If you are going to judge a football game solely by its final score, then you didn’t need to watch Portland State’s 70-7 victory Saturday afternoon against the visiting Simon Fraser Clan.
Yet if you did watch, at least for the first half anyways, you had to admit that SFU was playing a game which was every bit in line with their growing process under second-year head coach Thomas Ford.
With just over one minute remaining in the first half, the NCAA Div. 1 FCS Vikings were leading the Div. 2 Clan 14-7, and they had to rally just to get there after Simon Fraser’s dynamic pass-and-catch duo of quarterback Justin Seiber and receiver Rysen John had hooked up on a 60-yard touchdown pass for an early 7-0 lead.
Remember that just last week, the same Portland State team hit the road in SEC country, and in Fayetteville, lost a tough 20-13 decision to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
On Saturday, trailing 14-7 with 2:07 left in the first half, the Clan started a drive at their own 20-yard line.
On its first two snaps, Seiber suffered back-to-back sacks at the hands of Portland State’s Kenton Bartlett, and after the second, he had to be helped off the field and never returned.
After the game, Seiber was awaiting the results of an ankle x-ray and without their starting quarterback, Simon Fraser was never the same.
“I think the number one thing is that the score was not really representative of the actual game,” Clan head coach Thomas Ford said post game from Portland. “In the first half we felt like we had a lot of momentum, we were able to run the ball a bit, and we were able to throw it down the field. Overall I think we got a lot of confidence from this game.”
This is not to even suggest that if Seiber had remained upright that the Clan were coming home with a victory. It’s pretty clear the level of talent and depth the Vikings have as a Big Sky Conference team.
Yet for the purposes of measuring just how far the SFU program has come and the level of pluck it brought to Oregon, you do need to acknowledge that they were within striking distance at the half of a team which the week before turned in perhaps the most heralded underdog effort in all of NCAA Div. 1 football’s Week 1 games.
“We had a blown coverage to make it 21-7 and assignment mistakes are a little bit different from just getting beat,” Ford said of the 50-yard scoring strike from Viks’ pivot Davis Alexander to Mataio Talalemotu that made it 21-7 at halftime. “It’s not like we were outmatched. We just had a miscommunication there. I think we played them tough in the first half and did a great job of minimizing their big plays in that half.”
Yet the margin for error was as small for SFU as the favourite’s status was large for Portland State, and the visitor’s adrenaline-fuelled start simply ran out of juice when Seiber got hurt.
“When Justin went out, we couldn’t get a lot going in the second half, and that extended our defence,” added Ford. “They were just out there on the field too long. And when that happens, you get too tired.”
The proof was in Portland State’s second-half video game-like numbers.
At halftime, SFU had 127 yards of total offence, but on the game they finished with 113. Portland State had 317 at half and finished with 646, scoring a mind-numbing seven touchdowns over the second half of play, including five in the third quarter.
The question now for the Clan coaching staff, is whether or not they will have Seiber active this coming week when the Clan plays Saturday in Texas at Angelo State?
“Well, the big thing is understanding whether he is available or not,” said Ford who played back-up Mihai Lapuste over the second half on Saturday. “(Seiber) hurt his ankle and he went to get X-rays and we are waiting for results. We’re hoping it’s not a break and if it is, we’ll deal with it then. If it isn’t, hopefully he’ll be able to recover between now and Monday in terms of being able to move on it. We will play it by ear but we want to make sure he is healthy. We don’t want to put him at risk, but at the same time, we sure need him as well.”
And that wasn’t the only injury the Clan suffered.
Mason Glover, who went into the game topping the depth chart at running back, suffered a sprained AC shoulder joint early in the proceedings and was also forced to seek medical attention.
“We’re just making sure it isn’t a full separation,” said Ford. “Any time you lose your starting tailback and your starting quarterback, it’s going to hurt.”
The statistical line wasn’t filled with Clan highlights. SFU rushed for minus-65 yards on the game. Yet receiver John led all receivers in the game with 141 yards on five catches and a 28.2 yards-per-catch average.
Saturday’s result was full of sting on many levels for the Clan, yet facing Div. 1 competition, for a lower-tiered program, is never a losing proposition if the intangible benefits can be kept in focus.
“We want to play D-1 teams every opportunity we can,” said Ford. “It’s a huge motivating factor for our kids. Today, at the end of the day, regardless of the score, we gained a lot of confidence knowing that in the first half, we came out swinging.”
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