Defense gives Vikings edge over Montana State

Portland State’s defense stepped up its play to help the Vikings defeat Montana State 33-21 Saturday evening. This was the Vikings’ fifth straight win over the Bobcats and upped the Viks to 4-4, 3-2 in conference. Montana State dropped to 4-5, 3-2 in conference.

The Bobcats came into the game with a solid defense allowing 365 yards a game on average. Montana State’s defense kept the Vikings quiet in the first quarter, allowing a single field goal after the Vikings recovered a fumble inside MSU’s own 10-yard line.

Portland State’s defense again helped set up a score when Tolo Tuitele picked off MSU’s Tyler Thomas and returned the ball inside the Bobcats territory. PSU quarterback Juston Wood connected on the next play to wide-open Robert Means for a 40-yard touchdown and gave the Viks a 10-point lead.

The Bobcat defense didn’t give up easy though, sacking Woods twice to stop the Vikings drive and forcing PSU to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Mike Cajal-Willis. Montana State’s offense answered back late in the second quarter, driving 75-yards for a five-yard touchdown pass to cut the score to 13-7, in favor of the Vikings.

PSU went in with a lead at half for the first time this season.

The late score from the Bobcats didn’t mellow the Vikings’ momentum in the third period. Just four plays into the second half, Wood passed into the middle again and found Ryan Fuqua who took the ball in for a 50-yard touchdown. Wood was 11 of 27 with 241 yards, well below his average, but threw for three touchdowns.

Fuqua had two receptions for 59 yards to go with his one receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown behind 144 yards on the ground for the night. This was Fuqua’s fourth 100-yard game this season.

“We started off a little slow,” assistant coach Brian Harris said. “Ryan started running the ball hard and that’s what he had to do this week.”

With just under six minutes to go in the third, Thomas was picked off in the end zone by PSU’s Ryan Wells. Portland State couldn’t capitalize on the interception and was forced to punt it away. The punt was almost blocked. The Bobcats were now in good field position and closed the gap when Ryan Johnson ran the ball, moving the Bobcats to within six with 14:55 still to go in the game.

Portland State wasn’t going to give the Bobcats a chance to take the lead. Wood hit receiver Terry Charles for a 44-yard touchdown and PSU scored the back breaker with Fuqua running in for a 14-yard touchdown with 5:43 on the clock.

Portland State’s defense had one of its best games, forcing six turnovers, 11 pass breakups, two sacks and six tackles for losses.

“The defense was a huge part of this game,” Wood said.

Nick Chenault, in his first start, had 15 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble and three pass breakups.

Head coach Tim Walsh, who made it into the record books with his 100th game at Portland State, also gave credit to the defense.

“We’re injured on defense, but we showed tremendous heart with a lot of guys stepping up. They showed a lot of courage and got a good win. The guys that were called on made a difference,” Walsh stated in a press release.

Portland State travels to Eastern Washington this Saturday for another conference showdown. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m.