December 15, 2015 by Mike Lund
The Portland State Vikings made just their second appearance in the NCAA I FCS post-season in 2015. It was the culmination of the program's best season ever at the Division I level as they finished 9-2 in the regular season, were 5-0 against ranked teams and beat a pair of FBS schools.
A Dec. 5 loss to Northern Iowa (29-17) in the second-round of the playoffs didn't diminish those accomplishments as well as and many others by the Vikings. PSU ended the year at 9-3 with a slew of achievements, accolades and memories.
Portland State entered the 2015 season with an interim head coach and low expectations as it was picked near the bottom of the Big Sky Conference in preseason polling. But once the season began, the Vikings rolled - from an opening-day win at Washington State to a regular season finale victory at Eastern Washington - with a myriad of highlights in between. The interim coach - Bruce Barnum - was named National Coach of the Year. And the Viking program, an after-thought in the Big Sky Conference and the Portland area, had become relevant again, a media darling, and the home of BarnyBall.
Here is a look at the Vikings' success story of 2015.
SETTING NEW STANDARDS ON THE PARK BLOCKS
• The Vikings achieved the Division I school record for wins (9) in season.
• Portland State matched its best Big Sky Conference record (6-2).
• The Vikings were 5-1 against nationally-ranked teams in 2015.
• PSU improved by 6 games over 2014 (9-3/3-9).
• Portland State set a school record with five road wins in one season, including tying a school record with four straight road wins.
• PSU was ranked fifth in the nation entering the NCAA Playoffs, the Vikings highest ranking since 2000.
• Head Coach Bruce Barnum was named Big Sky Conference and National Coach of the Year. He became PSU's first coach in any sport to earn national honors at the Division I level.
• PSU ended a three-game losing streak to Eastern Washington on Nov. 21.
• The Vikings were the only team to beat first-place Southern Utah (Nov. 14).
• PSU ended an eight-game losing streak to Montana on Oct. 31.
• The Vikings stopped a three-game losing streak to Cal Poly on Oct. 24.
• PSU ended an eight-game losing streak to Montana State on Oct. 17.
• An Oct. 10 win at North Texas gave PSU two wins over FBS teams in a season for the first time ever.
• The Vikings beat a Pac-12 team for the first time ever in a win over Washington State on Sept. 5.
• SR S Patrick Onwuasor is a consensus first team All-American after being named to those squads by STATS, Inc, Associated Press and Walter Camp. SR LS Kameron Canaday was named to the third team by STATS, Inc. Onwuasor also earned second team All-America honors from College Sports Madness (All-America honors as of 12/15/15).
• Portland State had 11 players named to the Big Sky All-Conference teams; one on the first team, five on the second team and five on the third team. PSU also had the Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year in quarterback Alex Kuresa. 1st team All-Big Sky Conference: Patrick Onwuasor, S. 2nd team All-Big Sky Conference: Kyle Smith, OT; David Jones, RB; Sadat Sulleyman, DT; Davond Dade, DE; Xavier Coleman, CB. 3rd team All-Big Sky Conference; Mike Davis, OT; Cam Keizur, OG; Jonathan Gonzales, K; Daniel Fusi, DT; Aaron Sibley, CB. Seven other players earned Honorable Mention All-Big Sky Conference: Darnell Adams, WR; Randin Crecelius, OG; Alex Kuresa, QB; Kahlil Dawson, RS; Michael Doman, DE; Jeremy Lutali, LB; Walter Santiago, S.
• Portland State Head Coach Bruce Barnum was named the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year in a vote of his peers, and the FCS National Coach of the Year in a vote of national media.
• SR FS Patrick Onwuasor was a finalist for National Defensive Player of the Year (the award will be presented on Jan. 8).
• The Vikings had seven players earn Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors during the course of the season. There was one on offense (David Jones, Oct. 17); four on defense (Aaron Sibley, Sept. 5; Patrick Onwuasor, Oct. 31, Xavier Coleman; Nov. 14; AJ Schlatter, Nov. 21), and two on special teams (Kahlil Dawson, Sept. 12; Jonathan Gonzales, Oct. 24).
BARNUM NAMED BIG SKY AND FCS NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR IN FIRST SEASON
In a Portland State football season filled with highlight moments, first-time-evers and bests, there had to be room for at least one more. That came when Bruce Barnum was named the FCS National Coach of the Year by STATS LLC, sponsor of post-season awards for the NCAA I FCS level, on Dec. 7.
