Saturday the Vikings opened up conference play against the UC Davis Aggies. Heading into the weekend, the Aggies and the Vikings each held a 1–3 overall record, with each team losing twice to PAC 12 opponents on the road. Another similarity heading into the weekend was that both teams picked up their first and only victory at home in week two against Division II opponents.
Throughout the first four games of the season, both teams ranked near the bottom of the Big Sky. Portland State was last place in scoring defense, total defense and passing defense. However, both teams’ lack of productivity could be attributed to the high level of competition they were playing in non-conference play.
With both teams ranked so poorly on defense, this matchup was expected to be an offensive shootout. That wasn’t the case during the first half for the Aggies. The Vikings defense held the Aggies to only 73 yards of total offense while PSU quarterback Kieran McDonagh rushed for two touchdowns. With an added 53-yard field goal, the Vikings entered the locker room at halftime with a 17–0 lead.
Fortunes changed as momentum shifted during the second half. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Vikings were steadily working down the field when Aggies cornerback Patrick Wells picked off a pass thrown over the middle. The Aggies struck fast with senior quarterback London Lacy, throwing a first play 36-yard touchdown pass to Keelan Doss, cut the lead to 10.
After a couple exchanged punts, the Aggies drove down the field with help from a 43-yard pass which left them with a first and goal from the Viking 9-yard line. Shortly thereafter, the Aggies scored on a touchdown pass from Lacy to redshirt freshman fullback Derek Baljeu.
With the Vikings up 14–20, they converted a 30-yard field goal and then forced the Aggies to punt. The Vikings took the ball over with just under seven minutes left in the game and drove down the field and sealed the game, scoring a field goal with 26 seconds left on the clock and a two-score lead.
This was an impressive showing by the Vikings to open up conference play. Even though they gave up 14 second-half points, the Vikings’ defense was the MVP of the game. Hard hits and swarming defenders dominated most plays.
As far as the offense was concerned, the rushing game reigned superior with running backs Nate Tago and Shaq Richard combining for 199 yards. Senior quarterback Kieran McDonagh also rushed for 33 yards and scored the only two Vikings touchdowns with his feet. Though McDonagh scored twice on the ground, he only completed 19 of his 37 pass attempts for no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Looking ahead, the Vikings accomplished the first step of their goal to win the Big Sky Conference. Up next for the Vikings is an away game against North Dakota who is 0–2 in conference play and 1–4 overall. If the Vikings can stay consistent on defense and in the run game while improving their air game, there’s a good chance they could be 2–0 in the Big Sky by this time next week.