Hornets sting Viks

Portland State football fell to the Sacramento State Hornets, 28-15, on the road Saturday.

Portland State football fell to the Sacramento State Hornets, 28-15, on the road Saturday.

It was a relatively close game considering the blowout the Viks experienced the week before against Eastern Washington, but the Viks dug themselves a 14-point hole early on and were never able to recover.

This was the Viks’ fifth- straight loss, taking them to 2-7 on the season and 1-5 in the Big Sky Conference. The victory for the Hornets put their season in the black, with a 5-4 overall record and 4-3 in conference. 

In past games this season, the Viking defense has been the source of trouble while the offense kept them in it. In this game against the Hornets, everything was tipped on its head. With starting junior quarterback Connor Kavanaugh out with an injury and senior Tygue Howland taking over for him, the offense had a new look that was at times good and at other times bad.

Howland is a throwing quarterback and his arm gave the Viks a distinct advantage Kavanaugh would not have been able to give. The Viks opened the third quarter with a string drive. It seemed to stall at the Sacramento 37-yard line with fourth down and nine yards to go. Instead of trying the field goal, Howland made a beautiful play with his arm and threw a 25-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Justin Monahan. 

From there, however, the Viks got stuck and were forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal from sophomore Zach Brown to cut Sac State’s lead to 21-12. 

For his part, Brown finished the game making three of three field goals—two of those from over 40 yards. He now has 33 field goals in his career at Portland State, breaking a school record that has stood since 1988. Only two years into his kicking career, it is clear that Brown will set a high bar for other kickers to follow. 

Howland finished the game 11 of 27 for 143 yards with no interceptions. Throughout the entire game he was under pressure. The usually stout Viking offensive line could not find a way to protect him. Howland had two hurries and was sacked four times for a loss of 40 yards.

With Kavanaugh under center, the Viks had a mobile quarterback who could take the ball himself. What offensive coordinator Bruce Barnum should have done was remove all of the quarterback-keep plays from the playbook this week. Instead, despite his immobility, Howland wound up the team’s number-two rusher on the day.  

Howland finally broke one run loose for 30 yards in the fourth quarter. Up until that point, he had 11 attempts for minus-4 yards. He finished the game with an average of 1.9 yards per carry and netted just 29 yards rushing the entire game. 

The running game was far more successful in junior running back Cory McCaffrey’s hands. The second-leading rusher in the conference was the only Viking to score a touchdown. The Hornet defense had a hard time containing him. He had 33 carries for 187 yards, a good day by any measuring stick. 

His never-say-die attitude has kept the Viks in many games. With his total yardage on Saturday, he has 1,049 yards on the season. He is only the ninth Viking in school history to achieve such high marks. With two games left in the season, it seems feasible his total will come dangerously close to 1,500 yards. 

The Portland State defense looked much improved from last week’s debacle against Eastern Washington. Sacramento State running back Bryan Hilliard came into the weekend tied with the Vikings’ McCaffrey in total yards and conference ranking. It was clear that the Viks would have to neutralize him. 

The Viking defense rose to that challenge and neutralized the entire Hornet running game. At the end of the game, the Hornets had just 68 yards on the ground.

The defense didn’t come alive until the second half, but by then it was too late as the Hornets had already rattled off 21 points. The Viks held the Hornets scoreless in the third quarter and the only time the Hornets were able to get anything going offensively in the second half was on their second possession in the fourth quarter. 

With nine minutes left in the game, Hornet quarterback Jeff Fleming threw a 57-yard bomb to running back Chase Deadder on the first play from scrimmage. The Hornet receivers had been able to get behind the Viking secondary the entire game and Deadder had beaten junior cornerback DeShawn Shead on the play. Deadder took the pass in for a touchdown to put the Hornets up to the final score of 28-15. 

The Vikings will try to stop their five-game skid next week in their final home game of the season against Northern Colorado, the one conference opponent they beat last season. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. in Hillsboro. ?