Walking around the Stott Community Field Wednesday morning was more like stumbling through a mosh pit at a metal concert than a college team’s practice. Offensive coordinator Mouse Davis was lightly jabbing linemen in the stomach and even playfully stuck junior wide receiver Aaron Woods in a headlock.
Walking around the Stott Community Field Wednesday morning was more like stumbling through a mosh pit at a metal concert than a college team’s practice.
Offensive coordinator Mouse Davis was lightly jabbing linemen in the stomach and even playfully stuck junior wide receiver Aaron Woods in a headlock.
Senior linebacker K.J. McCrae looked like the Baltimore Ravens’ No. 52 Ray Lewis with some inspired, disco-like dance moves, while junior wide receiver Tracy Ford busted out some fancy footwork of his own.
And then there were the shrieks of “Flagstaff. Let’s go, baby” that came from senior linebacker Andy Schantz’s mouth and echoed around the field as he ran the 40-yard dash at the tail end of practice.
Head coach Jerry Glanville has only one explanation.
“Wins solve a lot of problems.”
Coming off a 47-36 upset victory over Eastern Washington, the Vikings seemed a lot more jovial and loose at practice this week, but Woods assures his teammates are no less focused.
“You get the win and relax, and see where you’re at,” Woods said. “It brings a little confidence.”
But Portland State is certainly not in a position to become overconfident. This Saturday the Vikings hit the road to take on Northern Arizona, a squad that is currently first in the Big Sky Conference at 4-1 overall and 2-0 versus BSC foes.
And that one blemish the Lumberjacks have on their record? Well, that came in a 30-13 loss to Football Bowl Subdivision and usual Pac-10 power Arizona State.
Last week Northern Arizona demolished Sacramento State, a team that topped the Vikings early in the season.
With that said, Portland State will have its hands full this weekend.
“They’re one of the top teams in the Big Sky right now,” Woods said. “And they have a good D.”
Woods backed up that statement with a stat: The Lumberjacks lead the Big Sky in sacks. That is true, as Northern Arizona has dropped the opposing quarterback 19 times in only five games.
Sophomore linebacker Anthony Llanos, who leads the team in tackles, is clearly the Lumberjacks most versatile defender, with a team-leading 24 tackles, two sacks and a handful of pass breakups.
However, the majority of the sacks are concentrated elsewhere, with junior defensive end Michael Battisti, junior linebacker Zac McNally and freshman defensive end Blayne Anderson each having four.
In addition to the great pressure the Lumberjacks place on the quarterback, their rush defense is not too shabby either. Northern Arizona leads the nation in the category, allowing only 11.4 per game.
Do not be fooled, the Lumberjacks are far from a well-rounded defense, as they are giving up almost 267 yards per game, which is near the bottom in the nation.
On the contrary, Portland State owns the top passing offense in the nation, giving the Vikings a golden opportunity to exploit the Lumberjacks’ deficiencies.
But Woods says he does not care who the Vikings have on the schedule.
“We play coverages, we don’t play teams,” Woods said of the Vikings’ run-and-shoot approach, which uses pre-snap motion to adjust to a defense’s formation.
On defense, Portland State will have to pay extra special attention to senior quarterback Lance Kriesien’s ability to swiftly orchestrate the option. Glanville said due to his team’s tendency to gang tackle, the option gives them difficulties.
“The scheme takes away our gang tackling,” Glanville said while demonstrating that players may over-commit on the quarterback only to leave the running back open.
Glanville also mentioned that the three-step drop Kriesien frequently employs could possibly jeopardize the sell-out Portland State blitz. Since Kriesien does not hold onto the ball long, Glanville said it might be better not to blitz.
Another concern for the Vikings is the Northern Arizona rushing attack, which ranks tops in the Big Sky at 192 yards per game. The Lumberjacks employ a potent two-back system featuring freshmen Deonte Williams and Austin Shanks.
Considering the Lumberjacks’ early-season success, Glanville knows it will be a challenge, but hopes Northern Arizona realizes his team is on the rise.
“They don’t respect us,” Glanville said of the Lumberjacks. “Eastern Washington knew before they got here what was waiting for them.”
Probable outcomes Here are the Vanguard‘s keys to the game for the Vikings
Portland State will win if:
-The usual Northern Arizona pass defense shows up. Why: Take this into account: The Lumberjacks are one of the worst pass defenses in the nation while Portland State leads the Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense. Well, that is the recipe for disaster.
-Portland State hits like it did against Eastern Washington.Why: Following the Vikings’ 47-36 victory over the Eagles last Saturday, Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin told Jerry Glanville that Portland State was the hardest-hitting bunch his team had faced. The bottom line is the Vikings must hit with authority again this weekend, because the bone-crunching hits caused fumbles and fueled Portland State versus the Eagles. And the Vikings will need all the help they can get against the Lumberjacks.
Portland State will lose if:
-The Vikings cannot stop the runWhy: With the exception of the Eastern Washington game, the Vikings have missed tackles and assignments in every weekend this season. This has allowed opposing running backs to feast on the Portland State defense, which cannot happen if the Vikings hope to return home with a win versus Northern Arizona.
-Sophomore QB Drew Hubel reverts back to his early-season self. Why: The key to Portland State’s win last Saturday was not Hubel’s 600 yards and five touchdowns. Instead, it was the fact that the sophomore signal caller maintained his composure and did not commit any turnovers, which has happened multiple times in each of the Vikings’ loses.