"Professionally, I was overwhelmed winning the Big Sky award and knowing the quality of the coaches in this conference," said Barnum. "But to move to this level, it's the most humbling thing professionally, knowing the names that have been on that list. I don't see myself on that list, but somebody did. It means, bottom-line, I have the best staff in the country. I did my job by hiring that staff. The Big Sky award told me we had the best staff, and now the country is telling me that. That's bigtime."
Barnum led his Viking team on a remarkable journey in 2015 - the best-ever season at the Division I level for PSU - while making a remarkable journey of his own in his first season as a head football coach.
The Vikings' offensive coordinator for five seasons, Barnum was named interim Head Coach on Nov. 26 of last year. Within a week, he was given a one-year contract to run the program and no guarantees for the future. All Barnum did was take a 3-9 program that was an after-thought in the Big Sky Conference, and even in the city of Portland, and turn it one of the best teams in the nation. He accomplished that with virtually the same roster as 2014, save one key addition; quarterback Alex Kuresa.
Barnum guided PSU to a 9-3 record in 2015 - its best record ever at the Division I level. The Vikings beat two FBS programs in the same season for the first time in their history, including a first-ever win over a Pac-12 team. PSU went 5-1 against nationally-ranked teams and was ranked as high as fifth in the nation at the end of the season.
The Vikings made their first appearance in the NCAA playoffs in 15 years, just their second ever, and hosted a Division I playoff game for the first time.
Most of all, using his "BarnyBall" style of tough, hard-nosed fundamental football sprinkled with remarkable team chemistry and unity, Barnum made Portland State football relevant again in the city of Portland, in the Big Sky Conference and on the national scene.
ONWUASOR NAMED FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICAN, CANADAY SELECTED TO THIRD TEAM
Portland State senior safety Patrick Onwuasor was named to the STATS FCS All-America first team in recognition of his standout season. Onwuasor, who is also a finalist for the STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Year, was an anchor on a Portland State defense that led the Vikings to a 9-3 record and number-five ranking in the nation.
A 6-2, 225-pounder, Onwuasor ranked second in the nation in interceptions with nine. He also had 85 tackles, three tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Onwuasor tied a PSU school record with three interceptions in one game and earned Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Oct. 31.
Onwuasor, a native of Inglewood, CA, has helped lead the turnaround at Portland State, which improved from 3-9 last season to 9-3 this year and earned wins over FBS programs Washington State and North Texas, as well as a 5-1 mark against nationally-ranked teams.
Canaday, a senior from Eugene's Sheldon High School, has been a mainstay at the vital and underrated position of long snapper. The 6-4, 240-pounder has been a four-year starter for the Vikings and not coincidently has snapped for All-Americans Zach Brown (K) and Kyle Loomis (P) in the past, as well as All-Conference kicker Jonathan Gonzales the last two seasons.
Since 1998, Portland State players have earned 21 All-American honors by 19 different players. All-America teams will be announced by the Associated Press, the FCS Athletic Directors Association, Walter Camp and the American Football Coaches Association in the coming days.
Portland State Football All-Americans since joining the Big Sky Conference in 1996
(All-American recognitions from Sports Network, AFCA, Associated Press and/or Walter Camp)
1998 Bobby Singh, OL (1)
1999 Terry Charles, WR
2000 Charles Dunn, RB (1); Rashad Floyd, CB; Dan Frantz, K
2001 Terry Charles, WR (1); Ryan Fuqua, RB
2005 Joe Rubin, RB (1)
2006 Adam Hayward, LB (1); Brennen Carvalho, OL (1)
2007 Brennen Carvalho, C (1); Tremayne Kirkland, WR
2008 Andy Schantz, LB
2011 Zach Brown, K (1)
2012 Ian Sluss, LB
2013 Kyle Loomis, P (1); DJ Adams, RB; Mitchell Van Dyk, OL
2014 Kyle Loomis, P (1)
2015 Patrick Onwuasor, S (1); Kameron Canaday, LS
(1) indicates first team All-American
The announcement of National Defensive Player of the Year comes on Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas - the night before the FCS national championship game. Onwuasor will attend a banquet announcing all of the FCS post-season national awards, along with Head Coach Bruce Barnum, who was previously named FCS National Coach of the Year.
