Vikings fall to OSU 41-14

For Division 1 school Oregon State, their September 3 home opener versus Portland State was a nice warm-up before taking on Boise State next week. A minor obstacle and a nice way to re-open flashy Reser Stadium – with a sure win. For Portland State football and its fans, the Vikings’ 14-41 setback in Corvallis should be an encouraging sign of a successful Big Sky season, despite the deceiving final score.


It would be easy to look at the box score and simply see a Pac-10 school that has made four consecutive bowl games destroying a D 1-AA commuter college with an athletic budget under $3 million. Yet, the Vikings didn’t play nearly as badly as the numbers or the 41 points put up under a rebuilt Beaver offense leads one to believe.


The Viks did get trounced; no one is denying that. But no sane fan or player went into that game thinking the Vikings were going to leave Corvallis a winner. Hoping for, yes. But there was no way PSU was going to waltz into Reser Stadium and claim a win. Even still, PSU can take several moral victories from the game, and most of them center on the Vikings’ ability to control the line of scrimmage, getting sacks on defense and racking up over 100 yards of ground offense.


Portland State moved the ball well early-on under the power of Joe Rubin, who had 82 first-half yards and finished with 113 yards. Rubin showed power and speed and earned his yards on 28 carries, including a long of 18 yards.


As well as PSU ran the ball, a continuation of last year’s solid ground game, the Vikings’ defensive line did a good job stopping the OSU run and proved that there will be no hangover after losing key senior linemen Chris Berg and Chuck Jones to graduation. The Vikings held the Beavers to 77 yards ground offense and sacked Beaver QB Matt Moore twice. PSU QB Sawyer Smith was not sacked.


New offensive coordinator Mike Fanger showed some intestinal fortitude early in the game, going for and converting a fourth and one that set-up Brendan Ferrigno’s touchdown reception three plays later. A nifty reverse to Shaun Bodiford that left the Beaver defense flat-footed was the only other score for PSU.


Head coach Tim Walsh was pleased. “I thought physically we played pretty well against them,” he said. Despite being physical with the Beavers, OSU rumbled to 479 yards total offense, 402 yards by air. Junior Matt Moore sat most of the fourth quarter after racking up 367 yards and 4 touchdowns on 26-38 passing with one pick, exposing a PSU secondary that looked rattled at times.


Walsh was also pleased with his own team’s passing attack, but junior quarterback Sawyer Smith’s first career start began with a couple of under-thrown balls after being forced out of the pocket and then a pick that led to an OSU touchdown the very next play to make the score 10-0.


Smith would get progressively steadier further into the contest and would finish 15-33 for 174 yards with a TD and two picks. Those numbers may be inflated, considering Smith had a 53-yard pass to Kenneth Mackins that brought the ball to the 9-yard line as the first-half expired.


That PSU failed to leave time for at least a field goal attempt in that situation underlined Portland State’s inability to manage the clock effectively and field position correctly. Eric Azzor’s 33 yards a punt factored into the problem.


“We made a couple of mistakes that cost us some points and field position,” Walsh admitted. Yet Walsh also gave credit to Oregon State for disrupting the Vikings’ game plan, slamming the line of scrimmage shut and forcing Portland State into costly situations.


The Vikings will have already played UC Davis by the time this issue hits the stands and will be preparing for a home game against Big Sky whipping boy Sacramento State set to kick off Saturday, Sept. 17, at 6 p.m. How Portland State builds on their season opener will go a long way in deciding whether PSU rolls into PGE Park 1-1 or limps home 0-2.


Still, Tim Walsh is optimistic. “I was happy with our offense,” he said. “I think we have a chance to be a pretty good football team.”