Currently riding a 14-game losing streak that dates back to the 2016 season, it’s difficult to find things to like about the Portland State Vikings.
Luckily, you don’t have to look very hard because the biggest and most intimidating Viking also happens to be its best player; junior tight end Charlie Taumoepeau.
Taumoepeau has drawn comparisons to Portland State tight end Julius Thomas, a former pro-bowler with the Denver Broncos before retiring a few months ago to pursue a doctorate in psychology. With his 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame, Taumoepeau shows remarkable quickness and straight-line speed for his size, often using his strength and speed to get open and create big plays.
He burst onto the scene last year, finishing with 45 catches for 673 yards and three scores for Portland State, earning second-team all-Big Sky honors. The momentum from last year carried over into this season when he was named a preseason FCS all-American. He started 2018 off with a bang, catching three balls for 130 yards and two touchdowns with a long of 75 yards, showing off his big-play ability.
Apart from Taumoepeau, Portland State has a very capable quarterback in sophomore Davis Alexander. Alexander started the final three games last year, throwing for 300+ yards in each game while showing his arm strength and intelligence. In his first game this year, Alexander finished 13-of-32 for 224 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Besides his arm strength, Alexander is a proven runner. Not only did he run for 30 yards in the first game of the year, he finished last season with 195 yards rushing and two scores.
"Their head coach is now calling the plays again," Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. "When he was calling the plays, they were a really good football team, and they showed it in the way that they were moving the ball this past Saturday.”
That’s where the good news ends for Portland State.
The Vikings are incredibly young. Each player who caught a pass (besides Taumoepeau) in the game against Nevada is no older than a sophomore, with Easton Trakel leading the youngsters with two catches for 29 yards in his career.
This is an offense that hopes to start out fast and play solely off momentum but in the end, they don’t have the speed or athleticism to give Oregon any true issues. Taumoepeau is a matchup nightmare but Oregon should be able to throw enough bodies at him to hopefully slow him down. Even if the Ducks can’t, one player won’t beat them.
> "Their head coach is now calling the plays again," Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said.
Defensively, Portland State doesn’t have much to offer and is just as young.
The Vikings gave up 72 points to a Nevada offense that averaged 28.2 points per game last year, good enough for 66th in the nation.
They’re led by middle linebacker Kasun Jackett, a returning senior who led the team with 91 tackles last year. Jackett, although slightly undersized at 6-foot-2, 225-pounds, shows good athleticism and instincts. He is also the former high school teammate of Oregon starting linebacker Troy Dye.
Apart from Jackett, Portland State has instilled a new defense for the 2018 season. Led by new defensive coordinator Payam Saadat, the Vikings have implemented a flex stack defense that’s designed as a “big risk, big reward” type of play.
“We’re about to see that flex stack defense," Cristobal said. "That’s a scheme we’ve never seen and have not practiced against.”
Jackett led the Vikings with nine tackles against Nevada while defensive tackle Semise Kofe finished with two tackles for loss. Maxwell Howell, a transfer from Ohio who is Portland State’s best cover corner, added an interception in the game against Nevada.
Together, this is a unit that has a long way to go in order to adjust and play at the speed that Saadat wants in his system. Oregon has too many athletes and too much size on the offensive line to fear the Vikings be a true threat.
It should be open season for the Ducks on both offense and defense as they attempt to get to 2-0.