Football concludes season without playoff berth

Ending the 2001 football season on a four-game winning streak is tough for a team in the competitive Big Sky Conference, but the relentless Vikings did just that.

Portland State played its final game of the season against the Sacramento State Hornets last Saturday. The Vikings swatted the Hornets in a 52-33 blowout. The Viks’ offensive power was displayed once again as they rolled up 724 yards on the Hornets. That is second most in school history next to the 778 yards the ’76 Vikings put up against Eastern Montana.

Although the playoffs were within reach for the Vikings, the NCAA ranking system kept Portland State out of the playoffs this season. The Vikings were 7-4 overall, 5-2 in conference and finished in second place in the Big Sky Conference. Portland State was beat out by Northern Arizona University, a team that they had previously beat. The Vikings defeated the Lumberjacks 33-30, unfortunately, and due to NAU having a better overall record of 8-3, they advanced to face Sam Houston State in the NCAA I-AA playoffs.

Many players were anxious to get their playoff hopes answered after Saturday’s convincing victory over Sacramento State.

“We did our job, let’s just wait and see what happens,” said running back Ryan Fuqua.

The other team from the Big Sky Conference to reach the playoffs was the conference champion Montana Grizzles. With the conference title, the Grizzles got an automatic bid to the playoffs.

On the season, the potent Viking offense averaged 478 yards of total offense, lad by the passing of First Team All-Big Sky selection Juston Wood. Wood averaged 291 yards a game and had 23 touchdowns for the season. Wood was also sixth in the nation for total offense and 10th in passing efficiency, with a rating of 151. He led the Big Sky Conference in both of those categories as well as in passing yards with 3,200.

The junior quarterback had a variety of dangerous targets he could hit, from Jesse Levin, who averaged almost 20 yards a catch, to Terry Charles, who was Wood’s favorite target with 71 catches. Charles also earned First Team All-Big Sky honors this week.

The versatile Ryan Fuqua, who ranked seventh in the nation in all-purpose yards, was PSU’s top running back and was awarded Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year. Behind an offensive line that could dominate any defensive line, the freshman ran for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Fuqua was fifth in the nation in rushing, despite having no positive yards until his fourth game of the season. In the Sacramento State game Fuqua established a new NCAA 1-AA rushing record in three consecutive games.

The speedy Fuqua ran for 906 yards and nine touchdowns in his last three games. He also set the freshman season rushing record previously held by Charles Dunn.

The Vikings will miss graduating Terry Charles next year. Charles has made his mark at PSU, setting a variety of records. T.C., as he is called by his teammates, has earned six records in his career at Portland State, including touchdown receptions with 27. The senior finished his fifth 100-yard game to put him over 3,000 yards for his career. Charles was also ranked tenth in the nation in receptions per game and 13th in yards per game. He led the Big Sky in both categories with just over six catches and just under 100 yards a game.

“It’s going to be tough to get out,” said Charles of leaving the program. “I’ve had the time of my life here.”