Vikings come out throwing, but can't come out with a win
The Portland State Vikings discovered a passing game and almost found an opponent they could beat.
But a late interception by the host Cal Poly Mustangs gave coach Tim Walsh's crew its first victory of 2017, 35-28, in a battle of teams that hadn't won a game all season.
PSU fell to 0-9, despite 409 yards in the air from their new starting QB, Davis Alexander. The redshirt freshman Davis Alexander took over, with PSU benching frue freshman Jalani Eason and keeping another 2017 starting QB, senior Josh Kraght, at wide receiver.
Alexander completed 30 of 51 passes, with one touchdown, but his lone interception, in the final minute, killed a drive that could have forced overtime, or with a TD and two-point conversion, have given the Viks the win.
Cal Poly, under former PSU coach Walsh, used its usual ground-oriented, triple-option game and improved to 1-5 in the Big Sky and 1-8 overall. The Mustangs rushed 74 times for 400 yards, with fullback Jared Mohamed getting 194 yards and two touchdowns on 35 attempts.
PSU is 0-6 in conference play going into its home finale next Saturday, a 2 p.m. meeting at Providence Park with Weber State.
Alexander came out throwing short passes on Saturday, and then it was Kraght hitting a big one.
Kraght took a backward throw from Alexander and then hit Trent Riley in the end zone from 24 yards to cap a touchdown drive on PSU's first possession.
Cal Poly answered quickly, going 76 yards in six plays to even the score at 7-7.
Later in the first quarter, Portland State took the lead at 14-7 when running back Jason Talley, the former Eastern Washington reserve from Jesuit High, ran through tackles to avoid a stop on fourth-and-1 and get into the end zone on a 26-yard burst.
Alexander hit 12 of his first 13 passes, and the Vikings took advantage of miscues by the injury-plagued Mustangs. A Cal Poly receiver dropped a pass in the open that might have gone for a touchdown, and Mustangs QB Jake Jeffrey, a walk-on redshirt freshman called into duty because of injuries this season, fumbled to set up Talley's first-quarter TD.
The Mustangs came back again, marching 80 yards in 12 plays, They scored with 6:39 left in the half on Mohamed's 1-yard dive on fourth down. The PAT made it a 14-14 game.
The Vikings continued to move the ball through the air, though, but stalled from the 6 with three consecutive incompletions. Graycen Kennedy, the kicker from Wilson High, lined up for a field goal, but holder Kraght ran wide left and made it to the corner of the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown and 21-14 lead with 3:28 remaining in the second quarter.
Cal Poly drove inside the PSU 10, but missed an open receiver in the end zone before scoring on a sweep to the left 12 seconds before halftime. With the extra point, the teams were tied at 21-21.
PSU opened the second half with an onside kick but couldn't recover it. And Cal Poly capitalized, driving for a touchdown and its first lead of the game. A 1-yard run by Mohamed finished the 10-play, 44-yard possession and gave the Mustangs a 28-21 advantage.
The Vikings stayed with their up-tempo air approach. They scored on Alexander's first career TD pass, an 11-yard strike over the middle to Riley (his 11th of 12 catches for 135 yards). Kennedy's kick tied the score at 28-28.
On Portland State's next possession, a fourth-and-13 completion to the 15 put Alexander over 300 yards in passing for the game. That gave Kennedy a 30-yard field-goal try for the lead, but the ball stayed just outside the left upright.
In the fourth quarter, Cal Poly went 80 yards in nine plays, all on the ground, and scored from the 1 to reclaim the lead at 35-28.
A 61-yard punt to the Cal Poly 1 by Portland State's Hayden Cowden gave the Vikings defense an opportunity to gain field position for the offense with about six minutes to go.
The Mustangs were able to pick up two first downs with their power run game, working the clock inside four minutes. The Vikings, using all three of their timeouts, forced a punt inside the two-minute mark.
PSU took over at its 22 with 1:36 remaining, and Alexander ran for a first down on the first play. On the next snap, Darnell Adams hauled in a pass at the Cal Poly 29.
But with 48 seconds left, Alexander threw into the flat and was intercepted, allowing Cal Poly to run out the clock.