In a fist-clenching, barn burner of a game Juston Wood, quarterback and leader for the Vikings, made all the right decisions in the end. Wood led the Vikings down field for the last play of regulation and a chance to win with a field goal.
However, a 33-yard attempt by Mike Cajal-Willis was blocked by the special teams of North Carolina A&T, which sent the game into overtime.
An eventual touchdown on a play action pass from Wood to Saleem Muhammad won the game for the Vikings in overtime, 23-20. The Vikings improved their record and confidence, winning both games so far on the home field at PGE Park.
“Anytime you win, it’s a great win,” head coach Tim Walsh said in a recent press release.
Portland State was down in the first quarter, 14-0. In the second quarter, the Vikings were able to get on the board with a 33-yard field goal from kicker Cajal-Willis.
With time ticking away and the Aggies leading, the Vikings needed a boost going into the locker room. That is exactly what they got from sophomore linebacker Tolo Tuitele. Tuitele intercepted Aggie quarterback, Jason Battle’s pass at the 50-yard line and returned it for a touchdown with only 15 seconds remaining in the half. The Vikings hurried into the locker room down only 14-10.
The Vikings came out in the second half and executed better on both offense and defense, yet still trailed 14-10 going into the fourth quarter.
The Aggies were able to go up by seven on a field goal 40 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Vikings then began to attack on the ground. In one possession the ball was handed to running back Ryan Fuqua 16 out of 17 plays.
Then with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Portland State tied the game at 17-17 with a one-yard diving touchdown from none other than Fuqua. With the blocked field goal to end regulation, both teams went to overtime to have a try at scoring from the 25-yard line.
The Vikings’ defense could easily claim credit for this victory. Just when Carolina A&T was threatening deep in the red zone, the Vikings’ defense held them to an 18-yard field goal. The Aggies then were up 20-17 in overtime.
However, the Vikings’ offense had a chance with the ball on the 25. Portland State attacked the same way they had during regulation, by going to their standout tailback, Fuqua. With three consecutive snaps to Fuqua Portland State was now on the 12-yard line. They then went with a wide open pass play to fullback Muhammad, who, with one man to beat, scored the touchdown and victory, 23-20.
Fuqua gathered 207 yards on 42 carries including one touchdown.
Only two games into the 2002 season, Fuqua already leads the nation in Division I-AA rushing. Amazingly it was Fuqua’s fifth game exceeding 200-yards rushing as only a sophomore.
On defense Tuitele ended the game with 12 tackles, one pass breakup and the interception for a touchdown. To back him up safety Nick Chenault collected 11 tackles and a fumble recovery. Also defensive end Josh Ratliff had nine tackles, three for a loss of yards and one sack.
The upcoming game for the Vikings is the biggest on their schedule in recent years. On Saturday Sept. 21, the Vikings travel to Eugene to battle the University of Oregon at Autzen Stadium, who are ranked in the top 10 in Division I-A.
The following Saturday will feature the first Big Sky game of the season against Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Ariz. The next time the Vikings will play at PGE Park will be against Southwest Texas State on Saturday Oct. 5.