Portland State 101: Starting From Scratch

EVEN IF THE Cougs weren't struggling, the matchup with Portland State could still prove problematic. No, hear me out. The talent on the Vikings roster is still a notch or two below WSU's, but that means less than it used to in college football. Just as the gap between the big programs and small programs has shrunk over the past 10 years, the gap between the FBS and FCS has shrunk as well.

Programs like Eastern Washington and Portland State have been giving Pac-12 schools scares for years and the Vikings think they are ready to take the next step. They led Oregon State 14-13 at halftime just two weeks ago before falling by a very respectable score of 29-14.

THE VIKINGS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Kieren McDonagh and Paris Penn, QBs: McDonagh is a third year starting quarterback, but the Vikings are extremely excited about Penn who has begun to take about half of the snaps. Both are dual threat quarterbacks who have combined for 305 passing yards and 201 rushing yards in the first two games.
Shaquille Richard, RB: A lightweight speedster, Richard has averaged 7.3 yards per rush this season.

Overview
Portland State likes to grind it out on the ground and mix in some short, controlled passes. Richard is the bellcow ‘back and the Vikings will run plenty of QB draws and screens as well. Just when you think they are becoming dull and predictable, the Vikings will look to the trick play. Flea-flickers, double passes, and other creative plays give Portland State's offense an almost rope-a-dope quality to it.

Strategy
Each of WSU's first three opponents have run similar offenses, so the Cougs' defense should continue to look better. WSU needs to focus on the ground game and contain the quarterback. The receivers don’t inspire a ton of fear - WSU could get burned a trick play or two, but overall the quarterbacks have shown little effectiveness on long balls.

Key Statistic
6.7 yards per rush: Between Richard and the two quarterbacks, the Vikings have moved the ball very effectively on the ground.

THE VIKINGS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Patrick Onwuasor, FS: A former Arizona Wildcat receiver who transferred and bulked up to play defense. Second on the team with 12 tackles this season.
Brandon Tobias, DE One of several undersized (220 pounds) but highly active pass rushers for PSU. Has 2 ½ sacks in the first two games.

Overview
Portland State runs a base 4-3 that focuses on big play generation. In just two games they have 10 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 11 pass deflections

Strategy
Expect the Vikings to play with reckless abandon trying to generate turnovers. They don't care how many yards they give up so long as they make the plays that change the game.

Key Statistic
10 Sacks: PSU's pass defense isn't the best, but they have put a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

THE VIKINGS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Kyle Loomis has averaged a booming 47.6 yards per punt this season, but kicker Jonathan Gonzales has missed 3 out of 4 field goal attempts.

FINAL THOUGHTS
-Portland State's offensive and defensive line coaches Steve Morton and Malik Roberson both held the same posts at WSU under Paul Wulff

-While fans would like nothing more than a dominating performance over a unheralded opponent, this could shape up to be a very exciting game. PSU's offense will try to grind the clock and their defense will do whatever they can to force Connor Halliday into bad decisions. That said, the consensus here is this is finally the week WSU pulls away and the final score will not be tight.

Cougfan Top Stories