The words were simple. “Nah, nah, nah, nah… From east to west… From east to west… You know the Viks are the best… You know the Viks are the best…Nah, nah, nah, nah.” But the sheer emotion on the faces of seniors Aaron Dickson and Jonathan Benjamin-Nichols as they led their teammates in Vikings’ spirited post-game celebration proved the moment was less simple and more monumental for the two.
The words were simple.
“Nah, nah, nah, nah… From east to west… From east to west… You know the Viks are the best… You know the Viks are the best… Nah, nah, nah, nah.”
But the sheer emotion on the faces of seniors Aaron Dickson and Jonathan Benjamin-Nichols as they led their teammates in Vikings’ spirited post-game celebration proved the moment was less simple and more monumental for the two.
After all, both Dickson and Benjamin-Nichols had just capped off a five-stint at Portland State with a 24-21 victory over Northern Colorado at PGE Park Saturday.
Over there time in the South Park Blocks, the pair had endured a coaching change, multiple position switches and, at times, limited opportunities on the field, but for that brief moment it was clear all was forgotten and all was right.
And for the 10 other seniors, their stories might be different, but the feeling was the same Saturday.
Fellow senior Andy Schantz explained what it is like to finally realize it is over.
“It’s kind of a whirlwind of emotions,” said Schantz, who had 11 tackles. “This is the most scared I’ve been to leave a place.”
With the win, Portland State leaves behind a season that second-year head coach Jerry Glanville said was disappointing because he expected his team to show more progress after going 3-8 last season.
“If it’s anyone’s fault, then it’s mine,” Glanville said of finishing with a 4-7 record. “I’m responsible for results.”
Unlike much of this season, the results were there for the Vikings Saturday, as they found great success after completely changing their defensive approach following two lengthy, polished Northern Colorado touchdown drives to start the game.
Glanville said the Bears came out showing absolutely no resemblance of the team they had studied on film, forcing him to make a bold call: Switch to the “spring ball” defense.
By “spring-ball” defense, Glanville means the Vikings’ base 3-4 scheme, which is always the counter call when the opponent substantially changes its offensive attack.
“Whenever something like that happens, you go back home-that’s our base defense,” Schantz said.
The base defense was effective, as Portland State gave a considerable amount of yards-431 yards to be exact-but allowed only one more touchdown to the same Northern Colorado offense that scored its first two trips down the field.
Junior linebacker Erik Pedersen, freshman safety Cody Worthen and Schantz led the way in the tackling department, combining for 33 stops on the day, while Dickson added a little pizzazz with the game’s only interception late in the second quarter.
While the defense picked up the pace in the final three quarters, the Portland State offense was clicking almost the entire game, but scored the majority of its points in the first half.
Sophomore quarterback Drew Hubel pieced together arguably his finest outing of the season, finishing with 343 yards and three touchdowns on 28 of 36 passing.
“The first half was great, and the second half wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t as good as the first half,” Hubel said in assessment of how the offense fared.
Probably the biggest plus for Hubel is that he only found players wearing a Portland State uniform Saturday, with juniors Mario D’Ambrosio, Aaron Woods and Daniel Wolverton being the favorite targets.
In his first interception-free performance since Eastern Washington Oct. 4, Hubel tossed a pair of touchdown passes to D’Ambrosio, who left the game with a knee injury, and connected with Woods and Wolverton a combined 13 times for 225 yards.
“Today his ball was his best since Missoula last year,” Glanville said of Hubel. “That makes me think we have a hell of a future.”
Schantz found himself talking about the Vikings’ future as well, as he shared that he felt it was very bright. The quintessential linebacker and leader offered a bit of advice to the team of which he is no longer a part after Saturday’s victory.
“Keep chopping wood.”