Deja vu

The Weber State Wildcats are heartbreakers. For the second year in a row, they overcame a Vikings lead in the final gasps of the fourth quarter on Saturday to win the football game—this time with a final score of 44-41.

The Weber State Wildcats are heartbreakers. For the second year in a row, they overcame a Vikings lead in the final gasps of the fourth quarter on Saturday to win the football game—this time with a final score of 44-41.

With the loss, Portland State (2-5, 1-3 Big Sky) extends its losing streak to three games and falls to seventh place in the Big Sky Conference.

In a game that saw a lot of offense being played, the two teams did a good job of going point-for-point with each other throughout the four quarters. The Viks outscored the Wildcats through the first three, but the defense went to pot in the fourth quarter and allowed the Wildcats to come up with 22 points and the game-winning touchdown. 

The Wildcats (4-3, 3-2 Big Sky) took their first lead of the game about two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter. In the previous quarter, the Wildcat defense had been able to keep the Viks to a measly seven points. While the Wildcat defense missed a lot of assignments in the first half, they got wise to the Vikings’ pistol offense in the second half. 

After Weber State took the lead, the Viks engineered a drive reminiscent of their last drive last week against Montana. In that game, the Viks put together a 97-yard drive that took five and half minutes off of the clock. 

In this game, junior quarterback Connor Kavanaugh led his men down the field with 12 plays that stretched the field for 85 yards. More importantly, it chewed four minutes and 10 seconds off the clock, leaving the Wildcats with only 62 seconds left to make up the four points that they were behind. 

Junior running back Cory McCaffrey had 60 of those yards, and Kavanaugh called his number on nine of the 12 plays. On this drive alone, McCaffrey ran for 47 yards. He would end the game with a career-high 178 yards and two touchdowns. However, it was Kavanaugh with the 27-yard run on third and one in a sudden deluge of rain who scored the touchdown to take back the lead and put the score at 41-37. 

Unfortunately for the Viks, 62 seconds would prove to be enough for the top-ranked passing offense in the conference. They also had two timeouts to help them out. Starting at his own 30-yard line, quarterback Cameron Higgins threw back-to-back bombs for 56 yards to bring his team into Viking territory. 

It looked like the Viks might hold them to a field goal when on third and six the Vikings were called for a holding penalty giving the Wildcats a fresh set of downs at the Viking 5-yard line. Two running plays later the Wildcats had the go ahead touchdown. 

“We have a lot, offensively, to be proud of,” head coach Nigel Burton said in a statement released by the school. “Defensively, no.”

With 21 seconds left, the Viks tried their best to come back and sophomore kicker Zach Brown attempted a 65-yard field goal that fell just two yards short. 

“We had faith in the kid,” Burton said. “There are not many guys out there that have a chance to make a 65-yarder. Earlier, he told me ‘Coach, I can make a 63-yarder.’ He was right, he could have made a 63-yarder.”

One of the offensive things to be proud of that Burton mentioned has to be quarterback Kavanaugh. He has shown himself to be a leader when it counts, and is willing to take the ball into his own hands when it’s necessary.

Last week against Montana he was just as responsible as running back McCaffrey for leading the Viks to their final touchdown. On that drive, he traded running duties with McCaffrey, but did not throw a single pass. 

This week, he led the drive in a more even fashion, throwing two passes including a long one of 13 yards to McCaffrey. Overall in the game, he was 14 of 20 with no interceptions for 278 yards—his highest total of the season. 

There is no doubt that the Wildcat defense came in prepared to play the run, seeing as the Viks had the leading ground game in thea conference. There is also no doubt that Kavanaugh’s passing game left the defense unhinged. By opening up the passing game to Kavanaugh, offensive coordinator Bruce Barnum gave the Viks the dimension necessary to compete with the Wildcats’ passing game. 

The Viking defense was dismal. Of the 14 offensive possessions by the Wildcats, seven of them resulted in points and six of those were for touchdowns. They allowed 548 yards of total offense.  

One exception was the interception by sophomore safety Nathan Snow, which he returned for 50 yards.  

Another thing that looked particularly troublesome in this game was the Vikings’ return coverage. Twice, sophomore punter Thomas Duyndam had to tackle the Wildcat return man and once on a kickoff Zach Brown was solely responsible for saving what should have been a Wildcat touchdown. 

Special teams have been a bright spot for the Vikings, even in games in which they struggled, like the loss to University of Oregon. Little details like this will matter in the upcoming game against conference co-leader Eastern Washington. 

The Vikings host the Eagles at 5:05 p.m., Saturday in Hillsboro Stadium. PSU Athletics will have three buses departing for the game from the Stott Center turnaround at 3 p.m., and returning to campus after the game. ?