For National Defensive Player of the Year, Onwuasor was on a ballot of 25 players from around the nation. A national panel of 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries voted for the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year, selecting a top three among 25 finalists. Their voting reflected the regular season and was conducted before the start of the playoffs.
Remarkably, the other two finalists for National Defensive Player of the Year are also from the Big Sky Conference. Defensive ends James Cowser of Southern Utah and Tyrone Holmes of Montana complete the top three.
Onwuasor follows Adam Hayward, a linebacker at PSU in 2005-06, who reached the national ballot for Defensive Player of the Year in 2006. Hayward, the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year in '06, placed fourth on the national ballot that year. He is now in his ninth season in the NFL.
KURESA NAMED NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR, ONWUASOR FIRST TEAM ALL-BIG SKY CONFERENCE
Portland State Quarterback Alex Kuresa highlighted the Vikings' All-Conference selections for leading the Viking team to its best Division I season in history. Kuresa, a junior college transfer, was selected as the Big Sky's Newcomer of the Year, while senior safety Patrick Onwuasor was named first team All-Big Sky Conference.
Kuresa, from Millville, UT and Snow JC, took over at quarterback this season and led the Viking resurgence. He completed 123-226 passes for 1,975 yards, 17 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Kuresa also ranked second on the team in rushing with 158 carries for 755 yards and seven touchdowns. He is the third Viking in history to be named Big Sky Newcomer of the Year (Charles Dunn, 1997; Ryan Fuqua, 2001).
Onwuasor, a native of Inglewood, CA was the only Viking named first team All-Big Sky, and he earned it as well. Onwuasor ranked second in the nation in interceptions with nine. He had 85 tackles and three tackles for loss. Onwuasor tied a school record with three interceptions in one game and earned Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Oct. 31.
Named second team All-Big Sky Conference for the Vikings were: running back David Jones, offensive tackle Kyle Smith, defensive tackle Sadat Sulleyman, defensive end Davond Dade and cornerback Xavier Coleman.
Jones, a converted wide receiver from Kent, WA, led the Vikings in rushing this season with 180 carries for 1,127 yards and nine touchdowns. The senior ranked fourth in the Big Sky in rushing yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Jones was the Big Sky Player of the Week on Oct. 17 after a 285-yard rushing game against Montana State. He has recorded the 19th 1,000-yard season in PSU history.
Smith, a junior from Elmira, OR, has started all 36 games of his career at left tackle. His efforts have led the Viking offense to 34.2 points and 419.6 yards of offense per game.
Sulleyman, a senior from Spanaway, WA, is a talent at both tackle and defensive end. He led the Vikings with 13.5 tackles for loss this season, making 42 total tackles and five sacks. Sulleyman ranks among the top 10 all-time sack leaders in Portland State history.
Dade, a sophomore from Los Angeles, has come on in the latter half of the season to be a starter. He led the Vikings in sacks with six. Dade also had three pass breakups, a forced fumble and 29 tackles.
Coleman, a junior from Portland's Jesuit High School, led the Big Sky Conference and ranked eighth in the nation in passes defended this season with 18. Coleman made five interceptions and 13 pass breakups. He had 52 total tackles on the season and was the Big Sky Player of the Week on Nov. 14.
The Vikings had five players named third team All-Big Sky Conference: offensive tackle Mike Davis, offensive guard Cam Keizur, kicker Jonathan Gonzales, defensive tackle Daniel Fusi and cornerback Aaron Sibley.
Davis, a senior from Chico, CA, and Keizur, a junior from West Linn, joined Kyle Smith in anchoring the Viking offensive line. Both have been full-time starters the past two seasons.
Gonzales, a junior from Apple Valley, CA, is an All-Conference performer for the second year in a row. He made 13-16 field goals and 50-51 extra points this season. Gonzales established a new record for consecutive extra points (77) and was also named Big Sky Player of the Week on Oct. 24 after kicking a game-winning field goal at Cal Poly.
Fusi, a senior from Santa Ana, CA, was a key run stopper in the middle of the defensive line this season. Despite missing two games with injury, he made 16 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble.
Sibley, a senior from Decatur, GA, also battled injuries but performed well when available. In nine games, he had 37 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, two blocked kicks and an interception. His blocked field goal and an interception in the final minute led to Portland State's epic 24-17 win at Washington State to open the season.
