Healthy again, PSU quarterback bails out run game with his arm
It may take Sawyer Smith's right arm to get defenses off the back of Portland State's stalled running game.
Opponents have been stacking the line of scrimmage, making it hard for PSU to run-block and giving tailback Mu'Ammar Ali little daylight.
Viking quarterback Smith made Idaho State pay for that strategy a few times Saturday, passing for three touchdowns and firing a 50-yard strike to Brendan Ferrigno in PSU's 34-13 victory. Smith was named Big Sky offensive player of the week.
Smith and his receivers probably will have to produce similar results when Eastern Washington visits PGE Park at 6 p.m. Saturday for the last of four Viking home games.
'Defenses are putting all their guys from the line of scrimmage to 12 yards deep,' PSU coach Tim Walsh says. 'That not only makes it hard to run, it also affects your underneath and intermediate passing. It doesn't leave you much space; it squishes everything down.
'We've put ourselves in that box, and to get out of it we need to be able to throw over the top.'
Good thing, then, that Smith seems recovered from the hip injury he suffered Sept. 16 at Cal.
'I feel like I'm getting back to the way I was before I got hurt, which is what our team and our offense needs,' says the 6-5, 230-pound Smith, who had a career-high 282 yards against Idaho State.
Smith hooked up with wideout Kenneth Mackins on scoring passes of 47 and 13 yards. He also hit Kevin McGlothen for PSU's final TD as the tight end leaked out unnoticed on fourth-and-one from the ISU 34-yard line. 'He slipped through the coverage wide open, so I just threw that one nice and soft,' Smith says.
Portland State won with its defense, as usual, and the Viking defenders were happy to see Smith enjoy some success again.
'We know our offense is good, because we go up against them in practice,' cornerback Dominic Dixon says.
'We figure the more stops we can make, the more reps Sawyer can get, which will help him get back in a groove,' says PSU's other corner, Odell Jackson, Big Sky co-defensive player of the week.