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Portland State vs Oregon Football History

Scar Tissue That I Wish You Saw: Vikings Edition

Portland State v Oregon

Given that this will be Oregon’s last football season competing against traditional Pac-12 rivals, I have decided it would be a good opportunity to look back at the Ducks history against their current conference members. All three of Oregon’s non-conference opponents this season have a history with the Ducks, however brief, so I will be reviewing that as well. We begin this series with a look at the great heathen army near Hawthorne Boulevard, the Portland State Vikings.

Portland State University began as Vanport Extension Center in 1946 in order to meet the demand for college level coursework for veterans returning from WWII with GI Bill benefits. The school was nearly counted among the victims of the 1948 Vanport flood tragedy. Relocated to buildings once used by the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation, Vanport College was renamed Portland State College before relocating to its current downtown location when it occupied the original location of Lincoln High School. Since then, the school has expanded to become Portland State University and has, arguably, the most diverse set of course offerings in the state.

President Harry Truman Inspecting Columbia River Flood Damage Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Football for PSU began in 1947 as the Vikings competed at the small college, in-state level before moving to NCAA interstate competition in the 1960s. In the 1970s coach Mouse Davis brought the “Run and Shoot” passing scheme to the school with great success. One of his best quarterbacks of this period, June Jones, would later use many of these same principles during his tenure as head coach of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. The athletic department began competing in Division I (1-AA or FCS level in football) in 1996 as members of the Big Sky Conference.

The Vikings first victory over an FBS opponent came in 2006 against the New Mexico Lobos. The only victory against a current Pac-12 school came in 2015 against a Mike Leach coached Washington State Cougars team. A trip to Corvallis in 2017 resulted in a nail bitingly close 32-35 loss to the Beavers.

Portland State v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Despite the proximity of the two schools, Portland State’s post world war founding and much more limited athletics budgets have meant the Vikings and Ducks have only played each other in football five times. The first football game between Oregon and Portland State was when the Vikings still competed in Division II as the Ducks began their 1994 Rose Bowl run. Interestingly, the Ducks had both Hawaii and Utah on the schedule as out of conference games that year. Superstitious fans may think this would bode well for the 2023 season, but the 1994 Pac-10 football champions lost to both WAC schools before turning their season around against Iowa and USC.

Ultimately, there hasn’t been much drama between these two in-state programs given that they operate in entirely different circumstances with regards to resources available to them. Margins of victory have ranged from 42 to 69 points, including shutout wins for the Ducks in 2002 and 2010. The Vikings are currently scheduled to visit Autzen this weekend and then return in 2026 and 2029. The BIG has banned future FCS games outside of seasons when member schools host only four home conference games. Previously scheduled games are protected, though. As such, the series will most likely go on hiatus at the end of the decade. Hopefully for Duck fans the last few meetings won’t get any more dramatic than than the last five.