Looking to avenge last year’s 41-21 home loss to Eastern Washington, the Vikings travel to Cheney Saturday afternoon with a chip on their shoulder and the Sports Network’s National Offensive Player of the Week Joe Rubin. Rubin, the Vikings’ senior tailback, had a dominating performance against Northern Colorado, lighting up the Bears for 3,356 yards and five touchdowns.
The Vikings will need another strong performance against Eastern Washington if they hope to come home with a win. The Golden Eagles are ranked 14th but fell to 1-2 on the year after an upset defeat at the hands of Idaho State. The Vikings, meanwhile, are 3-1 on the year and have won their last three games, including a 14-12 road win at UC Davis.
Yet to defeat the Eagles Portland State will have to contain EWU’s potent passing attack. The Eagles lead the nation in passing with 381.3 yards per game and quarterback Erik Meyer leads all of D I-AA in total offense with 356.0 yards per game. Meyer has added seven touchdowns and has 1,102 total yards.
Compared to the Eagles, the Viking passing attack looks rather tame. Junior starting QB Sawyer Smith has only two touchdowns in four games and has thrown the ball away six times. Brandon Ferrigno and Shaun Bodiford have been Smith’s favorite targets, yet neither player has had a dominant game. Bodiford leads the team with 155 yards, but those yards have come over four games.
“I had my opportunities,” Bodiford said after Saturday’s win over the Bears. “I’ve got to keep focusing.”
Perhaps part of the reason PSU has posted such tame passing numbers is the focus has all been on Joe Rubin. Rubin leads all of D I-AA in rushing with 672 yards on 132 attempts and has punched in eight touchdowns. Rubin’s 168 yards per game average on 33 carries account for over half the Viking offense and defenses have had little success slowing him.
All Big Sky title hopes go through Cheney, Washington. Joe Rubin called the EWU game “a Big Sky championship” game. The coaches know it. They picked the Golden Eagles to win the Big Sky Conference in a preseason poll. The players know it and will be playing with a chip on their shoulders after last year’s loss.
This Saturday at 2 p.m. is when the Vikings will define their season. They can announce that football has indeed returned to the South Park Blocks with a win and draw more fans to what has been an empty PGE Park so far this season. For now, all football hopes go through Cheney.