Portland State 101: Men In Black

MANY COUGAR FANS will be unfamiliar with Portland State, but WSU head man Paul Wulff knows them well. In fact, he went just 4-4 against the stubborn Vikings in his tenure at Eastern. There is no line on the game but given the way Washington State has started the season, on paper the game on Saturday in Pullman sets up as the Cougars' best opportunity for a win in the month of September.

PSU coach Jerry Glanville got the better of Wulff in the only meeting between the two coaches last year and would dearly love to steal a valuable win against a Pac-10 foe before the Cougars have time adjust to their new coach‘s system.

The Man in Black is only in his second year himself at PSU but has plugged in a ton of his young recruits into the lineup who buy into his program. Although he has only won four of his first 13 games, the excitement he has brought to the program is palpable and his NFL resume is starting raise the quality of PSU's recruiting stock.

Cougars (0-3) vs Vikings (1-1)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
4:00 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Martin Stadium (35,117)

TELEVISION:
Regional coverage on FSN

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
N/A

LAST MEETING:
None

THE SERIES:
This is the first meeting between the two teams

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 35, Vikings 17

THE VIKINGS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Drew Hubel, QB: Injuries threw Hubel into the limelight as a true freshman last year, and he certainly made the most of it. In his first collegiate start, Hubel threw for an NCAA record 9 touchdowns in an amazing 68-73 loss to Weber State, the highest scoring regulation game in NCAA history. The sophomore has thrown for over 300 yards in three of five career starts. At 6-foot-5 has great vision and will throw all over the field.

Mario D‘Ambrosio, WR: D‘Ambrosio suffered a separated shoulder in game one, but remains one of the top targets for the PSU aerial attack. He leads a receiver corps that lacks height, but gets off the line quickly.

Overview
Glanville talked Mouse Davis into leaving Hawaii with him to install the run and shoot at PSU, the school where he helped invent the offense. Much like Hawaii, PSU's run-and-shoot is "run" in name only. They run the ball most infrequently, led the FCS in passing in 2007 and rank second this year at 397 passing yards per game.

Strategy
PSU can‘t run the football and they don‘t usually try. Stopping the passing game is the name of the game. The Vikings will utilize a lot of short-to-intermediate routes to try and maximize consistency in their drives. Keeping the linebackers in a mixture of zone schemes to try and maximize traffic congestion and interception opportunities would seemingly serve the Cougars well.

THE VIKINGS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Andy Schantz, KJ McCrae, Erik Pedersen, and Ryan Pederson, LBs: The 'backers are the the heart and soul of the PSU defense and they swarm to the ball. But while the group has a tough attitude and hits hard, there is a lack of speed and they also have to cover for an defensive line short on athleticism and size.

Overview
Glanville runs much of the same 3-4 defense he did with the Houston Oilers back in the 1980's . The 3-4 depends on great linebacker play and they did not get it last week. UC-Davis ran roughshod for 227 yards and passed for another 361 hashes in an offensive rout. The Vikings are aggressive -- they will take chances to try and generate turnovers.

Strategy
To put a twist on an old Keyshawn Jackson saying, Just run, run, RUN the damned ball. The Cougs will want to keep Hubel off the field and when they do throw it, to do so in way so as not to risk any potentially game changing interceptions. The Cougs will probably feel the temptation to try and fix all of their problems against a weaker opponent, but they need a win too desperately to mess around. Simply take care of business and let superior size, speed and yes, -- even depth and experience here in this particular case -- do its job. If the Vikings over-commit to the run, then high percentage passes should allow Brandon Gibson to burn them over and over again. PSU has not shown much of a pass rush and there has been no PSU defensive back who has shown this season he can contain Gibson without help.

THE VIKINGS ON SPECIAL TEAM
Danny Urrego handles the kicking and punting duties for PSU. He has an accurate leg but not a particularly strong one. But kick returner Aaron Woods has been dangerous, averaging just under 40 yards per return.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Davis is an original architect of the run-and-shoot offense back when he was head coach of PSU in the 1970‘s and the West Coast offenses that flourished for years after were direct offshoots as well. He made stars out of his two quarterbacks June Jones and Neil Lomax during that era and helped do the same with many quarterbacks at Hawaii the last few years. PSU is a difficult place to recruit to but having an offense this fun has brought in more talent than the Cougars might have anticipated when they scheduled this game. Nevertheless, this is the first game, and perhaps the only game, in which WSU will hold a significant edge in speed over their opponent. WSU's defense must make the most of that speed to overcome an aggressive offense. Washington State must also continue their improvement on special teams. All the momentum of a dominating run-oriented 80-yard touchdown drive could be undone in about eight seconds if they don't keep Woods and PSU in check on kickoff returns. But if the Cougars play the way they can and should, the outcome should be a decisive one.


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