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5 Questions: Portland State Football

For this week's edition of five questions, Ian Ruder of OregonLive's PSU Vikings Blog has been kind enough to exchange five questions with me about this week's game aganst the Vikings.  I'm posting his answers here, and he'll have my answers to his questions up on his blog this evening or tomorrow.  Thanks to Ian for joining us, and here it goes!

ADQ:  Unfortunately, most Oregon fans don't really know a whole lot about PSU. What can we expect from PSU offensively, what kind of offense are they?

PSU Blog:  Once PSU gets rolling offensively they can be quite good, the problem is sometimes it takes them a while to start moving. Last week in the second half against Eastern Washington, PSU put up its best, most fully realized, offensive attack of the year. Coach Walsh has always been a run first guy, thanks in large part to the string of excellent running backs PSU has had. But this year the running game has struggled. New Mexico State transfer Mu'Ammar Ali was supposed to be the answer but an injury kept him out until recently. He was forgettable in his first starts but turned it on in the second half last week and finished with 160 yards. QB Sawyer Smith is also hitting full stride after getting injured at Cal. He's been killing teams deep recently but has always struggled with the mid-range touch passes. He has a great arm but sometimes makes bad decisions with the ball.

ADQ:  And the defense? What should we know about them? I hear they have been very good this year.

PSU blog:  Everything starts with PSU's defense and turnovers. The Viks head into Saturday's game allowing a touchdown less per game (14.2 pts/gm) than the Big Sky's second best defense and have forced a league high 27 turnovers. PSU has the best turnover margin (1.5) in all of Division I-AA.  PSU also leads the Big Sky in red zone defense, sacks and opponent's 4th down conversion rate. PSU has above average talent all over the field and has been able to get pressure with and without blitzing thanks to hard hitting linebackers and a much improved secondary.

ADQ: Obviously, it is expected that Portland State will lose games such as this (although they had a big win over New Mexico this year). As a Portland State fan, what do you expect out of games such as this? Do you think that they help or hurt the team?

PSU Blog:  PSU fans know that a strong showing in Eugene could go a long ways towards convincing the I-AA playoff selection committee to overlook PSU's two conference losses and give them an at large bid. PSU is currently ranked 21st in I-AA in one poll and 19th in another and is coming off two dominating performances. A bad loss could doom any chance at the playoffs, a good loss and there's still reason for fans to cross their fingers. In general, the consensus among Viking fans about playing I-A teams seems to be that playing one is a must, two is ok but three was a mistake.

ADQ:  Every 1-AA team has a few players who fall thorough the 1-A cracks. What players have the potential to cause Oregon some real problems in this game?

PSU Blog:  Adam Hayward, LB: Hayward is 4th in the BSC in tackles and second in sacks, two reasons: he is a candidate for the I-AA defensive player of the year award.  He flies around the field and has made many of the year's biggest hits. Brendan Ferrigno and Tremayne Kirkland, WRs: Two undersized receivers with big play potential. Kirkland transferred from UNLV and has blazing speed. Ferrigno came from North Salem High and has set every Viking punt return record in addition to being the Viks' version of Mike Hass - a heady, reliable playmaker.

ADQ:  The Vikings only draw about 6,000 fans to PGE Park. Why do you think that Portland State has failed to win over Portland football fans?

PSU Blog:  I dubbed this the ultimate PSU question on my blog. Everyone has an opinion, personally I think PSU's attendance woes stem from a potent cocktail of factors: 1) Lack of a traditional student body 2) Poor marketing/lack of identity 3) Apathetic Portland sports scene

Okay, one more question, if I may:

ADQ:  What do you think are the keys to a good showing (or, gasp, even an upset!) by the Vikings this week? And what do the Ducks need to do to put the game away early?

PSU Blog:  To be successful, PSU needs to find an offensive rhythm early on by protecting Sawyer and creating holes to run in. PSU's defense can't shut Oregon down but if it can slow down the march to the endzone and make the Ducks kick a few field goals, I think the offense will have a better chance to find a healthy balance. If I'm the Ducks, I go with Dixon and the full spread offense right out of the gates. I think PSU is better suited to contain Leaf's pocket approach. On defense, I'd clog the middle and make Sawyer throw into an ever-changing set of two-deep coverages.

Thanks to Ian for joining us, hopefully we can do it again in a few weeks for basketball season.