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Almost game time
Eastern Oregon ready for season opener at Portland State
The Eastern Oregon University football team will look to keep its streak of two straight season-opening wins alive when it faces Division I Portland State University Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at JELD-WEN Field.
The Mountaineers are coming off a 4-6 season in 2012, while the Vikings finished 3-8 last year.
This isn’t the first time the two teams have met, however.
PSU leads the all-time series 9-5-1 over the Mountaineers. The last game was played in 1964 and was a 41-6 victory for PSU.
And while that game was almost 50 years ago, the Mountaineers have a good idea of what they will face this week.
“I expect (Portland State) to come at us,” EOU head coach Tim Camp said. “I expect them to pressure us, and they’re going to see if we can withstand their pressures on offense. If we can do that, I expect them to run the ball at us. We’re going to have to be sound in every phase.”
Portland State ran a balanced attack on offense last season while scoring 34 points per game. Of the 438.7 yards per game the Vikings averaged, 222.2 yards were through the air and 216.5 came on the ground.
Defensively, the Vikings were stingy against the run (126.2 yards per game) but allowed 275.3 yards per game through the air. PSU allowed 36 points per game to opponents.
“I expect a lot of hard hitting,” EOU senior offensive lineman Emory Jones said. “The first series, I think a lot of guys are going to have their eyes open to the speed of the game. But after that, I think guys will settle down and enjoy the big moment.”
PSU returns the majority of its playmakers.
Sophomore quarterback Kieran McDonagh started all 11 games for Portland State last season as a freshman. He completed 54 percent of his passes for 2,187 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Vikings’ leading rusher from last year is also back this season. Senior D.J. Adams rushed for 1,004 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.
“(Portland State) has some really explosive skill kids,” Camp said. “They are very, very sound on the offensive line.They have an exceptional quarterback. They have depth.”
All of that returning skill and talent will test the Mountaineers on the defensive side of the football.
“Stopping the run game (is going to be important),” EOU cornerback John Payne said.
“Making them pass is what we want to do. If we can stop the run game, we’ll be good. (We have to have) maximum toughness and give maximum effort.”
Fellow Frontier Conference member Carroll College played at Portland State to open the 2012 season. The Vikings won that game, 38-20.
Camp said he has watched tape of that game in preparation for this year’s season opener.
“That was a good game,” Camp said. “I think that at the end of the game there wasn’t a surprise about who was going to win, but I thought Carroll did a very good job. I thought they prepared well for it.”
For EOU, redshirt freshman Zach Bartlow will be getting his first collegiate start at quarterback.
Surrounding Barlow is an experienced bunch of receivers led by Jace Billingsly, Luis Ortiz, Kedrick Starr and Justin Hernandez.
The Mountaineers also boast a veteran offensive line that will protect Bartlow.
“You have to be confident,” Jones said. “If you’re not going to play confident, then you won’t win.”
Camp said that the Mountaineers were supposed to take this game last season, but he decided to pass on it at the time.
But make no mistake about it, Eastern Oregon is looking to win its third-straight season opener.
“You always want to win your opener,” Camp said. “We’re going down there with every intention of winning, but I don’t think it makes or breaks a season. I’ve always wanted to win the opener — we’ve been really good about winning opening games — but at the same time, if we have to come back here and make adjustments in what we have to do, we have to do that.”