Sawyer Smith has breakout game in huge Viking win

Every Viking player on the sideline kneeled down, creating a small sea of dark green and black. Viking coaches on the sideline and in the booth held their breath, waiting. Meanwhile, over 10,000 Viking fans that stood through four long hours of rain-filled, rollercoaster-like football, screamed and yelled and cheered and hoped.


When Eric Azorr’s 40-yard field goal sailed through the uprights with no time remaining on the clock, propelling PSU to a 44-41 victory over the ninth-ranked Montana St. Bobcats at PGE Park, every single Viking player, coach and fan lost it.


PSU won. PSU had done it.


This was the game that Vikings fans have been waiting for all season. This was the game that introduced Big Sky football to the Smith-Bodiford connection. And this was the game that turned around the Vikings’ season.


“We needed to come out and take this one,” head coach Tim Walsh said. “We knew how big, how important of a win this was going to be for us. I’m proud of these guys.”


For the first time this year, the PSU offense showed up. And for the first time this year, quarterback Sawyer Smith fulfilled the promise that his arm holds. Smith, who was 17-25 for 252 yards and two touchdowns, undoubtedly had his finest game of his young career. More importantly for the Vikings, however, he took command.


“I just stopped trying to force things. Shaun [Bodiford] and I have been working on this stuff all year long and tonight it finally clicked. He was getting open. My line was awesome. I really didn’t get touched the whole night. It was great,” Smith said.


In teaming up with Bodiford (nine receptions, 124 yards, one touchdown), Smith used a variety of both short and long pass routes to pick apart the Bobcats’ defense. As a result, the Vikings were able to rely on something that they had been lacking the entire year: a passing game.


With Smith’s success in the air, PSU’s offense quickly became unstoppable. Moreover, it became wonderfully unpredictable. In racking up 482 total yards and six touchdowns (while not committing any turnovers), the Vikings looked brand new.


PSU used reverses to Bodiford, screen passes to Joe Rubin, drop-offs to Allen Kennett and 20-yard outs and crossing patterns to Bodiford to keep Montana St.’s defense off-track. The Vikings also threw Rubin and Kennett into the mix on the ground and with the two backs piling up 190 yards total – the Bobcats’ defenders never knew what was going to hit them next.


As strong and as essential as Smith’s performance was in the game, so was Bodiford’s. He tallied up 287 total offensive yards and his inspired kickoff returns consistently put PSU in excellent field position.


“I just want to be a sparkplug. That’s what I want to be known as: a sparkplug,” Bodiford said. “Sawyer and I have been working on this forever and maybe, lately, we were just trying too hard. Tonight, we stopped trying to force things and we just let it come our way.”


For the Vikings though, this game, in the end, was unquestionably a team win.


“Allen Kennett came up big. When Rubin went out, Allen stepped it up. And Kenneth Mackins came up big for us on special teams. This was a team win. We all came together and pulled this one out,” said Walsh.


PSU’s defense, while giving up 384 passing yards to Bobcats’ quarterback Travis Lulay, came through when it was needed the most. Steve Shinen had 12 tackles, Joey King had nine and the Vikings special teams play on defense eventually turned the tide of the game.


With the Vikings’ record at 4-3 (2-1 in the Big Sky) and another home game next week against 2-4 Northern Arizona, PSU now has the ability to chart its own course. The Vikings are tied for second in the Big Sky and a conference title is still within reach. They should break into the Top 25 rankings poll this week. And if Smith and Bodiford can stay on fire, PSU has a shot to have its best season in recent memory.


“Whatever it takes!” shouted fullback Allen Kennett after the Vikings had sealed the win. Kennett ran up to anyone he could find, got in their face, chest-bumped them and yelled it. When Kennett found Walsh, he shouted the refrain as loudly as he could. Walsh seemed confused at first, not understanding what Kennett was saying. Once Kennett calmed down enough to be understood and repeated the phrase, Walsh beamed, nodding his head in overwhelming agreement.


After Saturday night’s improbable victory, it should become the Vikings’ catchphrase for the ’05 season.