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Vikings open Big Sky Conference play Saturday with a tough road matchup against No. 2-ranked Montana.

PMG PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - The Portland State football team and receiver Nate Bennett, pictured catching a touchdown in 2021 against Montana State, will try to rise to the challenge on Saturday, Sept. 24 on the road against No. 2-ranked Montana.After a bye week, Portland State (0-2) jumps into Big Sky Conference play with both feet, traveling to one of the most imposing stadiums in FCS football to challenge the 3-0 Montana Grizzlies, who are No. 2 in this week's FCS rankings.

HOW TO WATCH

When: 1 p.m. PT, Saturday, Sept. 24

Where: Washington-Grizzly Stadium (25,217), Missoula, Montana

TV/Streaming: KRCW in Portland, ESPN+.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Montana has outscored three FCS opponents by an average of 40-7 through three games. The program's foundation is perhaps the best FCS defense in the country. Can Portland State move the ball and convert on the third down enough that its own defense isn't stuck on the field too much?

Coach Bruce Barnum said he likes where his team is coming off the bye weekend and described the Vikings as healthy.

For Portland State to pull off the upset, the Vikings will have to handle the noise — particularly inside the red zone. PSU must play with poise and not feed Montana's momentum with turnovers. That puts the focus on quarterback Dante Chachere (30-54, 320 yards, 2 TDs, 2 interceptions), making his third college start.

To move the ball, the Vikings will need to limit the impact of safety Bobby Hauck (31 tackles, three for loss) and linebacker Patrick O'Connell (26 tackles, five sacks). The Griz D has six takeaways, 13 sacks and has limited opponents to 219 yards and only two offensive TDs in wins over FCS foes Northwestern State, South Dakota and Indiana State.

The Viks' defense was stout in the 21-17 opening loss at San Jose State —a team that lost 24-16 at Auburn in its second game — but no match for Washington's offense two weekends ago. This weeks' challenge is quarterback Lucas Johnson, who has completed 56 of 83 passes for 638 yards and eight touchdowns and has run 25 times for 152 yards and three touchdowns.


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