What: Portland State (2-3) at Weber State (2-2)
Where: Stewart Stadium (17,500), Ogden, UT
When: Sat., Oct. 8, 5 p.m. PT (6 p.m. local)
TV/Radio: No TV; Rip City Radio 620 AM (Tom Hewitt and Mike Lund); Live stream on watchbigsky.com
After a one-game detour into military academy football, Portland State aims to return to a more balanced offensive approach in their quest for the coveted first road victory of 2016.
The Vikings set a school record with 531 rushing yards on 58 carries while attempting only five passes in the convincing 45-20 victory over Idaho State last Saturday at Providence Park, Portland State’s first Big Sky victory of the season.
Best part? PSU didn’t commit a turnover for the first time this season following a rash of turnovers on the road.
“We wanted to simplify the offensive package and we did,” Portland State coach Bruce Barnum said. “We tweaked some things in the run game. I was happy how it turned out. Our guys played well. We were able to run the ball and come out with a good win. It breeds confidence in a young team like we have.”
PSU averaged better than nine yards per carry against the Bengals and came within eight yards of the Big Sky Conference single game rushing record (539) in rolling to the much-needed victory, which came on the heels of three straight road losses for the Vikings.
Portland State hits the road again this weekend, returning to quarterback Alex Kuresa’s native state of Utah for the second time to square off with Weber State (202) in Ogden. The Wildcats are coming off a bye week.
Will Portland State again mimic Army, Navy and the Air Force and run the football seemingly every play? Not likely.
“We were just trying to do too much early,” Barnum said. “We overloaded (Kuresa), so we cut back in order to get back on track. I didn’t plan on cutting back that much, but you take what they give you. I’m guessing you’ll see some balls in the air on Saturday.”
Kuresa is a high school football legend in the state of Utah, originally signing with BYU. But he transferred to Portland State prior to the 2015 season.
Weber State quarterback Jadrian Clark has completed 62.4 percent (83-133) of his passes for 975 yards, 4 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also has 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Cam Livingston leads Weber with 20 receptions for 205 yards, while Andrew Vollert has made 19 catches for 307 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’re not going to handle them, but we’re going to have to try to slow them down,” Barnum said. “They have moved the ball up and down the field on everybody. Offensively, we have to keep them off the field.”
Treshawn Garrett leads the running game with 83 carries for 397 yards and three touchdowns. Landon Stice has a team-high 42 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and one Pick-6 this season.
“It’s going to be a tough football game,” Barnum said. “I like some of Weber’s players. They have had some time to get healthy (with the bye week). It will be a classic Big Sky football game. If we don’t show up, we’ll get our dish handed to us.”
The Weber State defense tops the Big Sky in passing defense (172 passing yards per game), while giving up 245 yards per game on the ground, 12th in the 13-team Big Sky Conference.
From that perspective, keeping the ball on the ground might be a smart decision again for Portland State.
“We have our work cut out for us in this game,” Weber State’s third-year head coach Jay Hill said. “We’re going to have to play our best game of the year so far. We have to match Portland State’s toughness and physicality.”
— Kuresa isn’t the only current Portland State player with strong ties to the Beehive State. Junior left guard Tyshon Mosley is a native of Sandy, UT and attended Utah State before transferring to PSU. Barnum said he sent an assistant coach into Utah this past spring trying to establish a pipeline to Portland State.
— Senior placekicker Jonathan Gonzales has made all three of his field goal attempts and all 20 of his extra points through the first five games. Gonzales is 33-of-43 FGA in his career to rank second all-time in field goals made and first in FG percentage (.767) at Portland State. He is 103-of-104 PAT all-time to be PSU’s career leader (.990).
— Senior tight end Maximo Espitia, a graduate transfer from Cal, has become a major element of the Vikings offense in his first four games with PSU. Espitia had a career-high seven receptions for 138 yards at Southern Utah on Sept. 24. Going into Week 6, Espitia leads the team with 17 receptions for 334 yards and two touchdowns, averaging over 20 yards per catch.
WEEK 6 BIG SKY SCHEDULE (Sat. Oct. 8)
Northern Colorado at Eastern Washington, 1 p.m.
Mississippi Valley State at Montana, 1:30 p.m.
Northern Arizona at Montana State, 4 p.m. (ROOT Sports)
Portland State at Weber State, 5 p.m.
UC Davis at Southern Utah, 5 p.m.
North Dakota at Sacramento State, 6 p.m.
(All Times Pacific)
BIG SKY STANDINGS (After Week 5)
Eastern Washington 2-0
North Dakota 2-0
Northern Colorado 1-0
Weber State 1-0
Portland State 1-1
Cal Poly 1-1
Southern Utah 1-1
Idaho State 1-1
Sacramento State 1-1
Montana State 0-2
UC Davis 0-2
Northern Arizona 0-2
— Portland State FB (@viks_football) October 8, 2016
— Mike Lund (@mikelund65) October 8, 2016
— AC Patterson (@coachapatterson) October 7, 2016
— PSU VIKINGS (@PSU_VIKINGS) October 4, 2016