Seven Vikings also earned Honorable Mention All-Big Sky: JR WR Darnell Adams (22-478-6), SO OG Randin Crecelius, JR QB Alex Kuresa, SO return specialist Kahlil Dawson (31-777-1), JR DE Michael Doman (46T, 9 TFL, 4.5 SK, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF), SR LB Jeremy Lutali (93T, 4TFL, 1 SK, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 2 FF) and SR S Walter Santiago (33 T, 1 TFL, 8 PBU, 1 INT).
BEST RECORDS IN VIKING DIVISION I HISTORY
Portland State's nine wins are the most by the program at the Division I level. Here are PSU's top regular season records as a Division I program (1977-80, 1996-present):
2015 9-2 (finished 9-3 after playoffs)
2000 8-3 (finished 8-4 after playoffs)
At the NCAA II level, PSU had regular season records of 9-1-1 (1987), 9-2 (1991), 8-2 (1993, 1994), 8-2-1 (1988), and 8-3 (1975, 1976, 1984, 1989).
WHO IS GONE, WON IS BACK, FOR 2016
Portland State had 69 players letter during the 2015 season. Twenty-one of those letterwinners were seniors. Potentially, 48 letterwinners could return in 2016. Including redshirts and others, a total of 74 players who competed in 2015 may return in 2016.
The Vikings will return 15 starters, eight on offense, five on defense and two on special teams. A total of 28 players who have made starts during their careers are scheduled to return in 2015. PSU also has four seniors who could potentially petition the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility: DE Cutter Baldock, S Walter Santiago, LB Anthony McNichols, LB Kawika Stant.
A breakdown of who is going and who is staying (/ means players shared starts):
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING (8): LT Kyle Smith, LG Desmoun Thompson, C Cam Keizur, RG Randin Crecelius, TE Cam Sommer, WR Darnell Adams, WR Chase Loftin, QB Alex Kuresa
OFFENSIVE STARTERS LOST (3): RT Mike Davis, RB David Jones, WR Thomas Carter
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING (5): DE Michael Doman, DE Savali Talalemotu/Davond Dade, LB AJ Schlatter, NICK Beau Duronslet, CB Xavier Coleman
DEFENSIVE STARTERS LOST (6): DT Daniel Fusi, DT Sadat Sulleyman, LB Jeremy Lutali, FS Patrick Onwuasor, CB Aaron Sibley
SPECIAL TEAMS STARTERS RETURNING (2): K Jonathan Gonzales, P Marcus Kinsella
SPECIAL TEAMS STARTERS LOST (1): LS Kameron Canaday
OTHER SENIORS LOST (11): QB Kieran McDonagh, S Demetrius Jackson, LB Anthony McNichols, TE Cameron Thompson, LB Nick Rothstein, LB Brandon Brody-Heim, LB Kawika Stant, LB Zack Berg, LB Dennis Taylor, DT Junior Alexis, TE Dame Ndiaye
OTHER LETTERWINNERS THAT RETURN (career starts): UQ Paris Penn (4), WR Josh Kraght (4), WR Jamarr Graves, WR Blair Cavanaugh, S Tyler Foreman, QB Aidan Wilder, S Malik Cyphers, WR Stevie Coury, CB Artuz Manning (4), RB Nate Tago (4), RB Steven Long (3), CB Chevy Walker, CB Anthony Jenkins, S Darien Washington, RB Mitchell Thompson, CB Kahlil Dawson, WR Nick Moran, LB Austin Wolff, LB Mosa Likio (2), DE Perry Groves, LB John Norcross (8), OL Justin Outslay, TE/OL Josh Brown, OL Chad Bach (8), OL Josh Hanson (1), WR Trent Riley (4), WR Trevor Dye, WR Justin Calo, TE Jon Buffington, DT John Jackson (1), DE Larry Ross, DT Will Dawson (2)
QUICK SNAPS (SUSTAINABLE AND RECYCLABLE)
WINS, LOSSES, AND THE BIG SKY
• Portland State was 9-3 on the season, 4-2 at home, 5-1 on the road.
• The Vikings have won six of their last seven regualr season games.
• Portland State's three losses came by a total of 17 points.
