PSU gears up for Washington State
The Portland State football team makes a trip to Pullman, Washington, this week hoping a more complete team adds up to a more complete performance.
Coach Bruce Barnum was disappointed with the way his team started, but encouraged by the response in the Vikings' season-opening 49-35 loss at Hawaii.
Portland State figures to be more whole this week. Because of strict COVID-19 restrictions in Hawaii, PSU was forced to leave nine players and three assistant coaches at home last week.
Among the positions impacted were receiver and running back. Barnum on Wednesday, Sept. 8, said he didn't expect to be similarly hamstrung this week. The Vikings and Cougars both enter the 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, contest (TV on Pac-12 Network) looking for their first win.
WSU dropped its opener to Utah State, which drove 78 yards to a winning TD scored with seven seconds on the clock to win 26-23. Barnum expects to get the best from a Cougars' team motivated not to lose a second consecutive home game to start the season.
To upset Washington State for a second time — the Vikings won 24-17 in 2015 at Pullman in Barnum's head coaching debut — PSU will need to play a much cleaner game. At Hawaii, Portland State turned over the ball three times — two on interceptions of senior quarterback Davis Alexander. PSU's four takeaways helped the Viks hang around.
"A couple less turnovers and we might have had a chance to win it," Barnum said.
Alexander did throw for 400 yards, despite the absence of senior Emmanuel Daigbe and junior Marquis Spiker, two players expected to play a significant role among a talented group of receivers. Alexander attempted 47 passes and the Vikings called only 23 runs. A shortage of options at running back after Jobadi Malary was injured factored into that disparity, according to Barnum.
Portland State netted 77 yards on the ground and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry at Hawaii. Alexander was sacked twice and hit several more times. Despite those numbers, Barnum said he likes his offensive line — another position group that was shuffled just before the game because right guard Shiloh Ta'ase (back spasms) was unable to go.
Barnum expects his team to be ready from the start at WSU. That wasn't the case at Hawai'i, which had lost at UCLA the previous week. PSU was flat-footed in the first quarter, and looked like a team that had played just one game (without a full roster in the spring at Montana) since 2019.
Take away the first quarter, and PSU outscored Hawaii 35-21 and outgained the Rainbow Warriors 397-327 over the last three quarters. The PSU defense "dug in" after a rough first quarter, Barnum said, including producing four sacks. Defensive back Anthony Adams had an interception and a fumble recovery.
The best development on the Hawaii trip was the response from PSU after falling behind four touchdowns in the first-quarter. Barnum said it was the team leaders, not himself or his assistant coaches, who sent a clear message to players who were grumbling.
"That was the coolest part of it," Barnum said.
The challenge of the Hawaii trip didn't end upon returning to Portland. Their equipment ended up in Las Vegas, which meant delaying the first practice this week until Tuesday afternoon. The Viks usually practice in the morning.
Barnum has two sons who are pitchers for the Washington State baseball team, bonus-year senior Brody Barnum and second-year freshman Cooper Barnum.
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