Portland State has seen its share of sorrow over the past two seasons, finishing 2-9 in both campaigns. On Saturday afternoon at Jeld-Wen Field, though, the team flashed nothing but smiles.
The Vikings dominated Southern Oregon in every way. After a 31-point first quarter, PSU cruised to a 52-0 win before an announced crowd of 4,953.
'Our goal was to start fast and finish strong,' Vikings coach Nigel Burton said. 'We did that.'
On the second play of the game, cornerback David Ross picked off a pass on the SOU 23-yard line and returned the ball to the 7.
The Vikings (1-0) scored on their first play from scrimmage, as running back Cory McCaffrey took a handoff on a draw play, bounced to the outside and jogged into the end zone.
McCaffrey would score twice more in the quarter, on runs of 19 yards and 3 yards. He finished the game with 69 yards on 13 carries, playing limited minutes after the first quarter.
'I didn't do anything,' McCaffrey said, of his touchdowns. 'The O-line just opened it up for me, and most of them I just walked into the end zone. I give it up to them, because they made it easy for me.'
Zach Brown drilled a 25-yard field goal with 8:25 remaining in the quarter.
Quarterback Connor Kavanaugh finished the first-quarter scoring on a 36-yard scramble with 1:01 remaining. Kavanaugh ran out of the pocket on an option. He faked a pitch to McCaffrey. When the Southern Oregon linebacker bit, Kavanaugh tucked the ball, turned up field and exploded past the Raiders' safety for the score.
'It was a new play we actually just put in last week,' Kavanaugh said. 'It was another one of our zone reads, and they went with our loop guy. I just kind of faked a little pitch, and it opened it up. We got a great block out of (receiver) Nevin Lewis. And then I just hit to the outside and ran as fast as I could.'
Kavanaugh was nearly flawless in one quarter of work. He was 4 of 5 passing for 48 yards and ran four times for 78 yards. He was replaced by senior Drew Hubel at the beginning of the second quarter and remained on the bench for the rest of the game, other than when he came on to hold for field goals and PATs.
'We had talked to Drew yesterday and Connor,' Burton said. 'Connor would play the first quarter, Drew would come in and take at least the first two series of the second (quarter), and then we'd see where we were from there. After (we went up) 31-0, we felt good about Drew just taking it and running with it. There were no issues from that point.'
After missing all of last season while injured, Hubel looked flustered and uncomfortable on his first few plays. On his first four passing attempts, he threw three incomplete passes and one interception.
'It wasn't weird,' Hubel said, of playing for the first time in so long. 'It was just breaking the rust off, I guess.'
After the first four passes, Hubel settled down. He finished the afternoon completing 13 of 22 passes for 181 yards. He threw the Vikings only TD pass of the game, when he hit Justin Monahan for a 21-yard score with 42 seconds remaining in the second quarter to send the Vikings into halftime up 38-0.
While the Vikings finished with 597 yards of offense (335 rushing, 262 passing), from the first quarter on the story of the game was the team's stifling defense.
PSU stuffed the Raiders' run and contested almost every pass. The Raiders (0-2) finished with 107 yards - 62 on the ground, 45 in the air.
The Viking defense was led by linebacker Ryan Rau, who had nine tackles. Defensive back DeShawn Shead broke up several passes. Defensive tackle Myles Wade and D-end Carl Sommer each had two tackles.
'We just executed the way we were supposed to,' Sommer said. 'We've been running this same stuff now for a year. That's what you saw today.'
The Vikings opened up the third quarter by stretching their lead to 45-0 on a 1-yard run up the gut by running back Justin Lilley. Lilley finished with 10 carries for 88 yards.
True freshman running back Shaquille Richard led Portland State on the ground with 16 carries for 92 yards.
Senior quarterback Justin Engstrom came on for the last series of the third quarter. He capped off the scoring for PSU on a 2-yard inside tackle sneak with 24 seconds remaining in the period.
'It's always good when you end up in the end zone, so that was really fun,' Engstrom said. 'It was a good (three-play, 46-yard) drive. Everyone was blocking well, and we had some good plays out there.'
The Vikings will now have a week off before hosting Northern Arizona on Sept. 17 in PSU's Big Sky Conference opener. Although Portland State already has half as many wins as it had all of last season, the team is ready to get back to work so it can continue the success throughout the rest of this season.
'It's nice to come out, especially to Jeld-Wen, this new stadium, and it feels good to win,' McCaffrey said. 'But at the same time it's one game. It's one week. The real action starts in two weeks when we have NAU, so we're just taking it one week at a time.'