The Portland State that took the Pac-12s California down to the wire in a 37-30 loss last week was not the Vikings team that showed up at Jeld-Wen Field in the first half on Saturday.
Facing Division-II Humboldt State, the Vikings looked flat and at times not interested during the first 30 minutes, and they took only a 13-6 lead into intermission before the announced crowd of 5,028.
The Vikings hit the turbo boosters in the second half, though, and surged to a 43-6 blowout.
In the end, its another one of those games you win by 37 and theres things you can fix, Portland State coach Nigel Burton said. Not a bad deal.
The PSU defense was very good, holding Humboldt State to two field goals, allowing 350 yards, creating two turnovers and getting a safety in the third quarter.
The Vikings' offense however which came into the game leading the nation in productivity was a story of two halves.
In the first half, Portland State gained 234 yards but also turned the ball over twice in Humboldt State territory.
The saving grace for the offense was its second-half performance. The Vikings finished the game with 622 yards and 27 first downs.
If youre turning the ball over, thats bad stuff, Burton said. You cant put the ball on the ground. When we were sitting there in the locker room, we were a little flustered, but in the end, we gave up six points.
Portland State took a 7-0 lead with 8:03 remaining in the first quarter.
Facing a fourth-and-8 from the 38-yard line, PSU quarterback Kieran McDonagh dropped back and found Kasey Closs wide open on a flag route. McDonagh hit Closs in stride, and Closs was able to jog into the end zone.
They rolled out a Cover 3 late, McDonagh said. I hit him over the top. Thats what we wanted.
On the Vikings' final possession of the first quarter, McDonagh got sandwiched between two Lumberjacks and coughed up the ball on the HSU 17.
The Viks forced a punt and then sent redshirt freshman quarterback Paris Penn into the game.
We wanted to see if we could get a little change of pace, McDonagh said. Paris is a bit faster than me. So Coach wanted to see what he could do with the zone read.
After Penn fumbled at the Humboldt State 42, McDonagh went back into the game.
The Lumberjacks brought the score to 7-3 when Matt Bruder made a 32-yard field goal with 4:42 remaining in the first half.
On the ensuing kickoff, return man Devon Dunn was hit hard and lost the football. Humboldt State recovered on the Vikings' 11.
Humboldt State quarterback Kyle Morris threw three consecutive incomplete passes, but the Lumberjacks got a field goal out of the deal when Bruder put a 28-yarder through the uprights.
Portland State then moved to the visitors' 15 as McDonagh threw a screen pass to DJ Adams, who got a block, turned up field and rambled for 50 tards.
The Vikings capped the drive as Justin Lilley took an inside handoff into the end zone.
PSU tried a trick play on the PAT, but holder Thomas Carters pass for long snapper Kameron Canaday went incomplete, leaving the score at 13-6.
On their first possession of the second half, the Vikings found a rhythm. Portland State drove 74 in seven plays and scored on a 1-yard run up the middle by Shaquille Richard.
The defense extended the Vikings' lead to 22-6 with 10:15 remaining in the third quarter. With Humboldt State at its 2, linebacker Jaycob Shoemaker came on a blitz, zeroed in on Morris and wrapped him up in the end zone.
Coach called a good play, Shoemaker said. We ran field-side pressure, I came through and it was a safety. The guys in front of me did their job, and it was beautiful.
The Vikings went up 29-6 on the ensuing possession. Richard took a handoff 12 yards for the touchdown.
Richard finished the game with two touchdowns and 60 yards on eight carries.
I want to thank the O-line, he said. They opened up some wide open holes that I was able to get through.
PSU ended the third quarter with a 29-yard TD pass from McDonagh to Alex Toureen that put the Viks up 36-6.
McDonagh wound up 21 of 31 passing for 377 yards and two TDs. He also rushed for a team-high 64 yards.
Lilley put Portland State on top 43-6 with a 4-yard dive up the middle at the 11:40 mark of the fourth quarter.
The quality of opponent will ramp up next week when the Vikings travel to UC Davis to play a nonconference game.
Our expectation level has risen to a point where were chasing perfection, Burton said. And we know we cant ever get it. Were 2-1, and we like that we have more wins than losses and weve just got to continue to improve.