Vikings ‘play up’ against Broncos

After an embarrassing 42-24 loss to Eastern Washington last weekend, the Viking football team looks to rebound against an even more dangerous opponent in the D I-A Boise State Broncos. The Broncos have had their own season of ups and downs, losing to Oregon State and Georgia to start the year and then gaining wins over Bowling Green and Hawaii.

The Broncos are much like the Vikings, relying on a strong ground game that gains almost 220 yards per contest to lead the Western Athletic Conference. Their quarterback Jared Zabransky is capable, with seven scores and five picks. Three Broncos have rushed over 40 times in the first four games.

The Vikings must take advantage of a porous Boise State defense that has sacrificed 449 yards per contest. Since the Vikings lack a convincing passing attack the burden will once again fall on senior running back Joe Rubin, who leads the nation in yards gained with 876. Rubin has added nine scores, including six in his last two contests.

Unlike Rubin, junior quarterback Sawyer Smith has struggled mightily to get the passing game working properly. Smith is averaging two interceptions a game and has passed for only three touchdowns all season. He is completing 48 percent of his passes. He turned in a 10-28 performance against Eastern Washington last weekend and hasn’t been dominant in any game thus far.

A side effect of Smith’s ineptitude (and that of his offensive coordinator) is that speedy senior wide receiver Shaun Bodiford is having trouble getting the ball. Without Bodiford’s speed to compliment the power running game of Rubin, the Vikings are easily one of the most one-dimensional teams in the Big Sky.

Defensively PSU must continue to get pressure into the backfield. Last weekend the defense harassed EWU quarterback Erik Meyer for four sacks, yet Meyer escaped numerous others, turning potential losses into big gains on scrambles. It will be up to the secondary to lock it down once the front four do their job. Last week the Vikings gave up 222 yards rushing. They must improve on that number this week, as strong ground defense has been one of PSU’s main calling cards.

To win Saturday the Vikings must do what they have yet to do this year. They must find a way to balance their superb ground game with some plays through the air. The Broncos give up 449 yards a game, but Joe Rubin will not gain 449 yards on Saturday. This is one last game that doesn’t count in the Big Sky standings to get something started offensively. The Vikings have only one win against a D I-A opponent all time. No one expects a win tomorrow, but there must be signs of improvement and signs of some life in the offense. Stagnate now and forget a Big Sky championship.