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Vikings shift focus to fall opener

PSU preaches mental toughness to new cast

Portland State started focusing on the regular season ÑÊand a berth in the NCAA playoffs ÑÊabout five minutes after last week's spring football game at Tigard High.

'The difference between 6-5 (last season) and going to the playoffs is mental toughness,' sophomore tailback Joe Rubin says. 'It's putting in one extra rep in the weight room, pushing yourself just that little bit further that makes you that little bit better.'

The memory of four Big Sky Conference losses by a total of 15 points will be hanging around until the Vikings open Sept. 4 at PGE Park against Texas A&M-Kingsville.

'Fall term starts now,' junior linebacker Tolo Tuitele says. 'Coach (Tim Walsh) says it's the little things that count, and that's what we're going to be working on this summer Ñ whether it's learning our schemes better or just getting stronger.'

Based on the spring game, the Vikings should be as competitive as they've been over the last four seasons, which produced a 29-16 record and a trip to the Division I-AA playoffs in 2000.

Junior quarterback Joe Wiser looks comfortable as a passer; he hit nine of 13 throws for 110 yards. Tailback Ryan Fuqua, a junior, and Rubin are a dynamic pair Ñ Fuqua as a quick darter and Rubin as more of a power runner. Junior transfer Allen Kennett, 5-10 and 225 pounds, displays significant talent at fullback, too.

Even the receiving corps produced in the spring game, dropping only a pair of passes. Seniors Jay Williams, Amad Robinson and DeOnte Taylor and junior Ryan Brown each had an impressive moment and were sure-handed, something that wasn't the mark of the team last season.

The offensive line seemed to work well, too. The starters were Steve Blatchley, a freshman from Springfield's Thurston High, at left tackle; junior Micah Jackson-Sattler, at left guard; senior Greg Owens, at center; junior Mike

Stachowiak, at right guard; senior Isaac Aronson, at right tackle; and sophomore Adam Whitehead, from Grant High, at tight end.

'When our (first team) played cohesively, I was pretty happy with what I saw,' says Walsh, who is entering his 11th season. 'I thought Wiser did a good job of playing within the offense and not trying to do too much.'

The 6-3, 215-pound Wiser guided the first-team offense to touchdowns on drives of 52 and 70 yards. He got at least one first down on four of the five drives he started.

'I feel like I'm definitely ready to start in the fall,' he says.

One thing on Wiser's rŽsumŽ is a score against the first-team defense, a four-play drive highlighted by a 43-yard screen pass to Taylor.

The defensive line of senior ends Josh Ratliff and Preston Parrish and tackles Agatupu Sagapolutele, a senior, and Chris Berg, a junior, keyed a fierce attack. PSU coaches rotated them in sparingly during the second half to give the offense a break.

And the Vikings haven't even seen defensive end Roderkus Wright, a transfer from the University of Oregon who is scheduled to show up on campus in August.

'Our defensive line is pretty strong,' Tuitele says. 'They make me look good.'

PSU had just 19 sacks last season.

Rubin's play could set up an interesting decision for Walsh and the offensive coaches this summer. PSU's normal offensive set involves a fullback and tailback, who, for the past two seasons, has been Fuqua.

'We've got two No. 1 guys at tailback, and both of us should be on the field,' Rubin says. 'I don't know if the coaches need to put in some more plays, but I hope that's something that comes up this summer, because if we're both out there, we're going to be tough to stop.'

Notes: Fuqua ran for 1,283 yards on 305 carries last season and had 1,629 yards as a freshman. Rubin ran for 189 on 40 carries in 2002. É Redshirt freshman Sawyer Smith, who is 6-5, moved the Viks to one score, completed four passes of 20 yards or longer and looked like the No. 2 quarterback ahead of sophomore Mike Catalano. Smith hit former Jesuit standout Kyle Faulk twice, for 56 yards, on a 10-play scoring drive against the No. 2 defense. É The Vikings could field as many as 33 Oregonians once the freshmen and transfers show up for fall camp. É About 700 fans showed up for the spring game.

Contact Cliff Pfenning at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .