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Originally published Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Bud Withers

Montana State coach enjoys the spoils of upset

Coach Mike Kramer, who has Washington roots, and his Bobcats were in demand after shocking Colorado on Saturday.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

Probably still floating a little, Montana State coach Mike Kramer made the 100-mile drive up to Helena on Wednesday.

A visit to the state capital to mount a campaign for governor? No, just a booster luncheon, but Kramer's approval rating runs pretty high right now.

Kramer's Bobcats pulled the national upset of the week, going into Colorado and spoiling Dan Hawkins' opener in Boulder, 19-10, Saturday.

This week, Kramer and the Bobcats have been the hottest thing in Montana since the rifle rack. He has done interviews with Sporting News Radio, Fox and ESPNews. And one of his players was on ESPN2's "Cold Pizza."

Speaking for every anonymous coach out there who never saw a shaft of the limelight, Kramer ended an interview with CBS Sportsline by saying, "I know this is gonna sound weird, but first-time caller, longtime listener, and thanks for the opportunity."

Reflecting on it Wednesday after practice, Kramer said, "I can't say this hasn't been fun."

Kramer has deep ties to the state of Washington. In his office are photographs of combines at harvest. He's from Colton, a tiny town south of Pullman, where his dad was a wheat farmer and his high-school graduating class numbered 24.

In the late 1980s, he coached at Stadium High in Tacoma, and later at Eastern Washington, where his team won a Big Sky title in 1997. In six years at Montana State, his teams have won three Big Sky titles, and he has become the only man to win conference coach-of-the-year honors at two schools.

His staff is dotted with former Washington State players — Jason McEndoo, Jay Dumas and Jeremy Thielbahr.

"I'm not one of those guys who's chased a lot of Division I-A jobs," said Kramer, an Idaho grad. "I'm a Division I-AA coach at Montana State and proud of it."

The victory was hardly a fluke. MSU held the Buffaloes to 216 total yards and a mere three first downs in the second half.

"Colorado didn't do anything where they gifted us the ball," said Kramer. "We, in fact, allowed them to stay in it by not being able to punch the ball in and kicking field goals."

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When it was over, Kramer put on his traditional coach's hat, telling his team the victory wouldn't matter if the Bobcats can't beat Chadron State of Nebraska this week.

"It was the boosters who were yelling and screaming," said Kramer. "The players were looking at them like, 'You're crazy. We want to go home.' "

The SEC's Kids

True-freshman quarterbacks have become a prominent story line in the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas is giving Mitch Mustain his first start against Utah State and moving Robert Johnson to receiver after the 50-14 rout by USC.

Georgia's Matthew Stafford, rated by some the nation's top high-school quarterback out of Dallas in 2005, saw action last week against Western Kentucky and appears to be No. 2 for the Bulldogs, with a very real shot at unseating Joe Tereshinski for the starting job.

And Florida's Tim Tebow got Gators fans excited late in the third quarter with a 1-yard touchdown dash punctuated by a straight-arm against a Southern Mississippi defensive back. Chris Leak is entrenched there, but Tebow is a better runner in Urban Meyer's spread-option scheme.

And what's more ...

• Check the net rushing statistics from the Florida State-Miami game Monday. Miami: 2 yards. Florida State: 1.

Ron Prince's debut at Kansas State after the long Bill Snyder reign was nearly a disaster, as Northern Illinois failed on a two-point conversion with 3:02 left to give the Wildcats a 24-23 win.

• When Ohio State and Texas square off Saturday in Austin, it will mark the first time since 1996 that Nos. 1 and 2 in the rankings have met in the regular season. That year, it was Florida State-Florida.

J.D. Quinn, the starting sophomore OG booted from the Oklahoma team in August along with QB Rhett Bomar, has landed at Montana. The Grizzlies are still awaiting word from the NCAA on whether Washington transfer WR Craig Chambers is eligible this year.

• Think there was a little intra-state bad blood when West Virginia and Marshall hooked up for only the second time since 1923? On the first four plays, there were three personal fouls and a holding penalty.

• Rutgers was already a little loopy in touting RB Brian Leonard for the Heisman Trophy in a preseason campaign. Then Leonard had six carries for 25 yards in an opening victory over North Carolina. Teammate Ray Rice carried 31 times for 201 yards.

• Syracuse looks to be dreadful again. Easily the worst team in the country on third-down conversions in 2005 at 20.6 percent, 'Cuse was 1 for 11 in losing at Wake Forest.

• Minnesota, which plays at California on Saturday, might have unearthed still another punishing running back. Converted linebacker Alex Daniels, 6-3 and 265, rushed for 155 yards against Kent State and got so excited on the sideline that he accidentally hit coach Glen Mason in the mouth, bloodying his lip.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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About Bud Withers

Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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