, and Braeden Mitchell, a senior, each recorded rushing touchdowns. The Bengal offense rattled off 472 yards of offense, five touchdowns and a field goal. They also left points off the board as CJ Reyes missed two field goal attempts.
“We executed well and we eliminated big mistakes,” Arias said. “There were no bad snaps and very few dropped balls. We kept positive yardage and that’s what we wanted to end on.”
ISU’s offense held the upper hand for most of the first half, but its defense was up to the task in the second.
With constant pressure on whichever quarterback was in, the defense came hot and heavy. Freshman Jeremiah Hazard, junior Tyler Kuder, senior Sage Warner, junior Derek Berrey and senior Erik Nelson all recorded sacks. The pressure in the pocket also led to interceptions, with Nelson and CJ Langlow doing the honors.
All five sacks and both picks came in the second half.
“I am real proud of our defense …” Kramer said. “The one thing we are not defensively yet is a real good sack team. I wanted to see that in the second half, and I thought I saw that.”
The Bengals wanted to exit spring with a a good taste in their mouths and an eye toward fall camp — mission accomplished.
“It culminated in an excellent scrimmage where we had positive yardage on a majority of the plays,” Arias said. “All the practices have allowed us to progress. I liked where we ended.”
“As far as progressing through each scrimmage, we are (happy),” Malcom said. “But we want to be a well-oiled machine by the time fall comes. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but to end spring like that was (good).”
The Bengals are finished with organized practices until fall camp starts up in August. They open the 2014 season at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Aug. 28.
“It was a great spring (with) a great group of players,” Kramer said. “I am very happy where we are with the core of our team academically, socially and athletically. We have the cornerstones laid. Now it is time to get on the field and play that way.”