• PORTLAND STATE'S LEAST FAVORITE DIRECTION: The Vikings lost only three games in 2015 - the fewest losses since three in 1999. All three losses came against teams with one thing in common - the word "North" in their name. PSU lost to North Dakota, Northern Colorado and Northern Iowa. However, the Vikings did beat North Texas, 66-7.
• Portland State completed its 20th season at the NCAA I FCS level (1996-2015). PSU is 104-120 in all games at the FCS level. PSU is 67-41 in home games since moving to the NCAA I level, 37-79 on the road.
• The Vikings are in their 20th season as a member of the Big Sky Conference. PSU is 68-87 all-time in Big Sky games. The Vikings are 41-37 at home, 27-50 on the road in BSC games.
• With a winning season in 2015, the Vikings have nine winning records in 20 years as a member of the Big Sky Conference.
• Bruce Barnum is the Vikings fourth Head Coach in the Big Sky Conference era. Previous coaches were: Tim Walsh (1993-2006, 42-41, 90-68 all-time); Jerry Glanville (2007-09, 7-17, 9-24); and Nigel Burton (2010-15, 13-27, 21-36).
• The Vikings have never won a Big Sky title, but have now tied for second five times (four under Walsh and this year under Barnum). PSU made its second NCAA FCS playoff appearance (also 2000).
ATTENDANCE IS UP: Portland State had a season average attendance of 7,180 in six home games in 2015. That was PSU's best average since 2008 and up significantly from 4,583 in 2014. It also ranks as fifth-best over the last 16 seasons. The crowd of 11,045 vs. Montana was the best since a crowd in excess of 12,000 against Montana in 2008.
• Portland State ranked fifth in the nation in turnover margin (1.08), 11th in pass efficiency defense (103.11) and 12th in third-down defense (.303 conversion rate).
• The Vikings were 10th in the nation in rushing offense (250.6) and fourth in yards per completion (15.79).
• SR S Patrick Onwuasor ranekd second in the nation with nine interceptions (0.75 pg). That ranked as second-most in school history.
• JR CB Xavier Coleman led the Big Sky Conference in passes defended (18, 13 PBUs, 5 INTs) and ranked eighth in the nation (1.50). He ranks second in the Big Sky and 20th in the nation in interceptions.
• JR QB Alex Kuresa ranked first in the Big Sky and fourth in the nation in yards per pass completion (16.00).
• SR RB David Jones ranked fourth in the Big Sky Conference in rushing (93.9 ypg).
• SR WR Thomas Carter III finished his career ranked 10th all-time in receptions at Portland State (126).
• JR K Jonathan Gonzales is now ranked fourth all-time in field goals made at PSU (30).
2015 VIKING TEAM LEADERS
Rushing Yards: David Jones, 1,127, Alex Kuresa 755, Nate Tago 421, Steven Long 297
Rushing Touchdowns: David Jones 9, Alex Kuresa 7, Nate Tago 6, Steven Long 5
Passing: Alex Kuresa 126-226-7, 1,975 yards, 17 touchdowns
Receptions: Darnell Adams 22, Thomas Carter 22, Josh Kraght 16, David Jones 13
Receiving Yards: Darnell Adams 478, Thomas Carter 369, Josh Kraght 227, Trent Riley 223
Receiving Touchdowns: Darnell Adams 6, Thomas Carter 4
Scoring: Jonathan Gonzales, 13 FG, 50 PAT, 89 pts; David Jones, 10 TDs, 1 2PT, 62 pts
Field Goals: Jonathan Gonzales 13-16
Total Offense: Alex Kuresa, 2,730 yards
All-Purpose Yards: David Jones 1,276, Alex Kuresa 780; Kahlil Dawson 777, Nate Tago 529
Punting: Marcus Kinsella, 64-40.9
Punt Returns: Josh Kraght, 17-89
Kick Returns: Kahlil Dawson 31-777
Tackles: Jeremy Lutali 93, Patrick Onwuasor 85, Beau Duronslet 64, AJ Schlatter 62
Tackles For Loss: Sadat Sulleyman 13.5, Michael Doman 9.0, AJ Schlatter 6.5, Davond Dade 6.5
Sacks: Davond Dade 6, Sadat Sulleyman 5, Michael Doman 4.5
Interceptions: Patrick Onwuasor 9, Xavier Coleman 5
Pass Breakups: Xavier Coleman 13, Walter Santiago 8, Aaron Sibley 7
Fumble Recoveries: AJ Schlatter 2, Zack Berg 2
Forced Fumbles: Jeremy Lutali 2, Beau Duronslet 2
Blocked Kicks: Aaron Sibley 2
THE COMMITTEE IS BACK IN SESSION: Portland State had eight 200-yard rushing games in 2015. Here is a look at the Vikings' rushing "committee."
