How to nurse a wounded Viking

The newly relocated Portland State University AthleticDepartment is buzzing this time of year. Football season is uponus. Or at least it’s upon them.

“Football is LIFE!” declared one gung-ho assistant of 12-yearhead coach Tim Walsh as he passed through the office.

If football represents life, then this is a team that is in needof an iron lung and a body cast after last season’s disappointingrecord. The Vikings tumbled to 4-7 on the year, including a finalskid of four losses in a row to end the season. It was the Vikingsfirst losing season since 1998.

The Vikings are laden with senior-led talent on both sides ofthe ball this year, especially on offense. Senior tailback RyanFuqua is coming off of what is easily his worst year ever, gainingunder one thousand yards for the first time in his PSU career. Hewants to end his brilliant career at PSU on a high note and has theskills and experience to dominate.

Traveling to Tacoma, Wash., four days a week this summer toattend a camp for running backs has Fuqua leaner, quicker andsmarter. According to his coach Tim Walsh, “He didn’t compete lastyear like a Walter Payton award candidate should. He’s looking tochange that.”

Meanwhile, second year starting quarterback Joe Wiser is lookingto throw the ball to his wide outs more, and the other teamless.

Wiser hit 56 percent of his passes last season on route to 16touchdowns, but in the process he gave up 17 interceptions. Throughit all Wiser passed for just under 2500 yards while starting alleleven games. Though he started out strong in two home wins, he sawboth his stats and the team’s fortune fade down the stretch.

Walsh says that Wiser is ready for the 2004 season, though heacknowledges that his QB needs to “perform in a mistake freeatmosphere and stop forcing the issue.”

Injuries played a key role last year in the season’s demise. Theoffensive line was wracked with injury, with starting linemenmissing 15 games total. Walsh doesn’t make any excuses though.

“We need to get tougher and more competitive mentally andphysically. That’s what two-a-days will accomplish,” he says with asly half smile.

If the team stays healthy there is reason to believe that while”football is life” for Walsh and his revamped team, football willonce again mean winning as well.

Walsh wants his team to win eight or nine games and make theplayoffs this year, goals he cites as realistic. The public willsee if the Vikings can get on the right track when they open theirseason September 2nd against Western State at PGE Park.