Portland State has had a whiff of not just one, but two, victories over bigger FBS football programs. The Vikings could almost taste victory two weeks ago at Corvallis. So, going into their home opener, they're hungry.
Portland State's final tuneup for the Big Sky season is 2 p.m. Saturday at Providence Park against UC Davis. Although the Aggies (1-1 after last week's 35-7 win over San Diego) also are in the Big Sky, it's a nonconference game. But it's not non-important to the Vikings. "No way," coach Bruce Barnum says.
The Vikings lost 20-6 at BYU and then 35-32 at Oregon State, after leading the Beavers late in the fourth quarter.
"We're 0-2, and that's not OK, but we're doing a lot of good things," says Josh Kraght, the senior wide receiver who took over for injured starting quarterback Jalani Eason on a last-minute drive that almost netted a tying field goal against the Beavers.
"It'll be fun to play somebody we're familiar with (in UC Davis)," Kraght says. "I like where we're at. Our defense is playing outstanding and our offense has the ability to score points.
"If we continue to focus and want to put in the work, I think we'll have a chance to win some games. But it's only a chance, because the Big Sky is tough. No game is going to be easy."
Kraght was PSU's No. 1 quarterback, the seemingly heir apparent to Alex Kuresa, coming out of spring ball and early in fall camp. Then Eason, a freshman from Los Angeles, won the job.
Giving Eason the nod allowed the Vikings to move Kraght back to receiver; he was the team's best pass-catcher a year ago. But Kraght had to deal with some disappointment.
"The game changes, as Coach Barnum always says. Yeah, my senior year, I wanted to play quarterback, but the coaches felt it would be better for the team (playing receiver)," Kraght says. "I just want us to win games. Since Day One, the way I've been raised by my parents and high school coach was that it's all about the team.
"Jalani's playing outstanding, and we're playing well."
Eason went to the sidelines at Reser Stadium after being tackled by a host of Beavers in the fourth quarter. Barnum said the frosh QB had "a cross between a concussion and dehydration"; Eason said "he didn't have a concussion, it was just precautionary" to hold him out of the final minutes.
"Josh came in and did well. My hat's off to him for being a leader," Eason said. "I just got tackled and wasn't feeling too good. I wasn't going to try to run plays at less than 100 percent and hurt my team.
"I'm feeling good now, and it's great to be back out there (at practice)."
Eason and Kraght hooked up for a touchdown on PSU's third play against Oregon State, a 42-yard pass for a 6-0 lead. Eason wound up with 164 yards passing, threw for another TD and ran 11 times for 95 yards and two scores. But he threw a pick-six and lost the handle a couple of times — mistakes that proved costly.
"Guess it was a pretty average (performance). At the end of the day, it wasn't a 'W.' I gave them seven points (on the interception), and that was like the difference in the game," he said. "But it was pretty exciting. The offensive line played great, especially on the run."