CENTRAL WASHINGTON at PORTLAND STATE
KICKOFF: Saturday, Sept. 3, 2:30 p.m. PT
WHERE: Providence Park (18,627), Portland, OR
TV/RADIO: No TV; 1190 AM (KEX), www.1190kex.iheart.com • Pregame Show: 1:30 p.m. • Play-by-play: Tom Hewitt • Analyst: Mike Lund
Portland State football opens its most-anticipated season in many years this Saturday when it hosts Central Washington in a non-conference game. The 2016 lid-lifter for the Vikings and Wildcats kicks off at 2:30 p.m. at Providence Park.
PSU comes off a 9-3 season that included landmark wins over Washington State, North Texas, Montana, Montana State and others. The Vikings reached the NCAA FCS I playoffs for just the second time in history and registered the most successful season in their Division I history.
Now comes the task of backing up all that success.
Portland State enters the 2016 campaign ranked 12th in the FCS Coaches Poll and 17th in the STATS FCS Poll. The Vikings were tabbed to place second in the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches poll and see one of their main goals as winning a first-ever Big Sky title in their 21st season as a member (PSU has placed second five times, including 2015). PSU is pursuing back-to-back winning seasons in 2016 for the first time since 2005 and 2006 (6-5, 7-4).
2015 FCS National Coach of the Year Bruce Barnum leads the Vikings for his second season (after five years as offensive coordinator). He has 45 returning letterwinners and 14 returning starters.
On the other side of the field this Saturday is Central Washington, an NCAA II member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The Wildcats were 5-5 in 2015, 3-3 in GNAC play. They return 46 letterwinners and 18 starters.
On paper, Portland State would be the prohibitive favorite in Saturday’s matchup. However, the Vikings need look no further than last year’s season opener for motivation to bring their best performance to Providence Park. PSU knocked off massively favored Washington State of the Pac-12, 24-17, at Martin Stadium. In this year’s scenario, Portland State would be “Washington State” to the underdog Central Washington Wildcats. The Vikings will do their best to not allow that type of upset to occur.
Portland State is a perfect 14-0 against lower division schools since moving to the NCAA I FCS level in 1996. PSU has won three in a row in the series with Central Washington, but the teams have not met in 39 years.
This Saturday’s game is not televised, however there will be a live stream available at www.GoViks.com/Live. The game airs on 1190 AM KEX in the Portland area and www.1190kex.com. This is a change from Portland State’s normal radio signal at Rip City Radio 620 AM, due to a conflict with Hillsboro Hops baseball. Live stats will be available at www.ViksLive.com.
Following Saturday’s game, the Vikings hit a very challenging stretch of three straight road games at San Jose State (Sept. 10), Washington (Sept. 17) and defending Big Sky Champion Southern Utah (Sept. 24). PSU hosts Big Sky Conference home games against Idaho State (Oct. 1), Cal Poly (Oct. 15), Northern Colorado (Oct. 29) and Eastern Washington (Nov. 18).
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS: The Central Washington Wildcats are members of the NCAA II Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The Wildcats come off a 5-5 season in 2015, 3-3 in GNAC play. Head Coach Ian Shoemaker begins his third season and has a 12-9 record overall. The team has 46 returning letterwinners and 18 returning starters.
Last season, the Wildcats averaged 391 yards and 28.8 points per game while giving up 376 yards and 31.1 points per game.
Central Washington averaged 251 yards per game passing and starting quarterback Justin Lane returns. Lane passed for 2,001 yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. The top of his receiving corps remains intact from last season. Jesse Zalk, Christian Gasca, Kyle Self and Justin Peterson all return after combining for 127 receptions, 1,840 yards and 13 TDs last season.
Linebacker Kevin Haynes returns to the lead defense. Haynes led the team with 73 tackles and three sacks last season. Defensive end Winslow Kouassi had 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, while defensive back Myles Carelock made five interceptions.
CONNECTIONS: Portland State defensive coordinator Malik Roberson was the defensive coordinator at Central Washington in 2012-13. PSU special teams coordinator and running backs coach Nick Whitworth held the same roles at CWU from 2011-14. Cornerbacks coach Vernon Smith Jr. was a graduate assistant at Central Washington from 2008-10.
VIKING TOP STATISTICAL RETURNERS
Rushing Yards: Alex Kuresa 755, Nate Tago 421
Rushing Touchdowns: Alex Kuresa 7, Nate Tago 6
Passing: Alex Kuresa 126-226-7, 1,975 yards, 17 touchdowns
Receptions: Darnell Adams 22, Josh Kraght 16
Receiving Yards: Darnell Adams 478, Josh Kraght 227, Trent Riley 223
Receiving Touchdowns: Darnell Adams 6, Trent Riley 2
Scoring: Jonathan Gonzales, 13 FG, 50 PAT, 89 pts
Field Goals: Jonathan Gonzales 13-16
Total Offense: Alex Kuresa, 2,730 yards
All-Purpose Yards: Alex Kuresa 780; Kahlil Dawson 777, Nate Tago 529
Punting: Marcus Kinsella, 64-40.9
Punt Returns: Josh Kraght, 17-89
Kick Returns: Kahlil Dawson 31-777
Tackles: Beau Duronslet 64, Xavier Coleman 52
Tackles For Loss: Michael Doman 9.0, Davond Dade 6.5
Sacks: Davond Dade 6, Michael Doman 4.5
Interceptions: Xavier Coleman 5
Pass Breakups: Xavier Coleman 13, Walter Santiago 8
REMEMBERING AJ, KYLE AND CARDER: Portland State will remember AJ Schlatter and Kyle Smith, two fallen brothers in arms, during the 2016 season. Schlatter passed away tragically on Jan. 17 following complications from a tonsilectomy. The Viking linebacker had just completed his redshirt freshman season, starting 10 games. He had 62 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception. Schlatter was the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week following PSU’s Nov. 21 win over Eastern Washington. Smith passed away on April 13. He was a two-time All-Big Sky Conference selection at left tackle and about to begin his senior season. The Vikings will also remember Carder Doman, son of senior defensive end Michael Doman. Carder died in a tragic accident in June at the age of two. Viking players will wear a number-31, number-67 and “C”decal on their helmets to remember AJ, Kyle and Carder.