Fayetteville, AR – The odds were long for Portland State as it made a first-ever trip to SEC Country, but the Vikings made a good accounting of themselves in a 20-13 loss at Arkansas.
In fact, the Vikings had the ball in the final minute with a chance to knot things up or, who knows, maybe go for two. But an interception by safety Joe Foucha at the Razorbacks’ 42 with 11 seconds left sealed the game for the Hogs.
Both teams played well defensively, but the Razorbacks were a little better, holding the Vikings to 230 yards and making three interceptions. Charlie Taumoepeau had a 32-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter to go with two first-half field goals from Cody Williams for the Viking scoring.
The first half proved to be a defensive struggle most of the way.
Portland State took an early lead, scoring on their first possession. Quarterback Davis Alexander gained 27 rushing yards on three carries. Then Williams kicked a 50-yard field goal, the second-longest of his career and PSU led 3-0.
Arkansas tied it up moments later on a 34-yard field goal by Connor Limpert. The Razorbacks took the lead late in the first quarter on a 10-play, 64-yard drive. Devwah Whaley scored on a one-yard run for a 10-3 Arkansas lead.
Williams struck again from 47 yards early in the second quarter for the Vikings. It was the culmination of an 11-play, 45-yard drive for PSU. That closed the margin to 10-6 and it remained there until halftime.
Arkansas threatened to score late in the half, but Robert Holt picked off a Nick Starkel pass at the PSU five-yard line with 1:23 left. Holt returned it to the 22-yard line and the Vikings avoided a scoring threat by the Hogs.
PSU had 102 yards of total offense in the first half to 198 for Arkansas. Each team had a turnover.
The defensive struggle continued into the third quarter. Arkansas finally broke through with 2:20 left in the quarter. Rakeem Boyd scored on a two-yard run. It was a 12-play, 67-yard drive aided by a personal foul penalty on the Vikings. The extra point gave the Razorbacks a 17-6 lead and the first two-score advantage of the game.
Down 20-6 midway through the fourth quarter, the Vikings were desperate. Backup quarterback Jalani Eason replaced an injured Alexander and drove the Vikings down the field. On 4th-and-12 from the Arkansas 32, Eason eluded the on-coming rush, rolled out left and hit Taumpoepeau near the 10-yard line. Taumoepeau spun off two defenders and got into the endzone. That made it 20-13 with 4:14 to play.
Arkansas was able to move the ball into PSU territory, but the Vikings forced a punt. They took over on their own three-yard line. PSU moved the ball 26 yards before the Foucha interception.
Romeo Gunt led a solid defensive effort by the Vikings with 15 tackles. Holt had seven tackles, one for a loss, and the interception.
Arkansas had 395 total yards on 77 plays. Boyd rushed 18 times for 114 yards.
Emmanuel Daigbe had a team-high five receptions for 43 yards. Taumoepeau made four catches for 56 and the score.
GAME NOTES: Holt had his first career takeaway with the interception… it was an historic day in the sense that the Vikings played a program from the Southeastern Conference for the first time in history. Razorback Stadium was also the largest in which a PSU team has ever played (76,000)… PSU is now 4-39 all-time vs. FBS level teams… Portland State has its home opener next Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium. The Vikings host Division II Simon Fraser in a 2:05 p.m. game that can be seen on Pluto TV Channel 532.