San Jose State Football: First Look At The Portland State Vikings
The Spartans will begin their 2022 football season under the Thursday night lights at home against FCS Portland State.
A solid test to start the year.
San Jose State Football: First Look at 2022 Non-Conference Opponents
San Jose State football is eager to get the program back to winning ways in 2022 and their first test of the season comes at home against the Portland State Vikings.
In recent years, the Viks haven’t been the Big Sky’s best team but they’ve proven that they can throw some scares into FBS squads like Hawaii, Arkansas, and Oregon State. That alone should ensure the Spartans don’t take their CEFCU opener lightly.
Location: Portland, Oregon
Conference: Big Sky
Series History: San Jose State leads the all-time series, 1-0.
2021 Record: 5-6 (4-4 Big Sky)
Head Coach: Bruce Barnum (eighth year at Portland State, 26-43 overall). After leading the Viks to a FCS playoff appearance in his first season, 2015, Barnum hasn’t found the same level of success in the succeeding years. That 9-3 campaign remains his only winning season in Portland, though it isn’t for lack of trying — you might recall Barnum’s willingness to pay a $14,000 beer tab to generate interest in the program among PSU fans last September — and they haven’t been far away from a breakthrough for a few years now.
Anthony Adams, S
If there’s anyone on the Portland State roster who may have real NFL aspirations, look no further than Adams. He’s a two-time first-team all-Big Sky safety who also earned all-American honors in those same seasons, 2019 (first team) and 2021 (second team), and is within striking distance of setting new program records for career passes defended.
Oh, and 2022 will also mark Adams’s third year as a team captain. And he has nine career interceptions. Put simply, he’s one of the best FCS defenders anywhere in the country.
— Big Sky Conference (@BigSkyConf) September 11, 2021
Beau Kelly, WR
One of the more overlooked tales of highway robbery last year is the reality that, among all Big Sky players, Kelly finished in a tie for second in receptions (69), third in receiving yards (986), and first in touchdowns (10) but only earned a second-team all-conference nod. A fixture in the starting lineup since 2018, Kelly is one of the most reliable pass catchers anywhere in the FCS.
— Portland State Football (@psuviksFB) November 14, 2021
VJ Malo, DT
Like Adams and Kelly, Malo also earned a spot on the all-Big Sky two-deep, landing on the second team after finishing fourth in the conference with ten sacks and 20 tackles for loss. That made him just the sixth Portland State player with double-digit sacks in a season and the third to collect that many TFLs, but he also forced three fumbles to entrench himself as one of the most disruptive playmakers anywhere on the west coast.
Parker McKenna, LB
While there’s still a ways to go, McKenna’s first season with the Viks hinted that he might be the next Portland State great. He started every game as a true freshman in 2021 and led the team with 88 tackles, adding 4.5 tackles for loss and one sack.
Andrew Van Buren, RB
The Viks have to replace their top two rushers from 2021, meaning that the former Boise State running back might be in a position to pick up some of that slack. In 45 career games on the blue turf, Van Buren ran for 1,028 yards but only averaged 3.67 yards per carry. The upside? He had a nose for the end zone with the Broncos, too, scoring 21 times.
When everything was on track last year, the Portland State offense was a pretty potent one: They finished in the top 40 among FCS teams with 5.79 yards per play and in the top 50 with 27.5 points per game. One big thing that undermined the Viks, however, was giving the ball away 24 times, including four turnovers in three different games.
There’s enough production coming back for 2022 to make you think they could remain dangerous, but Barnum and offensive coordinator Skyler Fulton will have to figure out how to replace quarterback Davis Alexander, the program’s best player ever at the position outside of Neil Lomax. To that end, Cal transfer Jaden Casey and sophomore Dante Chachere are the likely frontrunners after seeing the lion’s share of work under center during spring ball.
If they make the right choice, that quarterback could thrive. Van Buren and sophomore running back Jalynnee McGee (49 carries, 259 yards, two touchdowns) could lead the ground game while Kelly, Darien Chase (54 catches, 579 yards, four touchdowns), Nate Bennett (50-616-4), and Mataio Talalemotu (42-573-3) headline a deep group of pass catchers.
Despite some standout individual performances, the Portland State defense probably bent too much for its own good throughout last season. They allowed 29.5 points per game and 6.18 yards per play, but those defensive leaders could just as easily spearhead a rebound.
Along the defensive line, Portland State brings back the experienced duo of Malo and Jake Porter (35 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks) but will need to find a reliable replacement for Semise Kofe. San Jose State transfer EJ Ane could be part of the solution after picking up ten TFLs and 5.5 sacks in part-time duty for the Spartans across 28 games.
The situation is rosier farther away from the line of scrimmage, where multiple players with starting experience could replace the departed Nicholas Ah Sam alongside McKenna. If youth is the name of the game, then sophomore Justice Pagan is worth keeping an eye on after he picked up 39 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and two sacks in nine games last season.
Adams headlines the secondary, but he’s far from the only experienced athlete in that unit. Cornerback Evan Camarena (29 tackles), Broderick Harrell (48 tackles, five pass breakups, three TFLs) and Xavier Bell (50 tackles, seven pass breakups, three TFLs) are all impact seniors while sophomore Tyreese Shakir — who, yes, is former Boise State Khalil Shakir’s brother — played like a future cornerstone with 32 tackles, two interceptions, and four pass breakups.
Portland State could be much improved this year if they can resolve their quarterback quandry, but the Viks may not offer enough resistance to the San Jose State offense to truly threaten an upset.
San Jose State 35, Portland State 21