The Vikings have done it again. Portland State’s football team won last Saturday against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds, 24-23 at Providence Park. This launches them down the road toward the playoffs and ever closer to the Big Sky Championship.
“I am actually very proud of this group and how they responded,” said Head Coach Bruce Barnum at a press conference after the game at Providence Park. “What a great accomplishment.”
It was a brutal faceoff against these two teams: flags thrown, players injured, controversial calls by the refs, interceptions made.
According to GoViks.com, the Thunderbirds are 7-3 this season and are also the heavy weights in the Big Sky ranks—coming in first place at 6-1, while the Vikings, at 5-2 in the Big Sky, were somewhat of a wild card with their overall 8-2 season.
The star players at Saturday’s game were Quarterback Alex Kuresa, Tight End Cameron, Thompson, Kicker Jonathan Gonzales, Wide Receiver Thomas Carter III, Safety Patrick Onwuasor, Fullback Kieran McDonagh, Defensive Back Xavier Coleman, and Safety Beau Duronslet, per GoViks.com.
Kuresa made the first score of the game during the first quarter with a 73-yard-drive and an eight-yard touchdown pass to Thompson.
However the Thunderbirds struck back with a thundering 42-yard field goal and a 53-yard touchdown pass from Quarterback Ammon Olsen to Wide Receiver Mike Sharp, ending the first quarter at 7-10.
The second quarter heated up when the Vikings gave the Thunderbirds a piece of their own medicine when Gonzales scored a 39-yard field goal, which tied the game at 10-10.
Kuresa scored a 73-yard touchdown pass to Carter III, which gave the Vikings a 17-10 lead. Before the Thunderbirds could retaliate, the Vikings got another momentum swing late in the half when Onwuasor snagged an interception from the Thunderbird’s clutches near the goal line – making the Thunderbirds so close and yet so far.
The Vikings predominantly led the third quarter, but toward its end, the Thunderbirds tied the game at 17-17.
The fourth quarter though was when the Vikings really shined, when quarterback-turned-fullback McDonagh took a handoff by Kuresa and passed the ball to Thompson and scored what became the winning touchdown for the Vikings.
With the score being 24-17, the Thunderbirds desperately tried to change the momentum swing of the game but their efforts were fair but futile in the end. First they attempted a field goal but the kicker missed.
After scoring a 14-yard touchdown pass caught by Sharp and with 1:18 seconds left on the clock, Southern Utah’s Head Coach Ed Lamb made a call for a two-point conversion that ended up costing them the game when Olson passed the ball to a receiver but was dropped! As a result, the Vikings took the win with 24-23.
At the post-game press conference, Coach Barnum said he was not surprised by Lamb’s two-point conversion attempt, and said he was sure they would make that play because there is more pressure on the visiting team to win. Barnum’s instinct was right, and because of it he helped the team prepare for the play and ultimately win the game.
“I told [defensive coordinator Malik’s] assistant before the drive started, ‘Listen, if they score, you tell Malik immediately that [Lamb] is going to go for two,” Barnum said. “It was a guess, it was a gamble; we lucked out on that one.”
At the game’s conclusion, the Vikings fans cheered loud and proud for their team on the win and were excited that they are going to the playoffs for a possible shot for the Big Sky Championship.
PSU alumni Sione Tuipulotu, who graduated in 2006 studying social science and was number 99 on the football team back then, said after the game cheerfully, “We are in the playoffs! That’s all that matters! We made the playoffs! This means a lot—PSU Vikings!”
“I think [The Big Sky] will look at us now and think we are a strong consideration but who knows?” Barnum said. “Can’t take anything for granted and it would help if we beat Eastern next week.”
The next Vikings game is their season finale on November 21 at 2:05pm against the Eastern Washington Eagles in Cheney, WA. Following the game will be the NCAA Playoff schedule, which will be announced November 22.