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  • 26 Dec 2014

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Vikings made noise, for a half

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Paris Penn, Portland State quarterback, breaks loose on a long run against Oregon State.CORVALLIS — It was the best of halves, it was the worst of halves. It was the epoch of everything going exactly Portland State’s way, it was the epoch of everything going Oregon State’s way.

When it was all over, Portland State had done exactly what it set out not to do: The Vikings walked away from Reser Stadium with a moral victory and a 29-14 loss in the first game of the season.

“We don’t believe in moral victories, because we want to win each and every game,” Portland State quarterback Kieran McDonagh said. “But in the film room, we’re going to be able to take away a lot of stuff and we’re going to be able to see what we need to work on, what we need to do.

"We showed that we’re a tough team. It doesn’t matter how big you are, how fast you are, we’re going to compete with you.”

Portland State, of the Big Sky, took advantage of both Oregon State’s 10 penalties for 89 yards and the Beavers' inability to punch the ball into the end zone to take a 14-13 lead at halftime.

Then, in the second half, PSU turned the ball over a whopping five times and muffed a punt. That combined with OSU, of the Pac-12, stuffing the Vikings offense, was too much for Portland State to overcome.

“It was just like we thought it was going to be,” Portland State coach Nigel Burton said. “It was a hard-fought game. We knew what we were capable of as a football team. We just hit the self-destruct button one too many times. The turnovers are the things that changed the game.”

Despite the success Portland State had in the first half, the Vikings dealt with things falling apart early. Burton says that PSU’s headsets were not working throughout the game. In the second quarter, the Viks were able to get one channel on the headsets, but that still presented challenges for the coaches.

“It was kind of a hodgepodge early on,” Burton said. “We didn’t have our headsets the entire game. I have no idea what happened, but we were guessing on personnel. It was like trying to fly a plane blind. You know how to fly it, but if you’ve got no radar, it’s a little interesting. It was really hard trying to make sideline adjustments. But it’ll be a great story one day. I guess.

“Midway through the second (quarter), we figured out a way to at least get one channel. So the offense had to share with the defense. That’s what we had the rest of the game. The problem was, then you can’t do sideline adjustments. That’s why a few times I was running over to the phone because that’s the only way you can talk. Even that was a little screwy.

"It was literally everything but the kitchen sink. Shoot, I’m pretty sure the postgame meal will be cold.”

Had Portland State told the officials that their headsets were not working, Oregon State would not have been able to use its headsets. Burton apparently was unaware of that.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know what the rule is,” Burton said.

Still, the first half went marvelously for Portland State.

The Vikings' defense got into several jams, allowing the Beavers to move the ball into the red zone. Portland State forced Oregon State to kick three field goals in the first half, though, and five in the game.

“It was great defensive line play,” PSU defensive tackle Joe Lopez said “We wanted to keep them out of the end zone at all costs. We had to shut down the run, because a lot of teams, when they get down there, they want to stack the line and run down your throat. We made sure that we took elements out of their game and forced them to kick when they didn’t want to.”

Burton said the defense holding Oregon State to field goals came down to the unit’s mentality.

“Guys just did their jobs,” Burton said. “We talk to our defense all the time about, ‘When the ball gets turned over, that’s your opportunity to be great. Don’t walk out there with your heads hung. Be excited, because Tom Brady didn’t become Tom Brady because he won every game 55-0. It’s because things were hard, and he came back and found ways to persevere and win.’

"Our guys kept their heads up, kept fighting, and we kept getting more success and pushing them backwards.”

The Vikings' offense moved the ball effectively throughout the first half. Using a two-quarterback system with McDonagh and Paris Penn, Portland State had Oregon State off-balance on several occasions.

“We established a pretty good run game early,” McDonagh said. “The intermediate-to-short passes were also good. We established the underneath. We needed to be able to get to the second level on the runs and get over the safeties on the passes. It clicked because the defense had a little bit of trouble lining up. They didn’t know what was going to happen and who was going to do what.”

The Vikings took a 7-6 lead with 14:48 remaining in the second quarter when Penn took a quarterback draw inside the left tackle and exploded for a 58-yard touchdown.

“It was a run, and the lane was wide open,” Penn said. “I took it, went down the field, followed my blocker and went into the end zone.”

Penn then put PSU up 14-13 with 5:38 remaining in the half on the same play. He took the shotgun snap, hesitated, then ran around the left end for an 11-yard TD.

“It was just another run, and I followed my blocker,” the former Grant High star said. “I pushed one of my linemen into the end zone. I came off his block into the end zone.”

Penn finished the game with nine carries for 112 yards. He completed 2 of 9 passes for 25 yards. McDonagh completed 7 of 16 passes for 52 yards, with one interception.

“There were some times of brilliance, and there were times where we were rough,” Burton said, of his quarterbacks. “Oregon State’s secondary did a really nice job, and toward the second half of the game, their D-line really found ways to get pressure on them. I don’t care what quarterback it is, you find ways to hit them and it changes things.”

The Vikings were not the same team in the second half. Portland State began the third quarter with an interception on a halfback pass from Darnell Adams, and things did not get much better from there. McDonagh threw an interception, PSU fumbled three times and the Vikings failed to cleanly field a punt, allowing OSU to recover it.

“Some guys just got a little anxious,” McDonagh said. “It’s the first game. It probably won’t happen again.”

Portland State has talked about finishing as the biggest thing they need to do in order to have a successful season in 2014. And while they were playing against an opponent that was expected to beat them, the Vikings figured to ride the bus back to Portland lamenting the opportunity to finish after a very good first half.

“We didn’t execute,” McDonagh said. “Our biggest thing is executing and finishing. We didn’t do that in the second half at all. We didn’t execute, and we didn’t finish and you saw the score.”