Author: Mike Lund
Posted: September 5, 2015


Pullman, WA - As the raindrops fell on an ecstatic Viking football team celebrating an unprecedented win over a Pac-12 opponent Saturday afternoon, the question was asked, "Has there been a better coaching debut?"

The college football answer would create a myriad of possibilities, but in Portland State history, it would be an emphatic, "No!" Because BarnyBall sure played well in the Palouse.

The Portland State Vikings rode a 24-7 second-half advantage to come from behind and knock off the Pac-12 Washington State Cougars at Martin Stadium. It marked the first time a Portland State team has ever beaten a Pac-12 opponent in 15 tries, and only the third time in program history that PSU has beaten an FBS-level opponent.

"What a great deal for these guys. They have been working at this since last November. Everything that has been put together at this school with Mark (Rountree), the administration, and everyone on down. It paid off. These guys hard work just paid off. I am happy for these kids and these coaches," said an elated Bruce Barnum at midfield immediately following his first game as a head coach.

The victory came only by living up to the BarnyBall mantra; hard-nosed, tough, fundamental football that won the second half and ultimately, the game.

PSU was dominated in the first half by a Washington State team that possessed the ball for more than 20 minutes. But the Cougars could manage only a 10-0 halftime lead. The Viking defense battled through those tough opening quarters, kept the team in the game, and even took advantage of a blocked a field goal by Aaron Sibley.

"Our defense - that was the definition of bend and don't break. We gave them a lot of yards, then force them into a field goal," said Barnum.

Washington State out-gained the Vikings 274-66 in the half, with the majority coming on the first three drives. The Cougars ran 43 plays to only 19 for PSU and held the ball for 20:27 of the opening 30 minutes.

But PSU's first drive of the third quarter was an indicator of things to come. The Vikings ran off 10 plays for 75 yards as utility quarterback Paris Penn finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown scramble. That made it 10-7 at the 10:54 mark of the third quarter. 

PSU's defense got a quick three-and-out, allowing the offense to take the ball back. After nine plays and 54 yards, kickerJonathan Gonzales split the up-rights with a tying 42-yard field goal. 

The Vikings had 150 yards in the third quarter while WSU had only 44, but more importantly PSU took momentum of the game. Behind a powerful running game led by Penn and starting quarterback Alex Kuresa, the Vikings scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

PSU got its first lead at the 13:06 mark of the fourth quarter. Running back Nate Tago scored on an eight-yard run after a big Viking special teams play. When Marcus Kinsella punted down near the WSU 10-yard line return man Kyron Priester fumbled the ball. PSU long snapper Kameron Canaday recovered the miscue, setting up the offense at the 11-yard line. 

WSU came back to tie four minutes later. Quarterback Luke Falk completed his second touchdown pass of the game - a five-yarder to Gabe Marks. That tied the score 17-17 with 9:11 to play.

That's when PSU's grind-it-out style finished the job. The Vikings put together a 14-play, 69-yard drive with Penn and Kuresa alternating plays at quarterback. Steven Long finished the series with a one-yard TD run at the 2:19 mark. 

With the Vikings up 24-17 anytime running down to it was up to the defense to hold. The Malik Roberson-led unit was up to the task. WSU was driving inside the final minute when Sibley picked off a Peyton Bender pass at the PSU 27-yard line. From there, PSU knelt on the ball and ran out the clock on one of the biggest wins in program history.

"I think our guys got their feet wet a little bit," said Barnum about his team's persevering through a tough first half. "We saw what they were doing to us. The staff made some adjustments and the kids came out hungry and ready to play (after halftime)."

In the end, Portland State gained 294 yards, with nearly 230 coming in the second half. PSU rushed 48 times for 233 yards. Kuresa had 16 carries for 92 yards, while Penn added 13 carries for 57 yards and a score. David Jones, Tago and Long combined for 86 yards and two touchdowns. 

Washington State finished with 411 yards of offense, but only a third of that came after halftime. The Vikings also forced two turnovers, blocked a punt and knocked down six passes. Falk was 27-41 passing for 289 yards and two touchdowns but left the game with an injury during the final drive.

Linebacker Jeremy Lutali led the Vikings with nine tackles and Patrick Onwuasor made eight stops.

GAME NOTES: Portland State's previous wins over FBS opponents were Hawai'i in 2000 (45-20) and New Mexico in 2006 (17-6)… the Vikings open Big Sky Conference play next Saturday at Idaho State. Game time is 2:05 p.m. PT. The game airs on Rip City Radio 620 AM and