BOZEMAN — With a 24-0 shutout victory over Idaho on Saturday, Portland State won for the third time in four games and eclipsed .500 for the first time this season.
The Vikings are now 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky Conference standings. PSU’s four victories already match its win total from the 2018 season.
It had been 13 years and 100 games since the Vikings had shut out a Big Sky opponent. The last time it happened was in a 34-0 win over Eastern Washington on Oct. 21, 2006.
Quarterback Davis Alexander accounted for three touchdowns in the win over the Vandals, but Portland State’s defense carried the day, limiting Idaho to 236 total yards and an average of 3.8 yards per play. Safety Anthony Adams intercepted two passes and deflected another ball that teammate Sam Inos picked off.
PSU had four total takeaways.
“What a magical job by the defense,” fifth-year coach Bruce Barnum said in a Portland State release. “To hold anybody to a goose egg — even in pee wee football — that's big. It's tough because there is so much involved; field position, turnovers, how many possessions.
“But our defense did it and that is damn impressive.”
The Vikings now boast the No. 1 defense in the Big Sky Conference (324.4 ypg). They are the only team in the Big Sky holding opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards per game (97.1), and are currently ranked No. 15 nationally in rush defense.
Meanwhile, Alexander continues to play well. He has accounted for more than 1,300 yards of offense and 13 touchdowns in the past four weeks. For the season, Alexander has thrown 14 TDs and just three interceptions, and is also the team’s leading rusher.
In 2015, Barnum’s first season as head coach, Portland State went 9-3 overall, rose to as high as No. 5 in the national rankings and made the FCS playoffs. Two years after that the Vikings plummeted to 0-11. Now they are again finding success in what has been an every-two-year trend.
PSU will try to win its third consecutive game this week on the road at Northern Colorado (1-6, 1-2 Big Sky).
Last season marked the first time in 10 years that intra-state rivals Idaho and Idaho State met on the football field. The Bengals prevailed 62-28 in the first game between the teams at ISU’s Holt Arena in 21 years.
This year marks the first time the teams will meet in consecutive seasons since before Idaho left the Big Sky Conference in 1996 for its two-decade stint in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Mountain time from the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho, and will be broadcast on ROOT Sports as the network’s Big Sky game of the week.
ISU bounced back last week with a 55-20 home victory over North Dakota, as quarterback Matt Struck threw for 396 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Vandals’ shutout at the hands of Portland State last week served as their first blanking on the scoreboard since the 2013 season.
Idaho owns a 27-12 edge in the all-time series with Idaho State, including a 14-5 mark at home. The Vandals had won 11 of the previous 12 meetings before last year’s loss in Pocatello.
Much was made about Kevin Thomson’s potential impact for Sacramento State in the lead-up to its matchup at Montana State last week, and the quarterback from Auburn, Washington, lived up to his billing.
Thomson threw for 260 yards, rushed for 74 more and accounted for five touchdowns as the Hornets knocked off the Bobcats 34-21. Thomson led an offense that converted nine of 13 third-down plays.
On Monday, Thomson was named Big Sky offensive player of the week.
The Hornets had never before beaten a team ranked as high as the Bobcats (No. 6). It was Sac State’s first win in Bozeman since a 19-17 triumph in 1991.
Thomson has 24 total touchdowns through six games (19 passing, 5 rushing) and has thrown just four interceptions.
One matchup to watch this week will be that of Weber State’s stout defense against the right arm of Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus.
Cookus was the first QB in the Big Sky to eclipse 2,000 passing yards this year, and NAU ranks No. 1 in the nation in passing offense with an average of 377.3 yards per game.
Weber State, coming off a 29-14 win over Southern Utah, has the No. 2-ranked passing defense in the league, and has allowed just five touchdowns through the air so far. Cookus has thrown 18 touchdowns through six games.
Montana State’s loss to Sacramento State sent the Bobcats (5-2, 2-1 Big Sky) falling down in the latest STATS FCS Top 25 poll, which was released on Monday. MSU dropped six spots to No. 12.
Sacramento State (4-2, 2-0) finally cracked the poll at No. 15.
Montana (5-1, 2-0) had a bye last week but slid into the top five at No. 5. Weber State (4-2, 2-0) held steady at No. 4.
UC Davis jumped all over Cal Poly in the first quarter last week and went on to win 48-24, snapping a three-game losing skid. The Aggies (3-4, 1-2) moved up on spot to No. 23.
On the national scene, No. 2 James Madison (6-1) handed Villanova (6-1) its first loss by a 38-24 score in what was an anticipated Colonial Athletic Association showdown. The Wildcats fell two spots to No. 7.
Around the league
UC Davis LB Nick Eaton was named Big Sky defensive player of the week on Monday. Eaton, a freshman, had seven tackles (four for loss), a sack, and returned a fumble he forced 78 yards for a touchdown against Cal Poly. … Idaho State PK Kevin Ryan earned the special teams player of the week nod. Ryan made two field goals, including a career-long 44-yarder, and went 7 for 7 on point-after attempts in the Bengals win over North Dakota. Ryan also pinned UND inside its 20 twice with punts.