Letdown on the sound

It was the perfect setting: a 67,000-seat professional football stadium on an autumn day. The weather was 57 degrees and sunny, with small patches of white clouds.

It was the perfect setting: a 67,000-seat professional football stadium on an autumn day. The weather was 57 degrees and sunny, with small patches of white clouds.

It was the kind of day that should have inspired perfect football. And it certainly did—but not for the Portland State Vikings.

The Vikings fell to the Eastern Washington Eagles on Saturday, 47-10, in the biggest venue that either team had ever played in: Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks.

Masses of people dressed in red and black came out to support the Eagles in what was technically their last home game of the season. Swoop, the Eagles’ mascot, ran along the sidelines doing one-armed handstands, but the crowd did not need any additional inflating.

Sitting at fourth place in the Big Sky, the Eagles are looking for a piece of postseason action after the NCAA lifted a playoff ban last week that had been imposed in February for numerous secondary rule infractions.

Portland State, now 2-7 on the season and 1-5 in conference, has struggled this season. The Eagles, on the other hand, have enjoyed the success of a 6-3 season and 5-2 in conference matchups, with their conference losses coming to heavy hitters Montana and Weber State.

The game started inauspiciously for the Vikings. As the Eagles honored their seniors in a small ceremony, the Portland State squad slunk onto the field as if they did not belong. They never did find the confidence that would enable them to find the red zone and keep the ball away from Eagles’ quarterback Matt Nichols.

Junior quarterback Drew Hubel made his first start for Portland State since injuring his knee three weeks ago in the game against Northern Colorado.

“I told him in practice, I didn’t think he was following through with the legs. I think what I saw in Thursday’s film is still there,” head coach Jerry Glanville said after the game.

Hubel had a long day, going seven of 23 for 98 yards. He appeared unsure in the pocket, and could not get any zip on the ball, due to his inability to firmly plant his injured leg. Three times, Hubel put too much air under the ball and floated his pass to Eagles’ strong safety Matt Johnson.

Johnson would tie a conference record by finishing the game with four interceptions, after also picking off a fourth quarter pass from third-string quarterback and junior Justin Engstrom.

Adding injury to insult, Hubel had his nose broken in the game.

Backup quarterback Connor Kavanaugh had no more luck than Hubel. He went seven of 11 for 57 yards. However, he was able to rip off several runs, including a 33-yard scramble that started by evading a sack.
Kavanaugh finished the game as the team’s top rusher for the third week in a row, with seven carries for a net gain of 68 yards.

Even standout freshman kicker Zach Brown struggled. He missed on two consecutive field goal attempts from 52 and 53 yards, ending his streak of nine in a row. He did make two kicks from 47 and 38 yards, which ties the school record of 15 field goals in a single season set last year by Danny Urrego.

It was a bad day for the Viking offense, but it was just as bad a day for the defense. Eastern Washington ran a high-powered offense just like they have done all season.

Nichols completed 70 percent of his passes for a total of 413 yards with four touchdowns, tying the Eastern Washington career touchdown record of 84.

On the Eagles’ first three possessions, it would have been impossible to predict the outcome of the game.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Vikings earned two points with a safety, thanks to a sack by senior nose tackle Jermaine Jacobs.

“Believe it or not, we were actually winning this game at one point,” Glanville said.

After another three-and-out after the safety, the only other spark from the Portland State defense came from another safety in the second quarter.

Jacobs finished with a team-high nine tackles, including two forced fumbles.

The Viks’ run defense did a fair job of containing Eastern Washington’s conference-leading rusher, Taiwan Jones. He averaged 5.2 yards per rush on 12 attempts. However, he did break free for a 47-yard touchdown run.
On a day where the Portland State offense scored no points and the defense was helpless against the pass, there was little to celebrate or look forward to after the game.

Players could be heard yelling and pounding out their frustrations in the locker room.

Even more telling was the sight of the usually loquacious receiver, senior Aaron Woods, standing by himself in a hallway—staring at a concrete wall, and not saying a word.

The Vikings are now guaranteed to have their third losing season in as many years. With two more games to go, they will need to dig deep to get something going.

Glanville voiced an optimism that his team does not appear to have just yet.

“We get a chance to be a part of something that doesn’t get to happen too often,” he said. “It will be fun to see what we end up like. We have to see if we can become something special in the last two weeks.”

Portland State hosts their final home game of the season this week, when Montana State comes to PGE Park this Saturday for a 1:05 p.m. kickoff.