HILLSBORO -- The Portland State football team may be just beginning a new era under first-year head coach Nigel Burton, but that doesn't mean the Vikings weren't feeling a sense of urgency on Saturday during their spring game.
PSU ended most practices this spring by "going live" with a ticking game clock in full view, and as Burton officially closed out spring practice, his seniors received miniature hourglasses as a visual reminder that summer presents an oh-so-limited period for improvement.
"That's something that one of the alumni players came up with just to get them to understand that time is of the essence," Burton said after the Mouse Davis-coached White team gained 269 yards on 43 plays -- including 200 through the air -- to top the Rashad Floyd-coached Green team 14-13 in front of 1,032 fans at Hillsboro Stadium. "We're not going to be a conservative coaching staff. We're going to let things fly a little bit, have some fun and make sure teams have to be as disciplined against us as we have to be against them."
In the debut of the Vikings' new pistol offense and 4-3 defense, Burton said there were a few mental mistakes on both sides of the ball, but he liked his team's levels of excitement and execution, especially as the clock wound down.
"The thing that was really nice to see was at the end, when the White team had to move the ball and the Green team knew they were going to run it," Burton said. "They were still able to do it, and that's what we have to be able to do during the fall."
Playing in game-like situations has been a cornerstone of practice during spring ball, something junior cornerback DeShawn Shead - -- who nabbed an interception late in the fourth to help secure the White team's win -- said are already making a difference.
"Last year, we weren't put in that many situations in practice," Shead said. "But now we've been through them and it's second nature to us."
Junior linebacker Ryan Rau --- who led the White team with six tackles including a big hit early that set the tone for the highly-competitive scrimmage -- said the Vikings' practice-closing two-minute drills and goal-line stands will pay off in the fall.
"The more we're in those situations, the more we're comfortable," said Rau, who Burton called "a man among boys" and someone he'll be looking to for more vocal leadership this season. "Once it's game time, we'll have been there before, and that will help us get the job done."
The White team struck first when senior Kevin Watts (11 carries, 41 yards) ran in for a two-yard score set up by a 45-yard bomb from senior Tygue Howland to leading receiver Justin Monahan (four catches, 72 yards) with 10:07 left in the second. Green answered when sophomore defensive lineman Siasau Matagiese recovered a Nick Green fumble near the goal line and rumbled three yards for a score, but the White team scored again just before the half when the redshirt sophomore Green redeemed himself with a 27-yard strike to junior wide receiver Chaz Morales that proved to be the difference. The Green team would score once more with 5:26 left in the third on a three-yard run up the middle by sophomore Ben Bowen, but an attempted two-point conversion failed.
Howland finished with 88 yards on 4-of-6 completions for the White team, while junior and former Lincoln High School standout Connor Kavanaugh led the Green team with 30 yards on 6-of-8 completions.
Six quarterbacks saw action, with senior signal-caller Drew Hubel still nursing a left knee injury that ended his 2009 season. Burton said the QB battle will be wide open and a starter likely won't be decided until Sept. 3, the day before the Vikings open their 2010 campaign at Arizona State.
Also not in pads was senior tight end Julius Thomas, better known for his basketball skills but looking to make an impact on the gridiron this season.
"He's a playmaker," Burton said of Thomas. "(During spring practice), it got to a point where the quarterback stopped reading and said, 'Where's 81?" That's not a great thing, but it's a good thing that they trust him to be a guy who can pull down a play. And that's what we ultimately need."
The Vikings play at Hillsboro Stadium four times this season, beginning Oct. 2, when they open Big Sky Conference play against Idaho State.
Notes: In past seasons, PSU played offense vs. defense in its scrimmages. This year, with a large group of players, it was possible to break into two teams. ... Senior DJ Mccarthy led all tacklers with eight. ... Former Scappoose standout and Oregon State transfer Justin Engstrom finished 3-for-5 with 25 yards and an interception.