Vikings kick OSU around, but just miss out on upset
CORVALLIS — Portland State came tantalizingly close to another upset of an FBS opponent Saturday afternoon at Reser Stadium.
The FCS-level Vikings controlled much of the action, led late in the game and then just missed an opportunity to take Oregon State to overtime.
The Beavers rallied for a 35-32 victory, but the win wasn't secure until a 46-yard field-goal attempt by PSU's Graycen Kennedy — which had distance — sailed a couple of feet wide right.
Beaver Nation breathed a sigh of relief.
Portland State coach Bruce Barnum — who knocked off FBS foes Washington State and North Texas during his first year at the PSU helm in 2015 — said victory wouldn't have been a shock to his Vikings.
"We were expecting to win," Barnum said.
The Vikings dominated the statistical sheet, ruling in first downs (28-18), rushing yardage (291-154), total offense (515-389) and time of possession (36:22 to 23:38). But they had three turnovers — including an interception that OSU linebacker Manase Hungalu turned into a pick-six in the third quarter— several bad center snaps and a place-kicking performance that ultimately cost them the victory.
Noah Brosio, a 6-foot, 185-pound true freshman from Grants Pass who missed his only PAT attempt in a 20-6 loss at Brigham Young last weekend, missed his first try Saturday and had his second one blocked, making him 0 for 3 for the season.
Portland State wound up going for two points after its final three touchdowns and converted only once. The lost three points were the difference in the game.
"To me, it's turnovers that most cost us," Barnum said. "I expect the kicking ups and downs, because we have a freshman out there.
"I'm going to stick with him. He's doing it in practice. I'm not going to fire him. I don't have enough scholarships."
Portland State led 32-28 after a nine-play, 67-yard drive was capped by a 1-yard run by backup quarterback Josh Kraght with 4:05 remaining. Oregon State responded by marching 77 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 17-yard TD reception by true freshman Isaiah Hodgins to go ahead 35-32 with 1:30 left.
The Vikings weren't done. Kraght moved them from their own 18 to the OSU 29 with three seconds to go. Barnum wavered between going for a game-winning touchdown on a game-tying field goal. After a Beaver timeout, he sent Kennedy onto the field.
"I had all kinds of (mixed emotions)," the PSU coach said. "Once we were throwing; then we were kicking. Then they called the timeout and I saw they were in 'drop' coverage; I said, 'Nah, let's kick it.'
"Everybody was giving me the odds. It was like I was looking at a tote board in Vegas. So I decided to kick. (A game-tying field goal) would have been a hell of a story. I would have liked to get in overtime."
Kraght was pressed into quarterback duty after starter Jalani Eason left with an apparent head injury early in the fourth quarter. Barnum went to backup Davis Alexander for the rest of the series, then moved Kraght — a senior who has played QB in the past but is a starting receiver this season — to the signal-calling spot.
The injury was a big loss for the Vikings in two respects. Kraght had caught a pair of touchdown passes — for 37 and 42 yards — and the 5-11, 185-pound Eason was having an outstanding game. The true freshman from Los Angeles scored four touchdowns, completing 11 of 18 passes for 164 yards and two TDs while running 11 times for 95 yards and two more scores.
Barnum didn't think Eason's injury was serious.
"All (medical staffers) told me was he was out (for the rest of the game)," he said. "He played well. He cleaned up some of the stuff from last week.
"He got better, and he'll get better next week. There is so much room to grow for a 19-year-old kid from Compton, sitting on the Park Blocks. He has a huge upside coming."
Oregon State's defense couldn't stop Portland State's running game. Za'Quan Summer, a 5-9, 175-pound senior tailback, carried 18 times for 106 yards. Eason, redshirt freshman tailback Jason Talley (nine for 54) and Kraght (eight for 50) also were effective.
"We found a couple of things we liked from (video of Oregon State's 58-27 loss at Colorado State) and ran with them," Barnum said. "We expect to run the ball every week. I felt like we were able to run a little bit today."
Portland State's defense did a nice job keeping Oregon State tailback Ryan Nall (16 carries, 59 yards, one TD) in check. The Vikings also got big games from safeties Artuz Manning (10 tackles) and Beau Duronslet (eight tackles, one tackle for loss, a fumble recovery and an interception).
Oregon State coach Gary Andersen came away impressed with the Vikings, who play host to Cal Davis next Saturday at Providence Park.
"Their kids play hard," Andersen said. "I'll bet they win a bunch of games."
Barnum thinks so, too.
"I like how my guys played," he said. "We just turned the ball over, juggled it down in the red zone and made some young mistakes.
"But I liked how they fought. I liked how they kept coming. We made a run, but (the Beavers) did a hell of a job keeping us one short."
Barnum isn't shying away from the challenge of playing FBS opponents.
"We'll get there," he said. "We'll beat teams like this in the future. I need one more (recruiting) class. I need my third class stacked on top of each other so I can start a program here."
Portland State 6 0 20 6 — 32
Oregon State 7 7 14 7 — 35
PSU — Josh Kraght 42 pass from Jalani Eason (kick failed), 1:09
OSU — Ryan Nall 1 run (Jordan Choukair kick), 7:38
OSU — Darell Garretson 4 run (Choukair kick), 1:34
PSU — Eason 5 run (kick blocked), 8:35
PSU — Eason 12 run (Za'Quan Summers run), 7:04
OSU — Trevorris Johnson 3 run (Choukair kick), 6:32
OSU — Manase Hungalu 21 interception return (Choukair kick), 5:03
PSU — Kraght 37 pass from Eason (run failed), :12
PSU — Kraght 1 run (pass failed) 4:05
OSU — Isaiah Hodgins 17 pass from Jake Luton (Choukair kick) 1:30
Att. — 34,737