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Vikings hold on, get fourth straight win, 23-17 at Northern Colorado

GREELEY, Colo. - The Portland State Vikings continued their strong run in Big Sky play - and outside hopes of getting into the national playoffs - with a tough 23-17 victory Saturday afternoon at winless Northern Colorado.

Zach Brown kicked three field goals on a blustery day, standout defensive back DeShawn Shead returned an interception 74 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown as PSU was clinging to a two-point lead, and senior quarterback Connor Kavanaugh engineered the Vikings' fourth win in a row, all since a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury at Montana to star running back Cory McCaffrey.

Kavanaugh became the all-time leading rushing QB in the Big Sky, passing former Idaho signal-caller Ken Hobart.

PSU improved to 5-2 in the conference (third behind Montana State and Montana) and 7-3 overall, with one regular-season game remaining - 1 p.m. Saturday against Weber State at Jeld-Wen Field.

Northern Colorado fell to 0-11, 0-8 in the Big Sky.

The Vikings led in total yards 362-356.

Portland State rushed 54 times for 224 yards, while Northern Colorado managed just 63 yards on 20 carries.

Kavanaugh passed for 138 yards, completing 15 of 27 with no interceptions and one TD. He also ran 27 times for 132 yards.

Receiver Justin Monahan had nine catches for 71 yards for Portland State, and running back Willie Griffin had 21 rush attempts for 73 yards.

The Bears were 22 of 53 for 293 yards passing.

They completed a pass into the end zone with six seconds left, but the play - which, with an extra-point, would have given them the win - was wiped out by a blocking-below-the-waist penalty.

On the one final play, from the PSU 28-yard line, Northern Colorado's pass was knocked down at the corner of the end zone.

The Bears scored first, going eight plays, 80 yards and 9-yard touchdown run, only their fifth TD on the ground this season.

Late in the first half, PSU pulled even at 7-7 on a drive that took 18 plays and went 98 yards. Kavanaugh hit Monahan for the score late in the first half.

A 51-yard field goal by Brown made it 10-7.

Northern Colorado gained a 14-10 lead in the third quarter, but Brown made a 46-yard kick and gave the Vikings a 16-14 lead with a 30-yarder with 12:08 left in the fourth quarter.

Then came Shead's huge defensive play. He stepped in front of a Bears pass and raced unchallenged to give the Viks a needed cushion.

The Bears drove 47 yards for a field goal that gave them a chance at the end.