• SR RB David Jones had six 100-yard games this year. He had a career-high 285 yards on 23 carries with three TDs against Montana State (10/17). Jones led the Vikings in rushing with 180 carries for 1,127 yards and nine touchdowns. His 93.9 yards per game ranks fourth in the Big Sky.
• JR QB Alex Kuresa was second on the team in rushing with 158 carries for 755 yards and seven scores. Kuresa went for a career-high 119 yards on 11 carries against Montana. That came after 101 yards against Cal Poly.
• JR RB Nate Tago had 107 carried for 421 yards and six touchdowns.
• SO RB Steven Long has 68 carries for 297 yards and five scores.
• JR UQ Paris Penn has rushed 47 times for 209 yards and four touchdowns.
• Seven different Vikings combined for 33 rushing touchdowns.
• For the season, PSU averaged 250.6 rushing yards per game to rank 10th in the nation.
VIKINGS ON THE RUN: PSU passed 2,000 rushing yards as a team for the sixth straight year, and 3,000 yards for the second time under Bruce Barnum... the Vikings rushed for exactly 3,007 yards in 2015... PSU has rushed for more than 200 yards per game in each season... The top five rushing seasons in school history have come in the last five seasons (3,330 in 2013; 3,007 in 2015; 2,726 in 2011, 2,500 in 2014; 2,382 in 2012).
AERIAL ASSUALT: As good as PSU's running game was, the passing attack was dangerous as well.
• JR QB Alex Kuresa threw 17 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions. Kuresa ranked fourth in the nation with a 16.00 yards per completion.
• SR QB Kieran McDonagh threw a touchdown pass against Southern Utah, the 42nd of his career, passing June Jones (41) on PSU's all-time list.
• SR WR Thomas Carter III tied for the team lead with 22 receptions for 369 yards and four touchdowns. Carter had 126 receptions in his career to rank 10th all-time at Portland State. He also threw a TD pass in the win at Eastern Washington.
• JR WR Darnell Adams had 22 catches for 478 yards and six scores. He also averaged 21.7 yards per catch to lead the team in all four categories.
• SO WR Josh Kraght had 16 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown.
• 14 different players caught passes this year and nine had touchdowns.
• PSU had 19 touchdown passes against only five interceptions.
PROTECTING THE QUARTERBACK: The Viking offensive line allowed 21sacks in 12 games. Last year, they protected the quarterback as well as ever. PSU led the Big Sky Conference with the fewest sacks allowed on the season (10) despite throwing 423 passes. PSU has allowed only 56 sacks over 58 games the last five seasons while throwing 1,651 passes.
DEFENSIVE LEADERS: Portland State ranked second in the Big Sky Conference in scoring defense (22.3) behind Southern Utah. The Vikings ranked first in the Big Sky and 11th in the nation in third-down conversion defense (30.3%).
• SR SS Patrick Onwuasor led the Big Sky Conference and ranked second in the nation with nine interceptions. His three picks against Montana tied a school record for a single game. Onwuasor's nine interceptions is tied for second all-time at PSU.
• SR LB Jeremy Lutali led the team with 93 tackles. He is also the current career leader with 209.
• SR DE Sadat Sulleyman led the Vikings with 13.5 tackles for loss this season. His 12 sacks for his career is tied for ninth best all-time at PSU.
• SO DE Davond Dade led the Vikings with six sacks. PSU had 27 sacks overall.
• JR CB Xavier Coleman led the team and the Big Sky Conference with 13 pass breakups. He is also the team's career leader with 27 PBUs. Coleman ranks fifth all-time in PBUs at Portland State. SR CB Aaron Sibley ranks ninth all-time with 18 PBUs.
THE TAKEAWAY: Portland State forced 28 turnovers in 12 games while committing 15 for a +13 turnover ratio. That is a far cry from last year's -12 ratio (26 turnovers/14 takeaways).
