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  • 27 Aug 2014

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Despite loss, Viks ready to rumble

PSU hits the turf with new mind-set, shows hunger to win


Portland State was just seven points away from perhaps the biggest win in the history of the football program. The Vikings were going blow for blow with California of the Pac-12.

PSU led much of the way Saturday in Berkeley, but just did not have the final bit of magic needed for the upset, as they fell 37-30.

The Portland State players’ reaction to the narrow defeat, as they began to look ahead to the rest of their season, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday at home against Humboldt State, warmed coach Nigel Burton down to the cockles of his heart.

“They’re pissed,” Burton says. “There’s nothing short of it. Some guys we had to calm down because they invested a lot out there, and they knew how close they were.

“In terms of any letdown, or any sort of moral victory, trust me, that’s not an issue. They were pretty hot, which as a coach, is a pretty good thing.”

Burton thinks that his players’ disappointment in their near-win is a sign that the culture around the team has begun to shift in his fourth season at the helm.

“We’ve come close to changing the mentality around here in terms of, ‘It’s not OK to come close, and it’s not OK to lose to anybody,’ ” Burton says. “In the past, teams have gone into those games hoping they would win. This is probably the first team that has gone into a game (like that) expecting to win.

“In the end, we still lost. And there were some things that are correctable. We’ve always talked about how we thought we were a fast, physical football team. When you’re able to line up against a team of that caliber ... we found out that we’re pretty big and fast ourselves.”

Portland State’s offense proved that it could compete with any defense thrown at it, amassing 553 yards.

“We were able to throw the ball well, and our run game was really effective early on,” says Vikings quarterback Kieran McDonagh, who was named Big Sky Conference offensive player of the week for his efforts (13 of 28, career-high 308 yards passing, two touchdowns; 11 carries for 60 yards and a TD).

The PSU defense gave up a whopping 616 yards but held the Cal offense in check in terms of putting points on the board.

“We’ve improved a lot,” says Jaycob Shoemaker, a junior linebacker from Sacramento. “To come from being inconsistent like we have been in years past to sticking toe-to-toe with Cal, it shows that we are starting to get the consistency down, starting to believe in the scheme and starting to believe in what the coaches have in store for us.

“It was a huge confidence booster. A lot of us knew we were good, but we didn’t realize how truly good we were.”

McDonagh says Portland State’s performance against Cal proves that the Vikings are a team to be reckoned with in the Big Sky Conference.

“This is the best team Coach Burton has had since he’s been here,” McDonagh says. “We went up against some guys who were bigger than us, but we have a little more ‘want to.’

“It shows we are a tough team and we’re here to come for a Big Sky championship.”