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Youngsters catch on for Viks

PSU tries to reduce 'silly' penalties going into big test at Cal


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Portland State defenders Brandon Brody-Heim (left) and Cutter Baldock bring down an Eastern Oregon ball carrier in the Vikings season opener at Jeld-Wen Field.Portland State has an emerging playmaker in receiver Roston Tatum.

In last week’s 57-17 season-opening win over Eastern Oregon, Tatum caught three passes for 159 yards and a touchdown.

Tatum saw time in the previous two seasons, but was not much of a factor. As a freshman, he caught four passes for 98 yards. As a sophomore, he had three catches for 57 yards.

The 6-2, 210-pound junior from Fort Worth, Texas, says he and Vikings quarterback Kieran McDonagh click on and off the field.

“The connection between me and Kieran is one of the best I’ve ever had with a quarterback,” Tatum says. “I spend a lot of time with Kieran. I’m at his house almost every weekend, talking to his parents. I feel like I’m a part of their family.

“It helps a lot (on the field), because you want to have that close relationship to build that trust and that confidence and that consistency between players. Especially when he’s playing quarterback and I’m playing receiver.”

• Against Eastern Oregon, junior Shaquille Richard was listed as the first running back on the depth chart ahead of senior DJ Adams.

The 5-8, 175-pound Richard and the 5-10, 210-pound Adams were an effective thunder-and-lightning combination. Both gained 107 yards, Richard on 11 carries and Adams on 17 carries. Adams scored three touchdowns.

A big part of their success came because the Vikings’ offensive line dominated the physically inferior line of NAIA Eastern Oregon.

“Our offensive line — as always — was getting guys out of the way,” Adams says.

Says McDonagh: “They did a great job up front. The run game looked awesome. Guys were getting into the second level, which is really important.”

The question for Portland State is whether it can win the battle of the trenches against a more evenly matched opponent. Let alone against the challenge facing the Vikings this week, as they head to Berkeley for a 2 p.m. Saturday game against the Pac-12 California Bears.

• Historically, the Vikings have had issues with penalties. Last season, Portland State amassed 95 penalties for 828 yards, an average of 8.63 penalties for 75.2 yards per game. PSU outdid itself against Eastern Oregon, though, racking up 16 penalties for 139 yards.

“Certain things are aggressive penalties,” Portland State coach Nigel Burton says, “but there were a lot of silly mistakes that will get corrected one way or another.”

• Portland State’s defense allowed Eastern Oregon to gain 438 yards, but was able to shut down the Mountaineers for the most part when they got inside the 20-yard line.

“We did a lot of silly stuff that got us in trouble, but we were able to clamp down in the red zone,” Burton says. “What matters is the score. You don’t lose games because of yards.

“We tightened up when we needed to.”

• Another positive thing Burton saw from his defense was big-play potential. Cornerback Aaron Sibley had a 64-yard interception return for a touchdown, and the Vikings created five turnovers.

“That’s what we’ve been seeing in practice,” Burton says. “Hopefully we’ll continue seeing it in games.”

• The Vikings are approaching Cal as they would any other opponent. “Just because they’re a Pac-12 team doesn’t mean anything,” Adams says.