Davis Alexander aims to add wins to his gaudy PSU numbers
Davis Alexander is adept at buying time.
Using his legs to extend plays is one of the traits that has helped the senior quarterback climb to the upper echelon of the Portland State football record book. With 8,750 yards entering an Oct. 9 game at Idaho, Alexander ranks second behind only Neil Lomax in total offense at PSU.
His 7,545 passing yards are third most in Vikings' history. Alexander passed Chris Crawford (7,543) in the Vikings' 20-13 Oct. 2 win at Southern Utah. He also ranks on the PSU career list fourth in completions (551), fifth in passing touchdowns (50) and tied for sixth with seven games of at least 300 passing yards.
The first of those came in his first start. On Nov. 11, 2017, Alexander threw for 409 yards in a seven-point loss at Cal Poly.
His place in PSU history, though, isn't something Alexander dwells upon. These days, Alexander's focus is on making the most of his remaining time with the Vikings. Wins have been elusive. PSU is 10-20 since Alexander became the first-choice QB.
His place in the record book is testament to Alexander's competitive drive and resiliency. After redshirting in 2016, he was beat out for the starting role in 2017 by freshman Jalani Eason. Alexander took over as the starter late in the winless 2017 season, but he and Eason (now at Mississippi Valley State) both took snaps for two-plus seasons.
Alexander played the 2019 season with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. He had surgery to repair that after the 2019 season. He said he was about 178 pounds in 2019, his lowest weight since his junior season in high school at Gig Harbor, Washington. So, after the surgery, he hit the weight room.
Now at around 202 pounds, the most he's weighed, Alexander said he "feels great."
In addition to building strength, Alexander worked on accuracy between 2019 and now. A gunslinger mentality and the need at times to carry the Vikings' offense, his completion percentage sometimes suffers. Five games into this season, Alexander has completed 109 of 188 passes for 1,405 yards and eight touchdowns. The six interceptions are one reason the Vikings are minus-4 in turnover ratio.
Alexander, who was an efficient 18-of-23 in the win at Southern Utah, said his completion percentage is "something I've vastly tried to improve on" with better technique and more work in the film room.
"It hasn't been where I want it to be but I think I'll start making some more improvements on that," he said.
Alexander is working with the third different quarterbacks coach since his arrival. Jon Eagle, who guided Camas High in Washington to two big-school state titles, joined the staff this summer as the QB coach. He is one of four new offensive coaches at PSU.
Alexander called Eagle one of the smartest coaches he's been around.
"He does some great things for us on game day up in the box to just give me feedback recognizing coverage and what should be open on this or that (play)," Alexander said.
Eagle said Alexander's success reflects his dedication to football. He lists Alexander's strengths as his "football IQ," strong arm and solid decisions.
"He's probably taught me more than I've taught him," said Eagle, who coached high school football for more than three decades prior to joining Bruce Barnum's staff this summer.
Alexander wants more feedback from Eagle.
"Sometimes I wish he'd speak up even more, but I think he feels like because he's the new guy (he holds back)," Alexander said.
Injuries to starting receivers Mataio Talaemoto (missed three games before playing at Southern Utah) and Emmanuel Daigbe (out for season) meant Alexander had to quickly develop chemistry with new receivers. While junior Beau Kelly has become a go-to target, freshmen Nate Bennett (25 catches, 362 yards, three TDs) and Darien Chase (27-295) have helped Alexander with athletic catches.
"To see those two go up and make plays against talented FBS cornerbacks, that was awesome to see and I'm sure it (improves) their confidence," Alexander said. "It's just good to see our perimeter players making great one-on-one plays against good talent."
A Viking who's been around PSU since the fall of 2016, Alexander's is an important voice. Holding teammates accountable is part of the process, including when it comes to building chemistry with younger teammates.
"It's something where I'm in practice always on them," he said. "If they make a mistake, they're going to hear it from me, just so we can lock in with that chemistry."
Alexander hasn't run the ball as much early in the season as he did in his first three seasons, though he did run for his second touchdown of the year at Southern Utah (21st of his career). In part, it's by design, an effort to keep Alexander healthy.
Coach Bruce Barnum said the improved depth at receiver is one reason his quarterback isn't keeping the ball as often.
"He's always looking to go downfield. He's not having to sacrifice himself as much because we've got some talented wide receivers," Barnum said.
Not that Alexander is averse to taking off with the ball.
"I like to run the ball a little bit. That's just the competitive side of me. But I think when it's necessary, you'll see me start running the ball again. But with some of the successes we've had throwing the ball, there's no reason for me to take some big hits like I did last year."
By last year, he means 2019. In 2020, Alexander spent time with his mother in Florida, a state where he was allowed to go to the gym. He also spent time working with trainers in Gig Harbor. He missed the day-to-day interactions with teammates, but kept in touch with phone calls, playing video games online and through social media.
Now that his pandemic-delayed senior season is here, Alexander does not want to waste time. He's proud of the statistics he's produced, and calls his place in the PSU record book "truly an honor" and "a very cool deal.
"But, I'm truthfully, 100% more worried about wins and losses."
Week 6 games
Oregon State at Washington State, 1 p.m. Oct. 9 (Pac-12 Network) —Â Trib's take. There was a time, not long ago, when picking the Beavers to win a Pac-12 road game would be a mistake. Now, it feels like a mistake to pick against the Beavers. It wasn't so much that the Beavers beat Washington for the first time in a decade. What impressed was how they did it: sticking to the plan and running the ball even after a disastrous 17 seconds in which the Huskies scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Beavers 28, Cougars 20.
Portland State at Idaho, 2 p.m. Oct. 9 (ESPN+). Trib's take: It was the defense that earned the Vikings the win at Southern Utah. If that trend continues, PSU has a chance to win a second Big Sky game in as many weeks. Idaho did push eighth-ranked UC Davis in a 27-20 loss last week and should be hungry. Look for another low-scoring battle. Portland State 24, Idaho 20.
Oregon idle — The Ducks get a week off to nurse their wounds (physical and mental) after the implosion at Stanford. The impact of the injuries — including apparent significant ones to CJ Verdell and Bennett Williams — should not be downplayed. This remains a young roster, so this feels like a good time for a bye week. We will learn a lot about this team on Friday, Oct. 15 against Cal. Will Oregon come out motivated and win comfortably? Or will the Ducks' offense continue to struggle for long stretches, while miscues by coaches and players make games more challenging than they should be?
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