The Viking football team wrapped up its regular season Saturday with a gritty 13-7 victory at Sacramento State.
The success of the Vikings can be directly attributed to the strength of their dominating defense. The Vikings’ D recorded six sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a blocked punt that resulted in only 183 total yards of offense for Sac State.
The Vikings struck with thunder and lightning that left the Hornets dazed and confused. The thunder came from the play of linebacker Adam Hayward, who led the team with 10 tackles, including three destructive sacks and a forced fumble.
The lightning came from ball-hawking safety Michael Dorsey, who had five tackles, one sack, recovered Hayward’s forced fumble and got an interception that stopped a late fourth-quarter drive that could have won the game for Sacramento.
On Monday, Hayward received the national Division I-AA Defensive Player of the Week award as well as the Big Sky Player of the Week nod. This is the second time this year that the Viking linebacker has won national recognition, and he ranks third in the finalist list for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the top defensive player in Division I-AA.
”Adam Hayward had a phenomenal year, to be on a final list for the Buck Buchanan Award who was a guy who played in the NFL for 13 years, speaks volumes to his play and how he has done,” said head coach Tim Walsh. “He is fast and smart and has really learned to play the position of linebacker well this year.”
On the offensive side of the ball quarterback Sawyer Smith had a good day at the office, completing 17 of 25 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown. Running back Mu’Ammar Ali ran the ball efficiently finishing with 140 yards on 29 carries for a 4.7 average.
The Viks have won their last four Big Sky games and convincingly showed why they deserve a spot in the playoffs this year. Although standing in third place in the Big Sky with a record of 6-2 (7-4 overall), the Vikings may have hopes of making the postseason.
Sitting behind number one Montana (7-0 Big Sky, 9-1 Overall) and number two Montana State (6-1 Big Sky, 7-3 Overall), the Vikings sit at the 21st spot in the nation among Division I-AA programs. They have a week off as they await news on a potential NCAA Football Championship subdivision playoff berth.
The NCAA committee will be selecting a 16-team playoff field Sunday, Nov. 19. The eight conference winners will receive automatic berths, leaving eight berths available. The difficulty of schedule and the injuries sustained by the team’s starting quarterback and running back during both Big Sky losses make the Vikings a tough team to pass on.
”We can’t do much more then we did those two games that we lost. We lost whether you want to say it’s because of injuries or strength of schedule,” said Walsh. “They are going to take the top 16 teams in the country, and I think we are one of them.”