Killer defense!

    Portland State manhandled Idaho State 34-13, in a convincing win Saturday night at PGE Park. The Vikings excelled on both sides of the ball, receiving a career night from senior quarterback Sawyer Smith and forcing three interceptions.

    Smith set a career high with 282 passing yards in the game. In addition, he threw for three touchdowns. A third quarter interception was his only blemish on the night.

    ”I feel like I’m getting back to where I was before I was hurt,” said Smith, who completed 18 of 32 passes.

    Idaho State drew first blood, taking a 3-0 lead on junior Dan Ziedman’s field goal halfway through the first quarter. The Vikings tied the game two minutes into the second quarter with a field goal by senior Eric Azorr, on a drive that was kept alive by an Idaho State off-sides penalty on fourth down and three.

    On the ensuing possession Idaho State got the ball after the field goal but were forced to punt. A high snap was mishandled by the punter, Ziedman, and recovered in the end zone by junior free safety Condrew Allen for a PSU touchdown.

    ”Those guys really play hard every down, every snap. Those guys are the reason we’re in a lot of ballgames,” said Smith, referring to the Viking defense.

    After a tough season without a solid passing game, the Vikings’ passing attack was put to the test and it answered well. Smith hit junior receiver Kenneth Mackins with a 46-yard pass for his first touchdown of the game.

    ”We have to try to force the issue, and get our wide-outs to make plays,” said PSU head coach Tim Walsh. “They were loading the box, so it became necessary to look downfield.”

    The Vikings took a 17-6 lead into halftime. After that, Portland State began to dominate the game. Smith engineered two drives resulting in touchdown passes and another resulting in a field goal. Mackins got into the end zone for a second time and junior receiver Kevin McGlothen scored on a 34-yard reception. Eric Azorr hit his second field goal of the night late in the fourth quarter to cap the Vikings’ scoring.

    ”This is what we can do. It’s going to be different now, we are going to keep playing like that,” said Mackins.

    On the defensive end, Portland State was rock-solid in the second half, highlighted by a stop on fourth and one at the Viking three-yard line. In addition, Idaho State’s quarterback Matt Gutierrez was intercepted two more times, first by senior cornerback Dominic Dixon, then by senior cornerback Odell Jackson with a minute and a half remaining in the game.

    ”Getting late, they were desperate for some points. We figured they needed a big play,” said Jackson, who tied Dixon for the conference lead with four takeaways on the season.

    The persistent offense combined with unyielding defense added up to a crushing victory for the Vikings. Idaho State entered the game averaging 30 points per game but barely even managed 290 yards of total offense and 13 points against the stingy Portland State defense.

    ”We always come out with the same mindset. Give the offense support to win. We had to come out and make sure we stopped the passing game,” said Dixon.

    With the victory, Portland State improves to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big Sky conference. The win also marked the end of a two-game losing streak. The loss drops Idaho State to 2-4, 1-2 within the conference. Next, the Vikings will host Eastern Washington (2-5) this Saturday at PGE Park, scheduled for 6 p.m.