PSU Vikings grab victory on the road
October 29, 2011, 9:57 pm
In an old school Big Sky Conference football game, crazy plays and big offense were in large supply, and the Portland State Vikings took their share, defeating Eastern Washington, 43-26.
The win improved Portland State to 5-3 on the season, 3-2 in the Big Sky Conference and keeps post-season hopes alive. Meanwhile, the defending national champions dropped to 4-5, 4-3 in the Big Sky and are virtually out of contention for a return to the playoffs.
Despite missing star running back Cory McCaffrey, the Viking offense rolled most of the day. Quarterback Connor Kavanaugh had one of his better games, running for 154 yards, and passing for 147 yards and a touchdown. Running backs Willie Griffin, Shaq Richard and Justin Lilley combined for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
Eastern Washington had -1 yards rushing, but was relegated to passing most of the day, as Bo Levi Mitchell completed 20 of 42 for 440 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
The Viking defense set the stage early in the game making four sacks during the Eagles' first two possessions.
Unfortunately, a fumble snap and a penalty hindered the Vikings as they got down to the two-yard line on their first possession. They had to settle for a 38-yard Zach Brown field goal.
Dionte Brooks' blocked an Eagle punt to set the Vikings at the Eastern Washington 10 on the next possession. The Vikings got to a fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line, but Kavanaugh was stopped and PSU turned it over on downs.
Two trips to the two-yard line resulted in only three points for the Vikings.
"It was a little bit frustrating. We knew we have be more efficient than that and put up seven every time we get there," said wide receiver Justin Monahan. "The defense kept us up on the sideline, told us they would get it done and give us more chances, so that was good to hear."
"I have so much confidence in this offense that I know whatever happens we are going to get things back on track," said Kavanaugh. "Eastern made a big stop. I knew if we kept plugging away good things would happen."
After being snuffed out on their first two possessions, the Eagles struck on a pair of big pass plays for touchdowns. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell hit Greg Herd on a 96-yard touchdown late in the first period. Two minutes later, Mitchell found Nicholas Edwards on a 59-yard score and PSU trailed 14-3.
Brown added another 38-yard field goal in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 14-6. Then, a trick play got the Vikings into the end zone. Nevin Lewis threw a 14-yard touchdown to Justin Monahan. However, the pass was originally intended for Kalua Noa who tipped it in the endzone, as did three Eagle defenders. Monahan, the fifth player to touch the ball, secured the reception and it was 14-12.
"That is definitely the craziest play I have ever been a part of," said Monahan.
Brown then pooched a kickoff to Eastern Washington that the Eagles were not prepared for. Andrew Godinet recovered the ball at the Eastern 20. The Vikings were stopped, but tacked on a 41-yard Zach Brown field goal to take a 15-14 lead.
"Special teams this year has probably been the biggest surprise ever. The defense came out in the second half and shut them down and gave us several opportunities to seal the victory."
The Eagles came right back on a six-play, 75-yard drive. Mitchell found Edwards in the corner of the end zone on a 15-yard touchdown pass. The Eagles missed the extra point, but led 20-15.
With just under two minutes to play in the half, Connor Kavanaugh rallied the Vikings on a 10-play, 83-yard drive. He hit Monahan on an eight-yard touchdown with two seconds to play in the half. The extra point gave PSU a 22-20 halftime lead.
PSU totaled 291 offensive yards in the half, while Eastern had 280. Mitchell passed for 292 yards, but the Eagles had -12 rushing yards.
Midway through the third period, Kavanaugh led another, lengthy 11-play, 65-yard drive. Richard scored from one yard out and the extra point made it 29-22.
Then, linebacker Joel Sisler provided the defensive play of the game on Eastern Washington's first snap of the next possession. Sisler jumped a pass route, picking off Mitchell and returning it 23 yards for a touchdown. PSU led 36-20.
"Unbelievable," Monahan said of the Sisler interception. "That's what he does though. He is great in coverage. He has great instincts."
Mitchell came back to get his fourth touchdown pass late in the period, hitting Edwards for a third time on a seven-yard play. A failed two-point conversion kept the Vikings lead at 10, 36-26.
Again, Kavanaugh led a long, time-consuming drive. PSU ran 12 plays for 81 yards burning 6:20 off the clock. Richard dove into the end zone on a fourth-and-one play. PSU's 43-26 lead with 11:50 to play seemed insurmountable, and it was.
On the Eagles next possession, they converted two fourth downs, but were eventually stopped at the PSU 41. The Vikings took over with 8:34 to play. Eastern had one more possession but could not put together a drive.
For the games, the Vikings had 499 yards of total offense. The Eagles had 439, but just 169 in the second half.
The Vikings totaled five sacks, including two by linebacker Ian Sluss. DeShawn Shead led PSU with six tackles, one for loss, recovered a fumble and broke up a pass. In all, the Vikings forced three turnovers.
With 154 rushing yards, Kavanaugh increased his season total to 707 yards, a new Big Sky Conference record for a quarterback.
"I know this is a cliche statement, but its about the big guys up front," Kavanaugh said of the record. "In a close game like that we have five guys working hard up front. Obviously its a great honor but the credit goes to the guys up front."
Up next... The Vikings take on Sacramento State at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday November 5th. Pre-game at 12pm, kickoff at 1:05pm. Listen to it live on your home of the Portland State Vikings AM 970.