2010 Oregon Football Preview :: Portland State Vikings

Part three in a series on Oregon's 2010 season opponents

Part 1:  New Mexico | Part 2: Tennessee

 Portland-state-logo-150x145_medium

TBA :: September 18, 2010 :: Autzen Stadium

Opponent Portland State
Nickname Vikings
Location Portland, OR
Enrollment 24,284
Head Coach Nigel Burton (first year)
Stadium Hillsboro Stadium (7,600) : FieldTurf
2009 Record 2-9, (1-7 Big Sky)
Starters Returning 5 offense : 6 defense
Base Offense Pistol
Base Defense 4-3
Blogs None
Newspapers The Oregonian, Daily Vanguard

Top Returners

Category Player
Rushing Connor Kavanaugh :: 72 Rushes : 391 Yards : 3 TD
Passing Drew Hubel :: 133/239 : 1,976 Yards : 9 TD : 12 INT
Receiving Ray Fry :: 67 Receptions : 904 Yards : 3 TD
Tackles Ryan Rau :: 34 Solo : 38 Assist : 72 Total
Sacks Ryan Rau :: 4 Solo : 0 Assit : 4 Total : 26 Yards
Interceptions DeShawn Shead :: 3 INT : 49 Yards : 1 TD

I hate these games.  This is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage, and Oregon will win big.  The goal is for the game to be over by halftime, and the backups to get some valuable game experience.  Knowing that Oregon is only in this situation because Central Michigan bailed doesn't make me feel any better.  I want good football, and this will not be good football.  This will be bludgeoning a mouse with a sledgehammer.

Portland State is in a time of transition right now.  The failed Jerry Glanville experiment ended after the Vikings won a mere nine games in three years, ending as one of the worst teams in the FCS last season.  PSU hired Nigel Burton, a former Husky safety who spent the last two seasons as Nevada's defensive coordinator.  Burton is looking to make major changes on both sides of the football, switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 on the defensive side of the ball, and making the change from Glanville's pass heavy run and shoot to a pistol offense (if you're not familiar with the pistol, here's a must-read breakdown from Dr. Saturday.  Get used to it, as UCLA is going to be incorporating it this year as well).  While these changes may ultimately make the Vikings a better football program, the first year under these type of wholesale changes is usually very bad, as it takes considerable time for the roster to adjust.

2009 Offensive Statistics  (Portland State's ranking are out of 118 FCS teams, I was unable to find yards/play and points/play stats for FCS teams)

Statistic Portland State Oregon
Pass Offense 247.55 (19) 180.31 (98)
Rush Offense 107.64 (94) 231.69 (6)
Total Offense 355.18 (44) 412.00 (33)
Scorng Offense 21.09 (70) 36.08 (8)
Pass Efficiency 114.32 (75) 128.03 (59)
Sacks Allowed 2.55 (95) 1.00 (10)
3rd Down Conversion % 34.44 (79) 35.12 (95)

 Offensively, Portland State is a mystery.  Every position is up for grabs under the new head coach, and decisions won't be made in a lot of cases until the end of fall camp.  Senior Drew Hubel was the starter for Glanville the last three seasons.  An adept passer, Hubel is already PSU's fifth all-time leading passer.  However, he hurt his knee about halfway through the season last year, leaving Connor Kavanaugh as the starter.  Kavanaugh proved to be much more of a running threat than Hubel, but not nearly the passer, before getting hurt himself, allowing Justin Engstrom, an Oregon State transfer, to start the end of the season.  Portland State has six quarterbacks total, and three who started a game last year, all fighting for the starting spot.  Hubel is not being handed the spot by the new regime simply due to experience.  In the pistol, where a QBs legs are as important as his arm, Kavanaugh may actually have the upper hand, being the teams leading returning rusher, and going for over five yards a carry last season.  Hubel is not terribly mobile, and is coming off the injury which also kept him out of spring ball.  One of these three is likely to win the job. 

The Vikings have a lot to replace on the offensive side of the ball.  They must replace two linemen, their running back, and three receivers (actually, they'll need to find two receivers and a tight end, the R&S went four wide, but the pistol will utilize three wide and a tight end).  And they don't have a lot of experience to draw from in looking for these spots.  Only one running back, sophomore Ben Bowen, had more than 16 rushing yards last season (he had 286 on 64 carries), and only one returning receiver had more than six receptions (that being Ray Fry, arguably the best player on the entire offense, who had 67 catches for 904 yards last season).  Its hard to say who all these  new starters will be, almost nobody has played.  That said, there is an argument to be made that switching offenses will be easier having a lot of players that haven't played under the old system. 

The biggest challenge for the offense this season will be eliminating negative plays.  They were sacked two and a half times a game last season, and turned the ball over 34 times on the year, ranking dead last in the FCS in turnover differential.  Needless to say, with almost all new players and a new system, Oregon's veteran defense should handle this team with few problems.  However, if you haven't watched Nevada play the last few years, this game will be a good introduction to the pistol offense, which we should see elements of again when Neuheisel comes to town.

2009 Defensive Statistics 

Statistic Portland State Oregon
Pass Defense 280.91 (116) 207.62 (44)
Rush Defense 132.27 (43) 128.69 (42)
Total Defense 413.18 (107) 336.31 (35)
Scoring Defense 33.82 (111) 23.77 (51)
Pass Efficiency Defense 147.98 (109) 112.30 (25)
Tackles for Loss 5.55 (74) 6.31 (40)
Opponent 3rd Down % 44.71 (105) 37.91 (51)
Turnover Margin -1.82 (118) +0.15 (51)

The defense wasn't helping the offense out in the least, ranking as one of the worst defenses in the FCS.  They return six starters, notably linebacker Ryan Rau, their best player.  They also return most of the secondary, not necessairly a good thing, this being the third worst passing defense in the FCS last season.  Their defense is a mess, and will be making the switch form 3-4 to 4-3 this season.

PSU's defense should be thoroughly destroyed by the Oregon offense, and it would stand to believe that most of the second half will consist of rushing plays with Duck backups.  But I'm interested to see how much Chip Kelly decides to toy with the PSU secondary in the first half, and how much he'll use it as a chance to experiment with the playbook.

2009 Special Teams Statistics 

Statistic Portland State Oregon
Kick Returns 23.87 (9) 24.91 (10)
Punt Returns 7.58 (59) 12.00 (27)
Kickoff Returns Against 23.00 (106) 20.85 (42)
Punt Returns Against 5.71 (30) 6.83 (36)

 

Their return numbers are all over the map, so its hard to get a gauge if they'll have any significance to the upcoming season.  They return both their kicker and their punter.  Their kicker, sophomore Zach Brown, is a preseason All-American.  He's got quite a leg.  He hit 18-25 on field goals last season, but five of those misses were from beyond fifty yards (he also hit two from that distance).  Their sophomore punter is a former Aussie rules football player who has a big leg but was extremely inconsistent last season.

Final Analysis

Its hard to get a good gauge on this team, as there is a ton of personnel and a wholesale system change from last season.  But, based on last season's stats, it would be hard to find a worse team for Oregon to play.  The Ducks should be up a minimum of three scores by halftime, and pretty much the entire roster should get some run at some point in the contest.  The only drama is seeing if there are any new wrinkles in the playbook, and seeing how the backups perform. 

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