Portland State at Oregon

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 7:46 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET
SITE: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
SERIES: Oregon leads 4-0
RANKINGS: Oregon No. 23

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Vikings

–TE Charlie Taumoepeau is a preseason FCS All-American who has drawn comparisons to former Vikings tight end and pro-bowler Justin Thomas. Taumoepeau (6-3, 240) shows a body ready for the NFL as well as hands and athleticism that makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, including the Ducks, who might have to deploy backup safety Jevon Holland, who has a bit more size, to help defend Taumoepeau. Taumoepeau was great in the 2018 opener, scoring on catches of 48 and 75 yards, breaking tackles en route to the end zone.

–QB Davis Alexander started the final three games of last season and earned the nod again with a good fall camp. In the opener, though, he was just 13 of 32 for 224 yards, with two TDs and an interception. He has a big arm but has completed only 53.4 percent of his passes in his four starts.

–LB Kasun Jackett, a senior who led the team last season with 91 tackles, did not start the 2018 season-opener. But he played a lot and was productive off the bench, recording a team-best nine stops.

Ducks

–QB Justin Herbert, after accounting for six total touchdowns in the opener, should pad his stats even more against a Portland State defense that’s among the worst in the nation. Part of what makes Herbert so special is his ability to dissect defenses and throw receivers open. He’s also more athletic than he looks, rushing for 41 yards last week.

–LB Troy Dye was everywhere in the Week 1 win over Bowling Green, finishing with eight tackles and making a toe-tapping interception. His body control on that interception showed exactly why he’s highly regarded in NFL draft circles as a potential player. An uber-athletic linebacker who’s put on good weight in the offseason, Dye should terrorize the Vikings all game long.

–RB CJ Verdell isn’t listed as the starter at running back, but he led the team in carries and yards last week, finishing with 13 rushes for 51 yards. Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal has stated that he will go with a “committee” of running backs in any given game, but it was Verdell who stood out most against Bowling Green. He showed good patience and awareness when running and has the strength to break arm tackles yet the speed to outrun linebackers.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Not much went wrong for No. 23 Oregon last week after it dismantled visiting Bowling Green 58-24 to begin the 2018 college football season.

Quarterback Justin Herbert threw five touchdowns and added another rushing while the defense held the Falcons to just seven points in the second half.

If there was a flaw, it was the Ducks’ extremely slow start.

Oregon (1-0) entered the game as a 32-point favorite but found itself trailing 10-0 late in the first quarter. Herbert then connected with wide receiver Jaylon Redd on a 33-yard scoring strike, thus unleashing 37 straight points by the Ducks.

Against Portland State, getting off to a fast start will be at the top of Oregon’s priority list.

“The messaging is the truth of the matter,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. “The truth of the matter is that we had some very good play on Saturday, but that we also had some not so great play on Saturday that we can improve upon.”

One thing to watch for will be to see how the Ducks play and how serious they take their opponent; the Vikings enter the game with 14 straight losses dating back to 2016.

Even though Portland State (0-1) lost 72-19 against Nevada last week, the Vikings found themselves leading 9-0 late in the first quarter.

“We’re about to see that flex stack defense — that’s a scheme we’ve never seen and have not practiced against,” Cristobal said. “Even though they (Portland State) gave up a lot of big plays on Saturday, (that defense) also made a lot of big plays… they jumped out to a good start just by creating chaos and confusion at the line of scrimmage.”

“Payam Saadat is very knowledgeable — he is very much a player’s coach,” Portland State head coach Bruce Barnum said of his new defensive coordinator. “He is a teacher that cares about kids and is very knowledgeable about the type of defense we are going to run now.”

The Ducks’ offense continued to play at a high level, finishing their game against Bowling Green with 504 total yards, 212 coming on the ground. Sophomore CJ Verdell led the Ducks’ rushing entourage, finishing with 51 yards on 13 carries while Hebert added 41 yards.

Four different Oregon receivers caught touchdown passes from Herbert, but it was Redd who did the most damage. Both of his catches went for scores while Taj Griffin, Johnny Johnson III and Dillon Mitchell added scoring receptions of their own.

“I’m playing with no fear with those guys,” Herbert said. “They’ve worked really hard and I don’t think they get the credit they deserve.”

The offensive output bodes well for Oregon going up against a Portland State defense that gave up 636 total yards against Nevada, including 420 through the air.

Defensively, the Oregon front seven lived up to its billing. The Ducks gave up an average of 2.7 yards per carry and helped force three turnovers against Bowling Green.

Defensive end Jalen Jelks picked up from where he left off last season, finishing with nine tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery. Middle linebacker Troy Dye finished with eight tackles and an interception while outside linebacker Justin Hollins finished with seven tackles, one sack and one fumble forced.

Oregon’s secondary continued to struggle, giving up 13 catches for 166 yards and two scores to Bowling Green wide receiver Scott Miller.

Since Miller gave the Ducks so much trouble, there’s good reason to believe Portland State preseason all-American tight end Charlie Taumoepeau will do the same. He finished with three catches for 130 yards and two scores against Nevada, showing physicality and speed at the position.

“The offense will be different,” Barnum said. “Losing Steve (Cooper) to Nebraska, I am stepping back into the (offensive) room. You are going to see a lot more like when I was a coordinator from 2010-15… that will be new to this group of guys.”

The last time these two teams met was in 2010 when Oregon thrashed Portland State 69-0. That loss is the still the largest defeat in Portland State history and the most points the Ducks have ever scored when holding an opponent scoreless.