• PSU's 28 forced turnovers is the most since forcing 29 in 2008.
• Portland State's defense made 18 interceptions after making only six picks all of last season.
• The Vikings won the turnover battle in nine of 12 games and tied it with Montana State (one each).
FANCY FOOTWORK: JR K Jonathan Gonzales had another good season making 13-16 field goals and 50-51 extra points.
• Gonzales hit a 27-yard field goal with 33 seconds to play at Cal Poly (10/24), leading the Vikings to a 38-35 win. He was named Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.
• Gonzales made 77 consecutive extra points to set a school record before missing one at Eastern Washington. That shattered the PSU record for consecutive extra points made. The previous mark was 44, set twice previously by Pat Moore (1972-75) and Zach Brown (2009-11).
• Gonzales was 13-16 on field goals, ranging from 19 to 51 yards. He had a streak of nine straight made before having one blocked at Cal Poly. In 2014, he had a streak of eight straight field goals made.
• Gonzales is tied for fourth all-time in field goals made at Portland State (30) in two seasons.
• Gonzales has two 50+ field goals in his career, ranking in the Top 10 in PSU history.
THESE TEAMS ARE SPECIAL: Top special teams plays this season:
• JR P Marcus Kinsella averaged 46 yards per boot against Washington State.
• JR K Jonathan Gonzales is 10-13 on field goals, including a 51-yarder.
• SR LS Kameron Canaday recovered a WSU muffed punt return at the Cougars' 11-yard line, setting up a go-ahead touchdown.
• SR CB Aaron Sibley blocked a 22-yard field goal at Washington State after the Cougars had driven 93 yards.
• SO CB Kahlil Dawson returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown in the win at Idaho State.
• JR K Marcus Kinsella was 7-7 with kickoffs for touchbacks against Idaho State.
• PSU snuffed out a fake punt play at Idaho State, taking over on downs.
• JR P Marcus Kinsella had five of eight punts downed inside the 20 against Western Oregon. He also had a 62-yard boot.
• SO WR Josh Kraght took a fake field goal 25 yards for a touchdown against Western Oregon.
• SO KR Kahlil Dawson averages 25.1 yards per kick return to rank fifth in the Big Sky Conference.
• SR LB Zack Berg blocked a punt against North Texas leading to a touchdown on the Vikings ensuing possession.
• JR K Jonathan Gonzales kicked a 27-yard field goal with 33 seconds remaining to beat Cal Poly, 38-35.
• JR P Marcus Kinsella averaged 48 yards per punt in a driving rainstorm in the win over Montana.
• SR CB Aaron Sibley blocked a Northern Iowa extra point. His second kick block of the season.
QUARTERBACKS APLENTY: Portland State had all four quarterbacks on the field for several plays during the Western Oregon game. The Vikings pulled the feat again for two plays against North Dakota. All four saw playing time again at North Texas, but never more than three were on the field at once. JR Alex Kuresa spends the majority of the time behind center, while SO Josh Kraght, the converted wide receiver, JR Paris Penn and SR Kieran McDonagh are frequently split wide. Penn and Kraght also took snaps against Western Oregon, while Penn and McDonagh took snaps against North Dakota and Penn, Kraght and McDonagh took snaps at North Texas... Kuresa and Penn each took snaps against Montana State, Cal Poly, Montana and Southern Utah, while Kraght passed for a two-point conversion (to Kuresa) against the Mustangs... SR QB Kieran McDonagh passed for a touchdown against Southern Utah while coming out of a fullback position... SR WR Thomas Carter, a converted high school quarterback, threw a touchdown pass against Eastern Washington... SR RB David Jones is also a converted quarterback... all four Viking quarterbacks - Kuresa, McDonagh, Penn and Kraght - threw passes against Northern Iowa.
KURESA MAKES IT SIX: JR QB Alex Kuresa became the sixth Viking on the roster to have at least one 100-yard rushing game in his career. Kuresa rushed 18 times for 101 yards and two scores at Cal Poly... SR RB David Jones had become the fifth Viking with at least one 100-yard rushing game. Jones carried 18 times for 113 yards against Idaho State. Since then, he has added four other 100+ performances... PSU has rushed for 200+ yards in seven of nine games this season... Below is a list of the top rushing games for each Viking with at least 100 yards in a game.
