Defense gets stops, but offense wins game

The sheer electric power of Portland State football shook Tigard on Friday as the Vikings’ offense and defense butted helmets on the gridiron of Tigard High School in the Spring Game. The Portland State offense beat the defense 21-15 using a modified scoring system.

In the special scoring rules, the defense gets one point for a defensive stop, and three points for a three-downs-and-out series. The offense scores normally.

“Our spring went extremely well,” said head coach Tim Walsh. “We accomplished what we set out to accomplish. Now we have to make the most of our second off-season.”

The Spring Game is an annual culmination of 15 NCAA-sanctioned practices allowed by football teams during the spring.

Now coaches aren’t allowed to coach on the field at all until fall practices start 29 days before the Vikings’ first game Sept. 9 at PGE Park. For the rest of the school year, players will watch film and do lifting and conditioning work on their own, without coaches. Walsh is pleased with how his team is shaping up.

“Our wide receivers are vastly improved, and we’re very good at the skill positions on defense. All we need is a little help on the defensive front,” Walsh said.

Lining up behind center on the familiar sod of his high school field, Tigard High graduate and PSU quarterback Joe Wiser completed 10-of-14 passes for 110 yards. Wiser twice led the Viking offense down the field for scores and had his first turnover-free Spring Game.

“He proved he can play at this level,” Walsh said.

Wiser is one of three Tigard High School graduates on the Vikings team, along with receivers Greg Geske and Ryan Brown.

The high school approached Portland State about hosting the game. Last year, the Vikings played their Spring Game at Lake Oswego.

Backup quarterbacks Matt Catalano and Sawyer Smith combined to go 10-of-20 for 159 yards. Nine receivers caught passes in the scrimmage, and seven caught two or more balls. Catalano went 4-5, and Smith averaged 19 yards per completion.

The Vikings’ running corps had a productive game and scored all three touchdowns for the offense. Joe Rubin carried the ball 16 times for 77 yards, and scored on a 5-yard run. Speedster Ryan Fuqua, who’s game was hampered by sore ribs, still gained 24 yards on 12 carries and scored the other two offensive touchdowns on short scampers.

On the defensive side, linebacker Joey King, who had already ruled the first two spring scrimmages with a total of 12 tackles, knocked down a couple of passes and added eight more tackles during the Spring Game.

“He’s a tremendous athlete, a real playmaker,” Walsh said of the 5-foot-9, 195-pound King. “He had a great spring. We have to protect his body, though. The rigors of the Big Sky football season are tough on smaller players.”

The defense stopped the offense 11 of 14 drives, and held the offense to three-and-out sequences four times. The defense also racked up five sacks and five tackles for losses. Free safety Matt Porr led the ‘D’ with nine tackles. Andrew Dorsey added seven tackles.

The Vikings opened last season 5-2 before losing three of their final four games by a total of 11 points to finish 6-5, a record Walsh says was ultimately indicative of PSU’s missed assignments and failure to play hard every down. “I tell the team they’re good enough for second, third or fourth, but to be good enough for first they have to play every down,” Walsh said. “One missed assignment can change the complex of the whole game.”