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Scouting the Vikings

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

Our preview of 2021 University of Hawaii football opponents continues! Last week, we profiled the UCLA Bruins, who will host the Rainbow Warriors in the Aug. 28 season opener. This time around, we take a look at Hawaii’s home-opening opponent, the Portland State Vikings. Although PSU is an FCS school, Hawaii would do well to not look past the Vikings, who already own a convincing victory over UH (way back in 2000).

Game Date: Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021 @ Hawaii (6:00 p.m. HST)

2020 Record: 0-0 (Did not play due to COVID-19 pandemic)

Head Coach: Bruce Barnum (7th season, 21-37 overall)

♦ Although the Vikings did not play in 2020, they did play a game on April 17, 2021, wrapping up their spring season with a 48-7 loss to Montana. It was PSU’s first football game in 17 months. Said Vikings head coach Bruce Barnum: “I wanted to play a playoff team or an FBS team this spring. I wanted tough competition. This had to be preparation for the fall.”

♦ Hawaii leads the all-time series with Portland State, 4-1. However, in their most recent meeting – Sept. 9, 2000 – the Vikings shocked the Rainbow Warriors at Aloha Stadium, 45-20. It was Hawaii’s first loss to a non-FBS school since 1976. The season-opening upset spoiled the UH debut of QB Nick Rolovich, who threw for 367 yards and 2 TDs but also had 2 interceptions.

♦ Speaking of Rolovich, after playing Hawaii the Vikings will travel to Pullman, Washington to play Washington State on Sept. 11.

♦ Barnum joined the PSU program in 2010 as the team’s offensive coordinator. He became the school’s head coach in 2015 and promptly led the Vikings to a 9-3 record and its first FCS Playoff appearance in 15 years. He was named “FCS Coach of the Year” that season. Since then, however, the Vikings have endured four straight losing seasons, including an 0-11 campaign in 2017.

♦ Offensively, the Vikings run the West Coast offense with “Pistol options.” Their defensive scheme is a 4-3/3-4 Flex. In 2019 (their last full season), Portland State averaged 34.7 points per game while surrendering 30 points per game. They averaged 258 passing yards and 195.8 rushing yards per game. Their defense gave up 269.3 passing yards and 139.2 rushing yards a game.

♦ Viking players to watch include senior QB Davis Alexander, who averaged 281 yards of total offense per game in 2019. He also threw for 25 TDs that season. He is being favorably compared to former PSU QB Neil Lomax, who set 90 NCAA records as a Viking before becoming a 2x Pro Bowl player for the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals. On defense, look out for safety Anthony Adams, who was a 2019 First-Team All-Big Sky selection and is regarded as one of the top defensive backs at the FCS level.

♦ Portland State has some notable Hawaii connections. June Jones played for the Vikings in 1975 and 1976 after transferring from Hawaii. It was at PSU that Jones was introduced to the run-and-shoot offense under head coach Darrel “Mouse” Davis. Also, former UH defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville served as PSU head coach for three seasons (2007-09).

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