Vikings win again, and easily this time
It was homecoming in more ways than one for Portland State, and the Vikings made themselves right at home Saturday afternoon at Providence Park.
In the one and only game they'll get to play in the city this season, the Vikings had their way with Northern Colorado.
PSU never trailed en route to a 35-14 victory before 4.375 fans on homecoming weekend.
"It was a beautiful feeling to be back in this stadium, and to get a win made it even more so," said Vikings cornerback Montre Brown, a junior who had one of the defense's three interceptions.
The Vikings, forced to play all their other home games at Hillsboro Stadium this year, improved to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the Big Sky with their second win in a row.
The Bears fell to 0-7, 0-4.
Portland State led 28-0 at halftime and 35-0 after three quarters.
"A good win," PSU coach Bruce Barnum said. "I saw improvement on offense and defense. The defense got us some short fields, and the offense … instead of kicking field goals, we scored touchdowns. That made the second half a little easier."
After a bye week, Portland State will go for three wins in a row at Sacramento State on Oct. 27.
"Two weeks of glory instead of one," Barnum said with a laugh.
The Vikings were coming off a glorious and uplifting upset victory at Montana, and they took care of business Saturday against a Northern Colorado team that was lacking in firepower.
"We had the juice, the energy," Barnum said. "I saw it in our warm-ups, and I think especially in our defense. With our offense, it was more of a calm intensity."
The Vikings scored all all four of their true drives in the first half (they took a knee to run out the final 13 seconds).
The first drive went 99 yards. The others covered 17, 45 and 49 yards.
"Those drives fueled the defense," said freshman cornerback Anthony Adams from Newberg. "When the defense sees our offense march down the field, we're like, 'Let's get the ball back for them.'"
Northern Colorado, which managed only 16 yards rushing on 31 attempts for the game, threatened on its first and last possessions of the half — only to be denied, first when Adams intercepted a pass at the PSU 1 and then with a Vikings stop on fourth-and-goal from the 6.
Adams, who was positioned between the quarterback and the receiver, went up high to make his grab, then landed just beyond the goal line.
"I had no idea where I was. I was like, 'Dang, I hope the offense can get us out of this tough spot,'" he said.
The Vikings offense did with an efficient, 13-play drive. Quarterback Davis Alexander and company converted third down-and-3, third-and-7 and third-and-9 along the way.
"We got a little push to get us into where we could get into our playbook," Alexander said, "and the receivers ran some great routes early and won some one-on-one battles."
Another big play by the PSU defense came later in the first quarter, when Brown made his interception at the Bears' 17 to set up the second TD. He slid over and stepped in front of the intended receiver at the last moment to get the pick.
"The quarterback rolled out, and I knew exactly where he was going to throw it, so I laid back a couple of steps off the receiver, then jumped it when he let it go," said Brown, who also led the PSU defense in tackles with eight.
Quarterback runs gave Portland State all the points it needed. Alexander sprinted for the first three PSU touchdowns, scoring from the 9, 5 and 9. Then backup QB Jalani Eason scored from the 1 on a similar read/fake-dive play.
The Vikings padded their lead in the third quarter, with running back Carlos Martin banging over from the 1 at the 5:55 mark.
Freshman Cody Williams, whose 52-yard field goal with four seconds left beat Montana 22-20 last week in Missoula, hit his fifth point-after kick of the day to give PSU its 35-point lead.
With 40 seconds left in the third quarter, Portland State senior cornerback Artuz Manning took his turn in the pick parade, intercepting a pass at the PSU 1 as well.
The Vikings didn't commit a turnover.
The Bears averted a shutout by scoring with 11:28 to go on a 42-yard pass from junior quarterback Conor Regan to their top receiver, senior Alex Wesley.
UNC got into the end zone one more time, when Milo Hall ran in from the 1 with 5:17 remaining.
Barnum said seeing the final margin cut to 21 points didn't bother him at all.
"I don't care about stats," he said. "In the second half, I got conservative. I just wanted to run the football and eat up the clock. We needed a win, and I made sure we got it by working the clock."
Wesley finished with more catches (11) than Portland State had pass attempts (9).
Wesley's receptions went for 163 yards, and Regan was 27 of 44 passing for 351 yards, with three interceptions and five sacks.
"Our pass rush was very good," Barnum said.
"Our D-linemen are awesome," Brown said. "That made it easy for us (in the secondary)."
PSU played for the second week in a row without injured tight end Charlie Taumoepeau (ankle), who leads the team in touchdown receptions.
Alexander completed 6 of 9 for 90 yards, and he ran for a team-high 72 yards on 10 carries.
"A lot of people were saying it was kind of a fluke game (last week at Montana)," Alexander said, "so we had to come out and prove we belong and can win games.
"Good to get one at home."