Portland State tries Three Amigos look at quarterback

Portland State is one of the best teams in the nation at moving the ball up and down the field. But a recent inability to get points on the board has put enough panic into the Vikings coaching staff that they re-opened the quarterback competition eight games into the season.

Vikings coach Nigel Burton compares the current state of his offense to a slumping slugger.

“Sometimes it’s like a baseball player,” Burton says. “Even though you’re a great player and you know the pitch that’s coming, when you’re in a little bit of a slump, sometimes you can psyche yourself out.”

The Vikings, who rallied for an ugly 14-10 home win over North Dakota last week, rank first in the Big Sky and fourth in the nation in total offense, with 518.9 yards per game.

PSU ranks fourth in the Big Sky and 33rd in the nation in scoring offense at 31.6 points per game.

But Portland State’s inability to punch the ball into the end zone has been very apparent over the past two games, including the 17-7 road loss to Southern Utah.

In both games, Portland State used three quarterbacks: Kieran McDonagh, Paris Penn and Collin Ramirez.

McDonagh had the best stat line, though he was never able to punch the ball into the end zone. Over the past two games, he is 22 of 43 passing for 234 yards with three interceptions and has rushed for 123 yards.

Penn is 3 of 6 over the two games for 2 yards and has rushed for 29 yards. He ran for the only touchdown against Southern Utah.

Ramirez is 6 of 14 over the two games for 80 yards with one pick, and has rushed for 21 yards. He was under center in the fourth quarter against North Dakota, when Portland State turned two fourth-quarter UND punting flubs into touchdown runs by DJ Adams.

The open competition is frustrating for McDonagh, a sophomore who has started every game since his true freshman season.

Says McDonagh: “I guess in a way, you want to work harder ... I don’t know. (Before the North Dakota game), it wasn’t like I got more reps than anyone else. It was an open competition during the week. He (Burton) didn’t even tell us who was going to be in until the walk-through (on Friday), so in a way I felt a little underprepared.”

McDonagh understands that having an open competition is the way Burton operates. However, McDonagh says he will not change anything about the way he practices before the Vikings (4-4, 1-3 Big Sky) play host to host Weber State (1-7, 0-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Jeld-Wen Field.

“It’s always going to be a competition here,” McDonagh says. “That’s the way they told us it’s going to be and that’s the way it is. I’ll just do what I’ve been doing. Just be myself. If I’m what they want at the end of the week, I’m going to go ahead and play. I’m going to push myself like I always do.”

Burton says that “in the end, we believe in all three of our guys. It really doesn’t matter who’s starting, who’s in the game.”

• Defense has been keeping PSU in games, and the Big Sky honored safety David Edgerson as defensive player of the week for his efforts against UND. The 5-11, 205-pound senior from New Orleans had two interceptions and three solo tackles.

• Portland State’s soccer team is preparing to host the Big Sky tournament, having gone undefeated in conference regular-season games for the first time.

The Vikings capped an 8-0-1 Big Sky campaign with a 1-0 victory at Sacramento State last week. Sophomore midfielder Cori Bianchini’s 33rd-minute goal, off a pass from freshman midfielder Abbey Bergquist, gave PSU the lead, and sopomore Caitlin Plese made four saves the rest of the way.

The conference tourney will be at Hillsboro Stadium. The semifinals are Nov. 7, with No. 2 seed Northern Arizona meeting No. 3 Weber State at noon and No. 1 PSU taking on No. 4 Northern Colorado 30 minutes at 3 p.m.

The championship match — with an NCAA tournament berth on the line — will be played at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 9.

• PSU’s volleyball team, also slated to play host to the conference tournament, is tied for second in the Big Sky at 9-3. North Dakota leads at 11-1. Idaho State is 8-4. Sacramento State and Montana are 7-5.

The Vikings lost 3-1 at Sac State, then bounced back Monday with a 3-1 road win over Eastern Washington.

• The Viking basketball teams debut with exhibition games Saturday at Stott Center. The women tip off at 6 p.m. against Simon Fraser, and the men complete their doubleheader with an 8:15 p.m. contest versus Northwest Christian.

The women are coming off a 12-17 season (6-14 Big Sky) and are looking to return to the conference tournament for the first time in three years.

Three women’s starters return, including two who have missed time with knee injuries. Guard Kate Lanz, a former Central Catholic star, is back for her senior season at point guard after suiting up for only 10 games a year ago, and 6-1 senior forward Angela Misa gives the Viks double-double potential every outing (she averaged 10.8 points and 10.2 rebounds a game in 2012-13).

The men were 8-20 last season, including 5-15 in the Big Sky. Two players with starting experience — senior forward Aaron Moore and point guard Tim Douglas — are back. Moore led the Viks in scoring (13.2 points per game), rebounding (7.1) and blocked shots (26) in 2012-13, and shot 52 percent from the field. Douglas sat out last season after transferring from Portland, where he started 24 games in two seasons and averaged about eight points per game.

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