PSU-NAU highlights, play-by-play, scoring
Highlights, comments and play-by-play from Portland State's 31-29 Saturday night victory over Northern Arizona at Jeld-Wen Field:
• PSU came out aggressively on defense, offense and special teams.
The defense tackled well, the special teams blocked an early punt with a three-man middle rush, and senior quarterback Connor Kavanaugh from Lincoln High tried four (all incomplete) long passes on go routes during PSU's first two possessions.
The Vikings were going downfield more with their air game than in earlier years with Kavanaugh at the helm. And his passes were on target; the plays were just well-covered.
"We were hoping to stretch the defense, and we have receivers who can make plays," Kavanaugh said. "It opened uo some room for Cory (McCaffrey) to run."
• The belly option/zone read play with Kavanaugh and McCaffrey was PSU's staple, and a good one. Both runners were picking up yardage pretty easily, using their quickness.
• McCaffrey had too much speed on the outside for NAU. It showed on the game's first touchdown, as he scampered 33 yards with 7:49 left in the first quarter. A blocked punt by Taylor Martinek, a redshirt freshman tight end from Jesuit High, set up the 45-yard drive in six plays.
• Moments later, the Lumberjacks just missed a sure touchdown, when QB Cary Grossart and wide-open running back Zach Bauman failed to connect by inches.
• PSU's defense looked sturdy enough, by often-high scoring Big Sky standards.
And the Vikings weren't giving up the big plays or making the mistakes that have plagued them in recent years.
• McCaffrey capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 3-yard run that gave no-huddling PSU a 14-7 lead.
• The 'Jacks answered with a drive of 72 yards in six plays and cut the gap to 14-7 just 11 seconds into the second quarter. The touchdown came on Grossart's 12-yard pass to Dejzon Walker.
* Kavanaugh and McCaffrey both had big runs as PSU responded immediately. McCaffrey scored on an 18-yard pitchout, and with 12:12 left in the half PSU had a 21-7 lead.
At that point, PSU already had 176 yards rushing (11.7 yards per carry), to NAU's 22. McCaffrey was 11 for 114 yards, Kavanaugh four for 62 yards.
The way Kavanaugh was leading the offense, the Vikings didn't need to call on backup QB Drew Hubel.
• NAU split the Viking secondary for 63 yards on a pass play as they threatened to score, but it took a fourth-and-goal run from the 1 to finish off the drive.
* PSU settled for a field goal and a 24-14 lead on its next possession. Zach Brown made his eighth in a row and 38th as a Viking, hitting from 40 yards with three minutes remaining in the half.
NAU's Matt Myers made the score 24-17 with a 42-yard field goal early in the quarter, after a lost fumble by McCaffrey.
The Vikings' Nevin Lewis, who figures to be a key playmaker this season, raced 58 yards with the following kickoff. But the Lumberjacks intercepted Kavanaugh's long pass attempt into the end zone.
The 'Jack were driving when they gave up the ball on a fumble, forced by linebacker Ryan Rau and recovered by linebacker Joel Sisler at the PSU 41.
Then it was the "McCaffrey Moment" again, or moments, as he ripped off runs of 16, 31, four and eight yards. That was all PSU needed in a four-play drive, as the Viks restored their lead to 14 points.
Myers bounced a 48-yard field goal over the crossbar to make it 31-20 late in the quarter.
At the end of the quarter, McCaffrey had 211 yards rushing and was chasing his career best of 226.
And for the second quarter of the game, the Viking defense did not allow a touchdown - a good performance in the Big Sky.
Again, the Viking defense held NAU out of the end zone, thanks in part to a delay-of-game penalty on the Lumberjacks. Myers' third field goal of the half, from 24 yards, brought NAU within 31-23 with 12:03 left.
It was still Portland State in control, though, and just needing to play solid, error-free football the rest of the way.
NAU held the Vikings and took over at its 42 with 8:23 remaining. It was up to the PSU defense again.
The Lumberjacks hit a 34-yard pass play, but had illegal procedure penalty before the pass rush forced a poor throw. Donte Almond intercepted it for the Vikings at their 11 at the 6:21 mark.
But on third-and-short, NAU's Taylor Patton intercepted Kavanaugh and returned the ball 17 yards to the Vikings 3.
Could PSU's defense hold again?
NAU lost a yard on its first-down run up the gut, but the next run, off-right tackle, got inside the 1. Then Bauman crossed the goal line standing up off right guard, bringing up a crucial two-point try to tie the game. PSU broke up a pass and stayed ahead 31-29 with 3:22 to go.
PSU's kickoff return went to the Vikings 23, and NAU began to use timeouts.
Kavanaugh got a first down on a pair of patented pistol offense runs, eating up valuable game time.
The Lumberjacks called their final timeout with 2:31 remaining and the Viks facing second-and-10 at their 36. Running back Justin Lilley got nothing up the middle, and on third down Kavanaugh managed only four yards.
On came punter Thomas Duyndam. His kick left NAU at its 30 with 54 seconds to go.
The PSU rushers forced NAU's quarterback out of the pocket and into an incompletion on first down, but the Lumberjacks hit a pass to their 48 on the next play and then got out of bounds on another pass to the Vikings 41 with 33 seconds left. PSU called its final timeout.
Another pass completion went to the PSU 33 and stopped the clock with 23 ticks left.
Then the Lumberjacks called a run, which got them to the 24. Grossart spiked the ball to stop the clock with 12 seconds to go.
Myers lined up on the left hash mark for a 41-yard field-goal attempt and the win, but his kick went just wide left - saving Portland State from what would have been a very tough loss.
NAU 0 14 6 9 - 29
PSU 14 10 7 0 - 31
PSU - Cory McCaffrey 33 run (Zach Brown kick), 7:49
PSU - McCaffrey 3 run (Brown kick), 1:49
NAU - Dejzon Walker 12 pass from Cory Grossart (Matt Myers kick), 14:49
PSU - McCaffrey 18 run (Brown kick), 12:12
NAU - Zach Bauman 1 run (Myers kick), 8:04
PSU -- Brown 40 FG, 2:58
NAU - Myers 42 FG, 11:05
PSU - McCaffrey 8 run (Brown kick), 6:18
NAU - Myers 48 FG, 1:46
NAU - Myers 24 FG, 12:03
NAU - Bauman 1 run (pass failed), 3:22
Att - 5,479