The list of reasons why Nate Tago should come to Portland State and play football after high school in Southern California was a long one.
That list included close proximity to family in Salem, Nate’s initial love for the city of Portland and an academic program that suited him. What really drew Nate here was the feeling he got from the football program. How much they were like a family.
“You don’t see that too often with other teams,” Tago said. “This was the only school that I really felt everyone was that close with each other. It has a lot to do with our success and it’s a great thing.”
Tago who is now a sophomore running back and is second on the team in rushing yards this season. He has 215 yards on the ground in five games. What’s impressive about that number is that Tago started the year with an injury, did not play against Oregon State in the first game of the season and was not back to 100 percent against Western Oregon in the second week.
In the case of Tago and the rest of the Vikings football squad, being close like a family can be especially helpful position to position, such as the running back spot this year, where PSU has five rushers who have run over 100 yards this season. Leading all rushers for PSU is Shaq Richards, who has 425 yards on the season.
With such a logjam when it comes to players and their ability to run the ball, it ‘s hard for everyone to get the touches they want, which could lead to jealousy and infighting on a team less tight than the Viks. For Tago and his backfield mates, it hasn’t been a problem. Against UC Davis, he had a breakout game, with runs that not only got the Vikings up the field, but were also timely when UC Davis was within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tago’s biggest run came on a fourth and two. The drive finished in a field goal, putting the game out of reach and securing the win for the Vikings.
Playing against UC Davis was the first time all season in which Tago felt recovered from his injury and played like he was 100 percent healthy. His effect on the game showed in the stats—one of which was a career high 106 yards on the ground—and on the field when the Vikings were feeding him the ball on big plays. Richards, who is the starting back, also had a big game, rushing for 93 yards. Both backs mixed in with some runs from the quarterback position, leading to the 23–14 victory. Their first Big Sky conference win of the year.
The stat line against UC Davis is just one example of the Vikings’ rushing-game benefiting from having so many individuals with the ability to get big yards.
“I’ve gained a lot of confidence in our running game,” Tago said. “And I have trust in my teammates.”