PSU at Northern Arizona
When, where: 2 p.m. Saturday, Walkup Skydome, Flagstaff, Ariz.
Radio: KTRO (93.1 FM)
• It's probably a long shot, but Portland State is shooting for a Division I-AA postseason berth. 'If they let us in the playoffs, we can do some damage,' receiver Tremayne Kirkland says.
• PSU is third in the Big Sky at 4-2 (5-4 overall) with two games remaining -versus NAU and Nov. 11 at Sacramento State. Neither figures to be a cakewalk, but this week's game seems like the bigger test. The Lumberjacks (4-4, 3-2 Big Sky) are coming off a 44-36 win at Eastern Washington, a team PSU beat 34-0 at PGE Park two weeks ago. But NAU played tough against the conference's top two teams, losing 24-21 at Montana and 39-32 to Montana State. And the Lumberjacks have some skill players to watch in 6-1 senior quarterback Jason Murrietta (9.763 career yards passing) and 5-10, 195-pound freshman running back Alex Henderson (265 yards, two TDs at Eastern Washington).
• PSU beat NAU 45-0 at PGE Park last year, but the Vikings are 3-7 in 10 Big Sky games against the Lumberjacks and lost their last two trips to Flagstaff by a combined five points.
• Montana (6-0 Big Sky) and Montana State (5-1) each have only one conference game remaining - versus 0-5 Northern Colorado - before they meet Nov. 18 in Missoula. So the best the Vikings probably could do is a tie for second, if MSU loses to Montana. PSU has lost this year to Montana, Montana State, Cal and Oregon.
• The Vikings survived their payday mission to Oregon last week, losing 55-12 to the Ducks but suffering no serious injuries. QB Sawyer Smith got hit or wrapped up numerous times, and wasn't sharp with his throws, but the Vikings figure he and their offense will look a lot better the rest of the year. Especially with tailback Mu'Ammar Ali showing the ability to make long-gainers going north-south.
'Sawyer wants our offense to break out before the end of the season,' Kirkland says, 'and play like our defense has been playing. He says there's no reason why we can't be putting up 40 points.'