The earliest spring football scrimmage in Portland State history came off with few hitches Friday morning.
Despite chilly weather more familiar to fans of the Green Bay Packers (32 degrees at the start, wind-chill temperature sub-freezing) the Vikings looked in, well, early April form.
That was thanks mostly to a seasoned roster but also in part to the buy-in and spirit of the team.
It was a lively hour and 45 plays of work at Stott Community Field for a PSU squad hoping to take another significant step up in the win column this year. The Vikings improved from 0-11 in 2017 to 4-7 in 2018. If all goes well starting in six months, they'll climb to .500 or better and make a run at their first FCS playoff appearance since 2015.
The Viks looked ready to skirmish — and they did at times after the whistle. The offense and defense had a few testy moments midway through the action, prompting coach Bruce Barnum to throw a penalty flag and take a short break with a couple of wind sprints.
The defense had just made some plays, but when play resumed, the offense seemed able to regroup and had some of its best moments, which included a 28-yard touchdown romp by a redshirt freshman out of Washougal (Washington) High, 5-9, 180-pound Kade Coons, who ran away from the defenders.
Barnum wasn't complaining about the feistiness intrasquad competition.
"I really liked the energy and the way they went at it," he said. "Emotions got a little high, but it's not like those guys hate each other. They really like each other, and that's the thing I think I like most about this team — they're really together, and they just like playing football."
That showed on what was only the third day of camp.
"It's different," standout senior tight end Charlie Taumoepeau said of having "spring" ball so early. "But it feels really good to get back out there."
The offense, led by starting and returning junior quarterback Davis Alexander, moved the ball well early and at times on Friday.
But the defense, entering its second season under coordinator Payam Saadat, tackled well and got into the backfield a few times to make plays. Returning linemen Kenton Barlett and Semise Kofe led the way up front with four tackles apiece. The hard hits by the defense include a fumble-forcing tackle by redshirt freshman linebacker Storm Crozier from Kihei, Hawaii.
The other QBs had their moments, though, with returning junior Jalani Eason, freshman transfer Jalen Chatman (Rutgers) and redshirt freshman Dino Maldonado splitting time.
"They all did some good things," Barnum said.
Sirgeo Hoffman and Chase Morrison got the most work at running back.
Junior wideout Emmanuel Daigbe, who started last season, made a fingertips grab of a sideline pass by Chatman for 33 yards.
"A fun day," Barnum said.
The only casualty was senior wide receiver Jacob Bystry, who had to leave early with an ankle injury.
Camp continues through the March 16 spring game.
Portland State will open its season on Aug. 31 at Arkansas.
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