It was sloppy. It was messy. It was watch-through-your-fingers action. But most importantly, it was still spring, so everything is OK.
On May 18, the Vikings concluded spring practice with their annual spring game, played at Hillsboro Stadium.
Played with four 15-minute running clocks, the Vikings introduced a few new wrinkles on offense, but primarily, this was the defensive showcase that fans have been looking for.
“Offensively, we did some nice things and made some plays, but when it came down to it, the defense figured out how to shut things down,” said head coach Nigel Burton,who had to have been pleased. Burton’s background is on defense, having spent the majority of his two stops prior to Portland State coaching that side of the ball.
While the performance may have been nice for the coaches to see after years of subpar Vikings defenses, it wasn’t much for the crowd, who sat through the pouring rain with little offense to keep their attention.
Burton, chuckling at the score, couldn’t help but enjoy the play of his defense—especially the secondary—which had multiple pass breakups.
“Everybody says ‘when are we going to play championship defense consistently?’ On defense, we’ve gotten better and showed flashes. Now that we played great defense, people are asking for more points,” he said after the game.
If offense was lacking, star power wasn’t. On hand as captains were former greats Neil Lomax, recent Super Bowl champion DeShawn Shead, and Denver Broncos standout Julius Thomas.
All three were on hand—as well as former Duck DeAnthony Thomas—providing fans the opportunity to grab an autograph and pose for pictures. Despite the rain and lack of cohesiveness from the offenses, most fans left happy, and intrigued, by what the upcoming season will bring.
The white team wrapped up a 10–7 win, led by sophomore quarterback Paris Penn, despite gaining only 197 yards on 49 plays. Almost half of their yards came on a Penn touchdown scramble in the first quarter from 73 yards out.
Kieran McDonagh, who started nine games for PSU last season, quarterbacked the green team. They moved the ball well despite the conditions, but couldn’t put the ball in the end zone for most of the day. His 25-yard pass to Trevor Dye in the second quarter was the only score for the green team, who finished with 230 yards on 53 plays.
Despite the low score, Burton focused on the positives as his team breaks for summer—a time to improve in the weight room and through team oriented drills.
“I’m proud of them, of the way they stepped up and made plays, particularly in the secondary. Now we have to carry that into the  season,” he said.
One thing is for certain: In the regular season, they’re not likely to face the kind of downpour they did Sunday, and they won’t be facing their own defense, which appears to be vastly improved.
The Vikings open the season August 30 in Corvallis. They will be looking to add to the list of Division 1-AA teams to upset the Beavers at home and give Burton a big win against his