Two years ago, then Portland State sophomore Paris Penn dazzled the opening game crowd at Oregon State, rushing for 112 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings battled the Beavers to the final siren.
Bruce Barnum has waited a long time to see Penn, hampered by injuries after his impressive outing in Corvallis, perform at that high level again.
Last Saturday, he did.
Penn, lining up more this season in the backfield, averaged nearly 10 yards per carry, including a 36-yard TD scamper, and functioned as a ray of sunshine for the Vikings in their frustrating 66-35 loss at San Jose State.
“Paris Penn was definitely a highlight,” Barnum told Viking Tales. “He did some things I’ve been waiting on for a long time. He had some good runs early and scored a touchdown. He burst through and had a great series. He went out there and ran like you dream Paris Penn would run. I just stood on the sideline and said, ‘Let’s keep giving it to him.’ I told him after the game, “Paris, you play like that and we’re going to win a lot of football games.”
Penn rushed for a career high 137 yards on 14 carries (no negative yards) and caught three passes (one for a 22-yard TD) for PSU, which was locked in a tight 14-14 duel with San Jose State midway through the second quarter until a pair of SJSU touchdowns in the closing minutes before halftime and four consecutive turnovers during a nightmarish seven-minute span bridging the third and fourth quarters doomed PSU’s upset bid.
Does his performance at San Jose State signal Penn is ready to write a new chapter to his Portland State career?
“He was better than he was at Oregon State. That’s what we need,” Barnum, said. “I expect him to be great. If he can do that consistently, He is going to help us a lot.”
The San Jose State game, first of back-to-back road encounters with FBS schools, also marked the debut of exciting Oregon transfer Chris Seisay, who caught two passes for 56 yards and contributed on special teams as a kick returner (1 return for 34 yards) about two weeks after joining the Vikings program.
Barnum maintains Seisay’s encouraging performance last Saturday is just the beginning of a bright future with the Vikings. The blazingly fast Seisay played defensive back for the Ducks and started three games in 2014, including the Rose Bowl and national championship game (7 tackles vs. Ohio State), but immediately switched to wide receiver when he joined PSU in late August.
Seisay signed with Oregon in 2013 and redshirted that season before appearing in 20 games from 2014-15. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
“It’s been baby steps for him to this point,” Barnum said. “I didn’t play him in Game 1 and this last game we played him at receiver and he played on some special teams. Each week, you’ll see him get more and more touches. I’m trying to gear him towards Southern Utah (Sept. 24) when we begin conference play. I want him 100 percent ready to go (for Big Sky play.”
Along with the rest of his new Portland State teammates, Seisay faces former Pac-12 rival Washington Saturday afternoon at renovated Husky Stadium in Seattle (5 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Washington is ranked No 8 in this week’s AP Poll, its highest ranking since landing at No. 3 in the final 2000 poll, and features one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 in sophomore Jake Browning, who has thrown for 581 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 74 percent of his passes in victories over Rutgers and Idaho.
Barnum grew up in Vancouver, WA and has followed Washington football closely for over four decades.
“They have one of their best teams I’ve seen in a long time,” Barnum said. “Chris Peterson’s staff is nails. He has a lot of guys that are great recruiters and good coaches. And that new stadium is something to see. It looks beautiful.”
Washington head coach Chris Petersen was the quarterbacks coach for Portland State under Tim Walsh for two seasons (1993-94) when PSU was a Division II program. Peterson elevated to the FBS ranks in 1995 when he was named wide receivers coach at Oregon. After six seasons in Eugene, he landed at Boise State and remained with the Broncos for over a decade, first as offensive coordinator (2001-05) and later as head coach (2006-13) before accepting the Washington job in December 2013.
Appalachian State’s massive upset of Michigan in 2007 demonstrates a FCS program is capable of beating a Top 10 team on the right day, but the Vikings must play a flawless game in front of 60,000-plus fans in one of the most scenic settings in all of college football. Committing six costly turnovers won’t get the job done.
“I like the attitude of my team,” Barnum said. “But we need to do three things: clean up the turnovers, more attention to detail in everything we do and we need to start attacking more. We do at times but we’re not consistent in getting after people’s backsides. We talked about those three things (Monday) and I liked the eyes. As coaches, we gave them what we felt they needed to fix.”
— Safety Walter Santiago’s hard-luck career ended Saturday at San Jose State when he suffered a season-ending injury.
— The Pac-12 Network TV crew for Saturday’s game features Jim Watson (PxP), Yogi Roth (analyst) and Cindy Brunson (sidelines). The game can also be heard on Rip City Radio 620 AM and www.ripcityradio.com.
— After the 31-point loss to San Jose State, Portland State dropped to No. 19 in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll.
— Even though the two schools are separated by just 180 miles, Portland State and Washington have met just once previously in 2012 at Century Link Field in Seattle. The Huskies won, 52-13.
BIG SKY SCHEDULE (Sept. 17)
UC Davis at Wyoming, 1 p.m.
Northern Colorado at Colorado State, 1 p.m.
Western Oregon at Montana State, 1 p.m.
Idaho State at Oregon State, 2 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
South Dakota at North Dakota, 2 p.m.
New Mexico Highlands at Northern Arizona, 4 p.m.
Cal Poly at South Dakota State, 5 p.m.
Northern Iowa at Eastern Washington, 7 p.m.
Portland State at Washington, 5 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Sacramento State at Weber State, 5 p.m.
I love this game no matter the outcome. Just know I won't stop coming! #2 pic.twitter.com/gyoXSL9yuW
— Paris Penn (@DualThreat_2) September 12, 2016