When Portland State came to Pullman last season, the pass was featured early and often in the Viking attack. Quarterback Keiran McDonagh hucked the ball 51 times against a suspect WSU secondary to some moderate success—269 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
But that was atypical of PSU's offense—one that often runs more than it passes. In fact, McDonagh threw the ball just 250 more times in nine other appearances last season.
McDonagh returns for his senior year with 29 career starts, but WSU won't see him behind center when the game kicks off on Saturday. Junior college transfer, and NCJAA All-American, Alex Kuresa, has won the starting spot.
Kuresa is also expected to be a dual-threat QB, and if you believe in the power of beards, it might have been the deciding factor in this QB competition.
= Beard Season pic.twitter.com/TN7o4c37Dj
— Alex Haws Kuresa (@Its_Rufio7) August 6, 2015
When Portland State is running the ball—which happened on more than 50 percent of plays last season—the distribution is spread out among several backs. Steven Long and Nate Tago will lead the way and figure to get the most carries.
Only the strong survive
— Steven J. Long (@SL_11TD) August 20, 2015
Usually I like to poke some fun at the things college kids tweet in my previews because I love low-hanging fruit, and even the generic statement in Long's tweet would normally be fair game. But for Long it is apt—take some time to read this profile by the Oregonian's Ken Goe.
In short, Long was an orphan in Haiti as a child. He might or might not have contracted a parasite at that time. Early in his college career, he began suffering seizures and doctors opened up his skull to find a parasitic lesion in his brain.
And now he's back to being a college football player. Pretty awesome. But he might want to be careful about his choice of hairstyle around his backfield mate:
If I see one more man bun...✂️ snip snip
— Nate Tago (@NateTago) June 29, 2015
I have no opinion on man buns, other than I'm pretty sure there's no way I could pull one off.
If the Vikings come out throwing in Martin for the second-straight year, keep an eye on Thomas Carter, Darnell Adams and transfer Kevin Riley. Carter is the team's top returning receiver, logging 34 catches for 377 yards and three touchdowns a year ago.
Lucky for the Cougars, the duo of Alex Toureen and Kasey Kloss that burned them for 181 yards combined is gone.
Carter, Adams and Riley should have the opportunity to put up similar numbers. With the strength of WSU's defense still the front seven, and a largely unproven secondary in the back end, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Vikings come out pass-heavy again. Additionally, Portland State returns three of the offensive line starters that WSU faced a season ago, a group that allowed just 10 sacks total.
One wild card to keep an eye on: Paris Penn. He's a former quarterback who has now been labeled "utility quarterback" by coach Bruce Barnum. If you've never heard that term before, you're in good company, as it appears Barnum made it up in an effort to describe the multiple roles that Penn could fill on any given Saturday. He's a tremendous athlete, as evidenced by him blowing past WSU's corners early in last year's game before dropping what would have been a likely touchdown bomb. Look for PSU to try and get the ball to him in creative ways.
That said, the signs point to another day where PSU steps away from its normal style and hucks the ball around a little bit. Last year, it got them 21 points, but that was still only good enough for a 38-point loss.