I want to believe in the football team.
After three solid performances to start the season, I was likeJared after his first week of toting his fat ass to Subway – on theprecipice of belief.
Thanks to a deep, athletic defense, a reinvigorated and healthyoffensive line and the hint of a swagger that had been missing forthe last two years, I was almost ready to laugh in the faces of thecoaches and media who picked the Vikings to finish dead last in thelowly Big Sky.
Then the Eastern Washington Eagles rolled into town and rolledover the Vikings like they were a scout team.
The Viking defense that shut down 12th ranked McNeese State andheld its own against D-1 powerhouse Fresno State didn’t show up. Intheir place was a timid secondary and overmatched group of linemanand linebackers who helped the already impressive Eastern QB ErikMeyer to a career night.
On top of the defense’s failures, the offense struggled to movethe ball and seemingly gave up on the serial attack needed to makeup a 20-point deficit.
As disappointed fans flooded the PGE Park exits, one fan yelledout, “Maybe next year.”
“Maybe not,” the guy next to me muttered.
So much for believing.
But Saturday night, playing on the road against SacramentoState, the Viks showed the same tantalizing signs for optimism.Behind an aggressive secondary, a dominant defensive line and asolid performance from QB Joe Wiser, the Viks showed the heart theyhad lacked the week before and notched their second shutout of theseason.
So what happened against Eastern Washington?
Aside from the fact that Eastern may be the class of the Big Skythis year, senior defensive tackle Chris Berg suggested anothercause for the let down: “Some people got cocky. I don’t thinkeveryone prepared as hard as they could have.”
Coach Tim Walsh seconded Berg’s opinion, “There was afeeling that [the players] might have been reading their pressclippings a little bit.”
What press clippings are these guys cutting out?
No offense to the Vanguard, the Trib or the Oregonian, but we’renot exactly talking ESPN and Sports Illustrated here.
So you shut out D-II Western State (a school so bad the”western” state they play in would prefer to remainunidentified). Whoop-de-do.
So you held your own against big, bad D-1 Fresno State.Impressive? Yes, but let’s not get in the habit of bragging aboutlosses. For a reminder of how obnoxious bragging about losing isyou need look no further than Corvallis.
So you beat 12th ranked McNeese State. Get on the bandwagon,they are 2-3 to start the season and stuck at the bottom of theirconference.
If this team is going to do anything more than finishanonymously in the middle of the Big Sky it needs to stop pattingitself on the back and leave everything on the field everygame-day.
Hopefully, Saturday’s victory is a sign that the whippingEastern delivered helped implant this message in all of their bigskulls.
“[Losing to Eastern] opened a lot of guys’ eyes to the factthat we’re good, but not that good, and we need to play to our bestlevel to win,” Berg said.
When I asked Walsh how a coach deals with a team that may havegotten cocky he didn’t hesitate, “Just tell them to shut upand play.”
If the Vikings heed his advice, they may finish the season withsome press clippings that are really worth bragging about.
Fumbles – lost
Time of possession
Net yards rushing
Net yards passing
Sacked – yards lost