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Montana presents PSU with tough task

Division I-A transfers give Grizzlies the capability for big plays

It's only the fifth game, but Portland State can make its statement Saturday night.

Sure, the Vikings' talented and deep defense dominated the Weber State offense in the 20-10 win last weekend. But the Montana Grizzlies will be another animal in Saturday's 6 p.m. game at PGE Park.

'They're good on offense, and they're getting better,' PSU coach Tim Walsh says of the perennial Big Sky Conference juggernaut. The Grizzlies feature quarterback Josh Swogger, a transfer from Washington State, and wide receiver Craig Chambers, a transfer from Washington.

'And they're gigantic up front (on the offensive line),' Walsh adds. 'It'll be a difficult task.'

But the Vikings might have their best defense under Walsh and defensive coordinator Greg Lupfer. Walsh put the responsibility for winning the Weber State game with the defense, and the unit allowed only 192 yards, forced five turnovers and stopped the Wildcats 10 of 11 times on third-down conversions. The Wildcats started five second-half possession in Viking territory and scored only three points, totaling 16 yards. Their other two second-half possessions ended with PSU interceptions.

'No doubt, we're encouraged on the defensive side,' Walsh says, 'but we can't play on short fields against Montana. We have to become more efficient on offense.'

The Grizzlies (2-1, 1-0 Big Sky) drilled Sacramento State 59-14 last weekend. Montana has won or shared the past eight Big Sky titles. The Vikings (3-1, 2-0) have beaten Montana twice in Big Sky play, including 35-32 at PGE Park two years ago.

Walsh entered the week without starting quarterback Sawyer Smith and running back Mu'Ammar Ali in his plans. But Smith, who has a bruised tailbone, has been getting better, and Ali, who had a broken clavicle, could be cleared to play.

If Smith tells Walsh as late as Thursday that he can play, then he'll start. If not, it'll be Rob Freeman's game. The junior from Westview High went 10-of-17 for 50 yards last week - not the gaudiest numbers -but he didn't throw an interception and completed two key fourth-quarter passes.

Bobby McClintock ran well at Weber State (12 carries, 74 yards), joining Olaniyi Sobomehin and Kelena Ho'okano as backs capably filling in with Ali on the sideline.