Coming off of a gritty home win against the UC Davis Aggies at Providence Park, the Vikings headed into Saturday’s game looking for another Big Sky win on the road against the University of North Dakota, formerly The Fighting Sioux, currently sans nickname.
The Vikings dominated the first half, outscoring UND 13–3. The only touchdown drive of the half took place early in the first quarter and consisted of three plays for 75 yards. The key play on the drive was a beautifully thrown 50-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Kieran McDonagh to Stevie Coury. The other six points of the half for the vikings came off two Jonathon Gonzales field goals for 23 and 45 yards.
Even though the Vikings offense showed a lot of life in the first half, the real story was a dominant performance by the Vikings defense which held UND to only three points.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, the rest of the game wasn’t so dominant. After
receiving the second half kickoff, UND drove down the field for a touchdown bringing the score to 13–10. On the ensuing possession, McDonagh threw a pick that resulted in a lead-taking touchdown by UND.
After a couple of exchange punts by both teams, the Vikings closed the gap to only one point with a 37-yard Gonzales field goal.
The Vikings defense held strong on the following drive, forcing another three and out. However, when the Vikings got the ball, they also failed to get a first down. On the fourth down punt, UND’s Alex Tillman returned it from the 5–yard line for a touchdown to give UND a 24–16 lead.
All was not lost for the Vikings though, as they ended up with a great starting field position on UND’s 18-yard line with just over a minute left in the game. The Vikings struggled, but finally converted a fourth-down pass to give them first and goal from the five. Plagued by a sack, a false start penalty and a few incomplete passes, the Vikings failed to put the ball in the end zone within the allotted amount of downs and time, resulting in a 16–24 loss.
This game was very similar to last week’s game against UC Davis with the only difference being that Portland State pulled out the home victory. In both games the Vikings defense came out strong in the first half, only to ease up in the second. Once again, the Vikings’ passing game showed highlights of brilliance with deep, on target throws, but also showed that if the throws aren’t on target, they can very easily end up as picks that result in points for the opposing team.
Moving forward, the Vikings need to figure out a way to carry the momentum and lead gained in the first half throughout the rest of the game. Fans should not lose faith yet. The Vikings have shown signs of dominance on both sides of the ball during conference play this season, and if they can eliminate some mental mistakes, there is no reason they can’t make it to the postseason.