Portland State was penalized 18 times by officials in last Saturday’s wild 45-38 win over Western Oregon in the home opener for the Vikings.
Seeing so many yellow penalty flags must have raised a red flag with Viking head coach Nigel Burton, right? Well, yes and no.
Sure, he’s concerned about his team abiding by the rules, but he also believes strongly some of the penalties did not justify a flag being thrown by the officials.
How strongly? So much so, Burton sent a video compilation to the Big Sky Conference office this week filled with plays he felt were erroneously called throughout the course of the game.
“There are some things I’ve sent to the conference because there were some calls that were (incorrect) and some behavior I saw from the crew that I just thought wasn’t acceptable,” Burton said Wednesday on the weekly Big Sky coaches teleconference. “So, there are some things I’m sending into the conference.
“Other than that, some of the (penalties) were aggressive (in nature). We had a freshman lose his helmet and he continued to play. We’ve coached that up and tried to get him to fix that. They get addressed throughout the conference and we move on.”
While Burton awaits an answer from the Big Sky Conference office, he continues to prepare his team for Saturday’s 5 p.m. contest (TV: Pac-12 Networks) against Washington State at newly renovated Martin Stadium in Pullman.
Burton served as the Nevada defensive coordinator for two years (2008-09) before accepting the PSU job in 2010 and the Vikings’ offense mimics the Wolfpack’s in some respects (both run the Pistol), so how much can he take from last week’s WSU-Nevada game film?
The Vikings’ offense combines different schemes in addition to the Pistol under offensive coordinator Bruce Barnum.
“There are obviously some similarities,” Burton said. “But we ran a little different offense (at Nevada). We ran the true Pistol that was developed by Coach Ault. We changed the passing part of the offense here, as well. Nevada ran some zone read, and that was helpful, but a lot of teams do that now and a lot of teams run some version of the Pistol.”
Defensively, Burton doesn’t expect Vikings defensive coordinator Jaime Hill will draw up a game plan that stonewalls the Washington State offense, since he believes no plan exists.
“There is no way to actually stop this offense,” Burton said. “It’s not really possible. What you’re trying to do is contain the big plays and do some things to make sure you still have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. They are a very athletic, well-coached team. We’re doing our best to prepare.”
— Burton on what PSU can take from the Oregon State game into the Washington State clash: “We just have to make sure we communicate well on the defensive side and make sure we don’t just let things go. Physically, we matched up fairly well. We think we have a shot versus anybody we play against.”
— Burton on possible impact of first-ever win over a Pac-12 opponent: “It would be huge, no question. But in the end, our goal is to compete for a Big Sky championship. We don’t get any rings for beating a Pac-12 opponent and I don’t think I get a bonus. In the end, we have a goal we need to stick to and achieve. This is a good opportunity to show what we’re made of.”
— Even though he is a former University of Washington player, Burton said he would not take any additional pleasure if the Vikings knocked off WSU. “This is about the Vikings and the Cougars playing, not about Nigel Burton or anything we did as players,” Burton said.
— Burton’s impression of the WSU defense: “They are big, athletic and very fast. If there able to stay on the attack, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble and have a long night.”
— Burton said he expects an electric atmosphere inside Martin Stadium on Saturday night. Washington State has spent tens of millions of dollars renovating the stadium by adding a press box, football complex, video scoreboard and other amenities. “I’m curious how the place has changed,” Burton said. “I remember walking through the oil drum tunnel. Everything I’ve heard, it’s a beautiful place now. But for the players, it will still be 120 yards by 53 yards with goalposts at the end. None of the people will come out of the stands and play, as far as I know.”