The out-of-conference games have been played, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. The Portland State football team lost three of their first four games by a combined 81 points. The single win came in the home opener against Western Oregon, 45–38.
Two of the losses came against high profile matchups with Pac-12 teams. Eight games remain to salvage the season, all against Big Sky opponents.
The first game of the season was in Corvallis against a school PSU wishes were their rival: Oregon State University.
The Beavers, who are currently off to a hot start to their season, kept the door open for PSU’s first win against a Pac-12 team in school history through the first half.
The Vikings had a 14–13 lead going into halftime, but five second-half turnovers were converted into 13 points. These scoring opportunities were crucial in OSU’s win over PSU. Also disheartening was PSU’s inability to move the chains on offense; they were scoreless in the second half and OSU pulled off 31 more offensive plays than the Vikings managed.
In their win over Western Oregon, the Vikings played their only game of the season at Hillsboro Stadium. All remaining home games will take place at a more familiar venue with an unfamiliar name, Providence Park.
The Wolves play in Division II and most thought this game was the easy win on the schedule. Western Oregon quarterback Ryan Bergman was determined to change that narrative. He put his team on his shoulders and kept them close in the gridiron battle.
Bergman threw for 413 yards and twice led his team back from 17-point deficits. PSU, who has been using a two-quarterback system, got productivity from both starter Kieran McDonagh and sophomore Paris Penn. The pair combined for 222 yards in the air and 99 on the ground with two touchdowns.
Shaq Richard had a career game, rushing for 151 yards on 14 carries, including a 70-yard run immediately followed by a 10-yard touchdown in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
The referees took special notice of PSU’s play that evening, calling 18 penalties for 146 yards on the Vikings.
PSU traveled to Pullman, Washington, for their second bite at the Pac-12 apple, and at times looked like they belonged on the same field as the Cougars. But Washington State quarterback Conner Halliday had a monster of a game, often looking like he could not be stopped.
The Cougar QB had impressive stats, with 544 yards for six touchdowns in the air. His contributions were essential in the 21–59 win over PSU.
A second-quarter fumble by Richard led to a momentum shift the Vikings could not overcome. PSU was now 0–14 all-time against Pac-12 teams.
In an interesting set of circumstances, PSU played their final nonconference game against fellow Big Sky team Cal Poly. The Mustangs are newcomers to the conference and this game was fulfilling a previous contractual obligation.
These teams have met in the last two seasons with Cal Poly coming out on top both times. The same story unfolded this year with PSU losing 14–42. Their only scoring came late in the fourth, essentially garbage time. Both teams struggled offensively early on, but Mustang QB Chris Brown made things happen with his feet, rushing for 159 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Sitting at 1–3, PSU thankfully has a bye week to refocus and prepare for Big Sky play. Opposing quarterbacks have torched the Vikings in all their losses, so containment will be a key focus looking forward.
Starting tailback Richard currently leads the team in rushing averaging 68.8 yards per game. McDonagh has filled the stat sheets averaging 144 yards passing. Penn gets it done in the air and on the turf. He is the team’s second-leading rusher, while throwing for 24 yards per game.
The style of play this year differs from past seasons under Nigel Burton. For the first time since 2009, the Vikings are throwing the ball more than running.
Looking ahead, PSU has eight games against conference opponents left. On Oct. 4, UC Davis will be in town. The Aggies have lost two of their first three games this year and the game will be televised on Root Sports.