Portland State literally ground out its first Big Sky Conference win at Providence Park on Saturday with a solid 45-20 victory over Idaho State.
The Vikings kept darn near everything on the ground, running right at the visiting Bengals and churning out record and near-record numbers.
Portland State rushed for a school-record 531 yards in the game, and came up eight yards short of the conference record of 539 set by Northern Arizona and Cal State-Northridge in 1973.
PSU was only 20 yards away from the Big Sky record with more than 10 minutes left in the game when the starting lineup went to the sidelines.
And for the first time in the history of PSU football, the Vikings didn’t complete a pass. They missed on all five attempts.
Just about everybody got in on the action for Portland State, but three runners got the biggest chunks of the cheese:
— Running back Nate Tago went for 199 yards on just 12 carries and scored one touchdown.
— Paris Penn, operating from tailback and quarterback, chewed up 184 yards in just 16 totes and scored four times.
— Quarterback Alex Kuresa finished with 92 rushing yards — three fewer than he had in the first half alone. Had he cleared three figures, it would have been the first time in PSU history the school had three 100-yard rushers.
The biggest statistical damage came in that first half, which was one Portland State lightning strike after another. The Vikings ran all over the Bengals for 384 yards in just 35 carries.
The simple fly sweeps and dives worked with devastating effect against the Bengals.
The Vikings surrendered the first touchdown of the game on ISU’s opening drive, then cranked up the turbo.
After trailing 6-0, PSU drove 70 yards in just four plays to take the lead for good. Nate Tago exploded for 35 of those yards on a simple dive, then Paris Penn, operating from quarterback, kept on the option to the left and fled 22 yards untouched for the first PSU touchdown.
That had the approximate effect of lighting a string of firecrackers. The Vikings scored on four of their next five drives the rest of the half for a 31-6 lead at the break.
They were all quick ones. Like this:
— Kuresa got the last 69 yards of a four-play, 80-yard drive on a counter option to the left. He faked Tago into the right side, then pulled the ball out and outran the Bengals down the left sideline.
— ISU punted to the Vikings at the PSU 28 early, then on the first play Tago went untouched up the middle with nobody home in the secondary for a 72-yard touchdown romp.
— The next drive went 55 yards in just seven plays, with Penn diving into the right side, then bouncing outside for the last 24 and a 28-6 lead.
The PSU defense, in the meantime, plugged all the leaks and held the Bengals to just 77 total yards to halftime after the opening drive. ISU got only one more first down the rest of the half and never got on PSU’s side of the 50-yard line.
The second half saw two more Portland State touchdowns and the race for the records. Penn got PSU’s last two scores with a four-yard burst late in the third quarter and a 56-yard explosion with 12:39 left in the game.
That last run was the one that got the school rushing record, then the PSU starting lineup checked out for the rest of the game and let the twos and threes get some turf time.
PSU is now 2-3 on the season, 1-1 in the Big Sky Conference. Idaho State is also 2-3, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Viking defense got a game-high 11 tackles from Sam Bodine and 10 from Mosa Likio. Xavier Coleman intercepted a pass and Michael Doman forced and recovered a fumble on a sack… PSU outgained Idaho State 531-370 and did not commit a turnover… the Vikings travel to Weber State next Saturday for a 5 p.m. PT game.