Entering the 2010 campaign, there was little doubt that this season would be a challenging one for the Portland State football team.
Entering the 2010 campaign, there was little doubt that this season would be a challenging one for the Portland State football team. There’s a new head coach. Presenting Nigel Burton. There’s a new defensive scheme. Welcome the 4-3. There’s a new offensive system. Embrace the pistol.
There are also some minor details that make the road to victory even bumpier. There are only four home games this year due to construction at PGE Park. The Vikings are also coming off of their worst season in 29 years. More than half of the players on the team are either freshmen or sophomores.
Entering this weekend’s game, more than a quarter of the Vikings’ season has unfolded. Three games have been played with mixed results.
The first game was against Pac-10 contender Arizona State. In a game that the
Vikings should not have been competitive in, they weren’t. The final score was a resounding 54-9 victory for the Sun Devils. For a team that needs to establish the running game as part of their new offensive identity, the Vikings had a poor showing. They garnered a paltry 1.9 yards-per-rush average for a total of 59 yards.
The next game was against UC Davis, a team that regularly faces off against the Viks and will become a conference opponent in 2012. Last year’s game garnered a win for the Aggies, but that wasn’t to be this year. The score was 41-33, Vikings, when the last ball was thrown.
In their first win of the season—and Burton’s first-ever win as a head coach—the Viks relied heavily on the run game. They gained 257 yards on the ground while minimizing the Aggies ground attack to 70 yards on 31 attempts. The Viks entered the fourth quarter with a five-point lead and only added onto it from there. It was vastly different from last year’s epic meltdown—when the Vikings blew an 11-point lead in the last 15 minutes of the game.
Finally, there was the week-three debacle against Oregon, the last game before this past weekend’s bye. The Vikings weren’t expected to be contenders against the fifth-ranked team in the country, but they were expected to show up. In the end, it was the Ducks who took it to the Vikings for a final score of 69-0, Oregon.
There was no offense. Once again, the running game struggled for a 2.1 yards-per-rush average. The passing game only completed 38 percent of its attempts and committed two turnovers. Out of 18 attempts to convert on third down, zero were completed.
There was no defense. A total of five rushing and four passing touchdowns were
allowed. The Ducks’ offense totaled 668 yards.
So, what do we know about the Viks at this point in the season? The answer is not much. They aren’t competitive against good teams that play in a higher division and they are competitive against teams that they have been competitive against in the past.
In the one game that carried weight, the one against UC Davis, there were some things to be hopeful about. The Viks hung in there for all four quarters. They established a running game, which will be key to their success in the immediate future.
Against Davis, the run defense looked sounder than it did in the three previous years under former head coach Jerry Glanville. With their new 4-3 scheme, they were able to crowd the box and keep the Aggies to only 70 yards. In a conference full of powerful offenses and potent running games, this is a promising sign.
The Vikings mettle will be tested soon enough. They open Big Sky Conference play at home this Saturday against the Idaho State Bengal—a game that the Vikings should win. Last year, the Bengals finished in last place in the Big Sky Conference standings, right behind the Vikings. However, Idaho State did pull off a surprise win over hapless Portland State in the final game of the season. ?
The game begins Saturday, Oct. 2, at 5:05 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium.
PSU football results thus far
Portland State 9
at Arizona State 54
Portland State 41
at UC Davis 33
Portland State 0
at No. 5 Oregon 69
Idaho State (1-3)
at Portland State (1-2)
Sat., Oct. 2, 5:05 p.m.
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