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Vikings aim for big 4-for-4 finish

Making playoffs no gimme, even if Viks can run the table
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Quarterback Connor Kavanaugh, scrambling against Montana State, will lead Portland State in its final four Big Sky games of the season.

Last Saturday’s 36-10 win over Willamette gave Portland State its fourth win of the season —as many as the Vikings have had in the last two years combined. But, if PSU wants a shot at the FCS playoffs, the Vikings will need to win out this season, doubling that number. Even then, Portland State (4-3, 2-2 Big Sky) will have a hard time finishing second in the conference, because of losses to Montana State (7-1, 5-0) and Montana (6-2, 5-1). The Vikings have to hope that one of the Montana schools winds up with three losses, or that PSU can enter the national rankings and get into the playoffs while taking third in the Big Sky. This gun-to-their-head mentality is what makes FCS football so exciting to Vikings coach Nigel Burton. “Not a lot of teams at seven weeks can say that they’re locks (for the playoffs) —nobody,” Burton says. “I don’t believe Montana State can say that. That’s the beauty of FCS football. Every week matters, and every game is important, and the more you win the bigger they get.” The road to four wins during the next four weeks will not be easy for Portland State. This Saturday, the Vikings face defending national champion Eastern Washington (4-4, 4-2) on the road. On Nov. 5, PSU has a 1 p.m. home game against Sacramento State (2-3, 3-4), which beat Oregon State to start the season. On Nov. 12, the Vikings will play Northern Colorado (0-6, 0-8) on the road. The PSU regular season ends Nov. 19 at home against Weber State (3-4, 3-1), also at 1 p.m. Vikings safety DeShawn Shead says Portland State has the ability to reach the postseason and advance from there. “This team has the potential and talent to go all the way to the championship,” Shead says. “We’ll go in and make a run at the national championship if we play disciplined football.” The biggest obstacle for Portland State to overcome will be playing without star running back Cory McCaffrey, who was lost for the season with an Achilles’ tendon injury against Montana. Against Willamette, true freshman Shaquille Richard took the majority of the handoffs. McCaffrey leaves a big void, though. The senior led the nation in scoring (13 TDs) and was second in rushing (731 yards) “Losing Cory hurts us because he’s an unbelievable player,” quarterback Connor Kavanaugh says. “But we’re just going to count on guys stepping up and making plays in his absence.” Kavanaugh, a senior, says Portland State is on the rise. “It’s only going to get better because of the great players and great coaches we have,” he says. “It’s unfortunate that this is my last year, because I know this program will do some special things.” As for the next four games, “even if we do drop one, it’s not like I’m ever going to give up or this team is ever going to give up,” Kavanaugh says. “We’re going to keep fighting all the way until the end.”