Writing a breakdown of the Portland State game is significantly more challenging than writing one about LSU simply because there is so much more information available about a nationally renowned program. Not nearly as many articles are written about Portland State players or the schemes and strategies used by the coaching staff. It’s tougher to know much about them. But that is also why a breakdown is actually useful for you as readers, because while you may have known a dozen LSU players by name before last Saturday’s game, you probably don’t know the names of any Portland State players.
So I’ll go over some key players on the Portland State team, outline some keys to victory, and even throw out a few numbers I think will show up by the end of the game. Oh, and of course, my prediction of the final score.
Vikings to Watch:
Kieran McDonagh, Freshman Quarterback
Kieran is a true freshman from Vancouver, WA. He was rated a 2-star prospect by Rivals, but was not ranked by the other major recruiting services. Obviously rankings can, and often are, wrong, and it’s totally possibly that McDonagh is incredibly talented and has a great career. But he’s young and unheralded, playing with a lot of other two-star athletes around him, and he’ll be going up against a legitimate Pac-12 defense. If he holds his own, this could be a game. If he is overwhelmed and starts throwing picks, it could get very ugly for Portland State.
DJ Adams, Junior Tailback
What do you do as a coach when you have an inexperienced quarterback playing under the bright lights for basically the first time of his career? Go to your ground game to try to take a little bit of the weight off his shoulders. In this case, that means handing the ball off to DJ Adams, a transfer from Maryland who entered college as a four-star prospect and had early success as a short yardage back, even scoring 11 touchdowns in 2010. Whether or not he can make it as an every-down back is unknown, but he is certainly talented and physically gifted enough to challenge the Husky defense.
Elements to Victory
Pressuring the Passer
After watching on the sidelines as Keith Price was chased all over the field at Tiger Stadium, the Husky defense must put that same sort of pressure on Kieran McDonagh. Obviously Washington’s pass rushers have an advantage in athleticism over the Portland State offensive line, and they must make use of it if they want an easy victory. I know I’ve been talking about him up all season, but watch for Josh Shirley to wreak havoc.
Yes, just Kasen Williams. No player on the Portland State roster matches up from a physical standpoint to Kasen. He is too big and strong for most corners, and can burn anyone that attempts to muscle up in press coverage. If he plays to his full potential and breaks one or two long plays, this game could be over before we know it. If he settles and doesn’t take advantage of his superior athleticism, it will make Keith Price’s job that much more difficult.
Numbers I Expect to Encounter
5.0: The number of yards per carry I think the Husky running backs will average. Considering they have averaged 2.4 through the first two weeks of the season, that would be a pretty huge change. Look for Bishop Sankey to actually have a solid game, and don’t be caught off guard if a surprising number of carries go to Erich Wilson II and Dezden Petty. Coach Sark hasn’t settled on Sankey as his primary ball-carrier yet, and this is the time for another back to step up and earn Sark’s confidence.
2: The number of interceptions I predict Portland State will throw in the first half of this game. I have predicted multiple interceptions for the Husky defense the last two weeks, and each time I’ve been mistaken. I really think McDonagh will be over-matched in this game, but I will have no one to blame but myself if I’m proven wrong again. Sean Parker is my best guess for who will have a big game as a defensive back.
Less than 10: The number of tackles I expect Danny Shelton to make tomorrow. It was great that Shelton worked so hard that he managed double digit tackles against LSU, but that isn’t his job as a nose tackle. If the other ten players on the field do a better job against Portland State, Shelton won’t have to be chasing down plays.
There’s no reason to expect this will be a close game. I don’t care how badly the Huskies played against LSU, or even how many injuries they have sustained. They still have much, much more talent than Portland State, and I think they will be highly motivated to put on a show after struggling so mightily in Baton Rouge. Look for Austin Seferian-Jenkins to make catch after catch, as no one on the Portland State roster can match up with him, and Coach Sarkisian knows it. Also look for the Husky defense to shut down the Vikings in the first half, though Portland State may make up some ground later in the game after starters are pulled.
Washington 41, Portland State 21