In life, the toughest act to follow is a great first act.
It’s why sequels are rarely as good as the first movie; why the first time you try something is usually the best. Following up something incredible is a tough task, but that’s what the Portland State Vikings are trying to do in 2016.
The Vikings went 9-3 in 2015, earning two FBS wins and making it to the second round of the FCS playoffs. A season after, the Vikings are trying to follow that up the only way they know how-with more #Barnyball.
Last season’s highlight reel for the Vikings was so full, it could be considered a short movie. Still, the team from one of America’s proudly weird cities had nothing weird about it. Portland State football in 2015 was built on blocking, tackling, and believing in each other, and interim coach Bruce Barnum, from the beginning.
In terms of the 2016 team, Barnum said the same spirit and fire from 2015’s Vikings is evident.
“The motivation is there,” said Barnum, the reigning FCS Coach of the Year. “We have changed, every team changes every year, with new in, and old out. But, I see a little bit more attention to detail, just in guys wondering where they’re supposed to be, how is this supposed to work. It’s the foundation of a program; we’re not there yet, but as we chase the Joneses, that’s the ultimate goal is building a program.”
No one expected the Vikings to have the season they had in 2015, especially with a largely unproven group of players. That list was headed up by quarterback Alex Kuresa, who was rejected as a passer by every Division I program in his home state of Utah.
Now, the challenge for Kuresa isn’t just making it; instead, it’s about taking his team to the next level.
“I think it’s just holding everyone to an expectation,” said Kuresa, who won the Big Sky’s Newcomer of the Year award in 2015. “We don’t want to let anyone get complacent, we don’t want to let anyone try to live off of what people have done in the past. We know the standard of what we have to live up to, so for myself, I’m trying to hold people to that standard.”
While the Vikings’ offense made noise in 2015, it was a tough defense, and a ball-hawking secondary, that made Portland State a feared program. Last season, it was safety Patrick Onwuasor who roamed the secondary, picking off passes with ease.
This season, cornerback Xavier Coleman is expected to lead the way for Portland State. Coleman has earned considerable preseason hype, and in preparation for his senior season in the Rose City, the senior cornerback has focused on playing within the team concept.
“I think it’s more of a focus on the scheme,” he said. “I’m not really focusing on making a big play, or really any individual play. I notice that when I focus on the team, and focus on the coaches, the plays will come themselves.”
As fall camp begins to wind down for Portland State, the confidence in the Vikings in Portland pushes forward. However, now it’s the job of the Vikings to start to figure out how they’ll post another memorable story in the Big Sky Conference in 2016.
FINAL VIKINGS SCRIMMAGE WEDNESDAY: Like an ax to the grindstone, the Portland State football team will be honing its preparation for the start of the 2016 football this week. That means a second and final major scrimmage for the Vikings on Wednesday evening.
Last week, the Vikings ran 85 plays in their first scrimmage, and this week’s should look the same. “It will be very similar, but we will have Big Sky referees this time,” Barnum said. “It will be a chance to finish evaluating our two-deep but even more so an evaluation of our packages on offense and defense. You might see a few more special teams as well.”
Portland State will scrimmage on Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. at Stott Community Field.
The Vikings open play on Sept. 3, hosting Central Washington at Providence Park. Then, they have a challenging stretch of three straight on the road in a rugged month of September (San Jose State, Washington, Southern Utah).
A lot is expected of Portland State in 2016 after a 9-3 campaign last fall. Jon Oglesby of the Big Sky Conference prepared a preview of the Vikings this week.