TIGHT DEFENSE: Eastern Oregon’s Josh Bostrom tries to catch a pass as Portland State’s Xavier Coleman defends during the Vikings’ 57-17 win over the Mountaineers. (CASEY KELLAS/The Observer)
Mountaineers drop season opener to Portland State, committing penalties and turnovers throughout
PORTLAND — The Eastern Oregon University football team had two opponents in its season opener Thursday night — Portland State and itself.
The Mountaineers turned the ball over five times and committed 10 penalties for 86 yards in a 57-17 loss to the Vikings at JELD-WEN Field.
“It’s a tough loss because our scheme for this game was great,” running back Chris McGinnis-Parker said. “We had a great game plan. We had breaks, they had breaks. But they scored on their breaks and we didn’t.”
The Mountaineers got the ball to start the game and redshirt freshman quarterback Zach Bartlow marched the team right up field. But nine plays into the drive Bartlow threw an interception to Cory Crowder at the Vikings’ 21-yard line.
But EOU caught a break right off the bat as Portland State fumbled on its first play from scrimmage and Eastern’s Ronnie Flowers came up with the ball.
The Mountaineers started to move the ball again on offense until Bartlow tossed his second interception of the game, this one taken back 64 yards for a touchdown by Aaron Sibley to put PSU on the board.
“You gotta capitalize when you can, and we had them breathing a couple times,” EOU head coach Tim Camp said. “You gotta come away with points. You gotta score in the red zone, that’s all there is about it.”
After an EOU punt, the Vikings put together an 18-play, 87-yard drive that ended on a 14-yard touchdown run by D.J. Adams to make it 14-0 in favor of PSU at the end of the first quarter.
“It wasn’t demoralizing,” Parker said of the early turnovers. “Because we had (good) drives after that. But the points off the turnovers hurt us a little bit.”
In the second period, PSU quarterback Kieran McDonagh threw touchdown passes of 17 yards and 80 yards to Kasey Closs and Roston Tatum, respectively.
A 13-yard touchdown run by Adams with 2:51 left in the first half made it a 36-0 Viking lead.
“I think we got wore down a little bit,” Camp said. “I think I put the defense in some positions they probably shouldn’t have been in because I was pushing a little bit.”
Marc David got the Mountaineers on the board with a 32-yard field goal in the third quarter to make it 36-3.
Then with 13:12 left in the third period, quarterback T.J. Esekielu, who replaced Bartlow, marched the Mountaineers 64 yards in 12 plays and finished by running the ball in from 1-yard out to score EOU’s first touchdown of the game.
Esekielu added an 11-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for another Mountie score.
“They’re two different guys,” Camp said of Bartlow and Esekielu. “But they’re both good quarterbacks. Zach played well. He made some plays. T.J. played well. He made some plays. But there’s always going to be plays that we want to have back.”
In the end, the Portland State lead was too much for EOU to overcome.
“For us, it’s a preseason game,” Parker said. “We got things to work on.”
Bartlow finished 16-for-27 passing for 165 yards with two interceptions. He ran for 72 yards on 11 carries. Esekielu was 9-for-12 passing for 119 yards with one interception. He ran for 50 yards and two scores.
Justin Hernandez was the team’s leading receiver with six grabs for 76 yards. McGinnis Parker caught five passes for 33 yards, and Jace Billingsly had four catches for 54 yards.
Adams and Shaquille Richard both had 107 yards rushing to lead the Vikings. McDonagh completed 7-of-11 passes for 170 yards and two scores before being replaced.
The Vikings had 672 yards of offense to EOU’s 438.
But even with the lopsided loss, Camp said there is a lot to take away from this game.
“I gotta watch the film,” Camp said. “But I know there is going to be some things that we’ve done that we’re going to say, ‘hey man, I love that, but we should have gone over the top a few times and didn’t take it.’ And that’s youth a little bit. But at the same time, that’s something we can build on. We can take this back and build on this.”
The Mountaineers will host No. 7 Montana Tech Sept. 7 at 1 p.m. at Community Stadium.