Alex Kuresa_ 119 vs. Montana, 2015
David Jones 285 vs. Montana State, 2015
Steven Long 253 vs. Northern Arizona, 2014
Kieran McDonagh 108 vs. North Dakota, 2013
Paris Penn_ 112 at Oregon State, 2014
Nate Tago__ 106 vs. UC Davis, 2014
2015 SEASON HIGHLIGHT REEL
A SEASON OPENER BECOMES A BARNYBALL EYE OPENER: When Portland State knocked off Washington State, 24-7, on Sept. 5 in Pullman, WA it opened the eyes of football fans not just locally, but nationally. It marked the first time that PSU had ever beaten a Pac-12 program (in 15 tries) and just the third win over an FBS opponent (in 35 tries). The win came in Head Coach Bruce Barnum's first-ever game in charge and introduced the world to #BarnyBall. PSU trailed 10-0 at halftime, but shut down the Cougars' "Air Raid" offense in the second half. The Viking offense rode a 228-137 total offense advantage in the second half to a 24-7 comeback while PSU's defense forced two turnovers. The Vikings had 233 rushing yards in all, and took the lead for good on a one-yard TD run by Steven Long with 2:19 to play. Cornerback Aaron Sibley intercepted a WSU pass with 42 seconds to play to seal the win. Sibley also blocked a field goal, broke up a pass and made four tackles. He was named the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
VIKINGS MAUL THE BENGALS: Portland State beat Idaho State in every facet of the game in a 34-14 victory at Pocatello on Sept. 12. The Vikings held the Bengals to 242 yards of offense while forcing four turnovers. PSU special teams had a kickoff return for touchdown and stopped a fourth-down fake punt play. On offense, the Vikings rushed for 236 yards. It was the first win over a nationally-ranked team since 2008, ending a string of 21 straight loss to ranked teams.
DAWSON'S STREAK: SO KR Kahlil Dawson streaked 94 yards on a kick return for touchdown in the Vikings 34-14 win over Idaho State (9/12). It was the first time a Viking had returned a kickoff for touchdown in five years. Dawson returned two kicks for 127 yards and was named Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.
WHITEWASHING THE WOLVES: Portland State recorded its first shutout in 49 games with a 31-0 victory over Western Oregon (9/26). PSU held the Wolves to 224 yards of total offense, forced 12 punts and intercepted three passes. JR CB Xavier Coleman had two interceptions to lead the Vikings, who got off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2000.
TEXAS HOLD 'EM: Portland State put on one of its most impressive performances in school history in a 66-7 thrashing of North Texas (10/10). The Vikings went to the home of the Conference USA program and held it under 200 yards and out of the end zone until the final minute. PSU forced 11 punts and seven three-and-outs. The Vikings had 670 offensive yards, with 368 on the ground and 302 through the air. SR RB David Jones scored three touchdowns, rushing for 134 yards. He had a 70-yard TD run and also caught a 60-yard TD pass. JR QB Alex Kuresa completed 11-19 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns, rushed seven times for 21 yards and caught a 25-yard pass. The win marked the first time PSU has beaten two FBS teams in the same year. The 59-point winning margin was the biggest in NCAA history by an FCS school over an FBS school. It was also first time PSU had won three straight road games since 2000.
A RECORD RUN: Portland State rushed to a school-record 465 yards on 65 carries, defeating 16th-ranked Montana State, 59-42 (10-17). SR RB David Jones went for a career-high 285 yards on 23 carries, scoring three touchdowns. He was named Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week as well as receiving a variety of other accolades. The Vikings scored touchdowns on their first eight possessions of the game and had a season-high 682 yards of total offense.
UNSTOPPABLE: Portland State had two of its best offensive performances in school history on Oct. 10 vs. North Texas and Oct 17 vs. Montana State. The Vikings totaled 1,352 yards and 125 points in the two games combined. It was the most total yards in consecutive games in school history. It was the most points in back-to-back games since PSU beat Delaware State (105-0) and South Dakota State (48-17) on Nov. 8-15, 1980.
• Against North Texas on Oct. 10 PSU had 670 yards of offense (368 rushing, 302 passing), scoring on seven straight first-half possessions in building a 45-0 lead.
• Against Montana State on Oct. 17, PSU had 682 yards of offense (school-record 465 rushing, 217 passing) and scored touchdowns on its first eight possessions of the game.
VIKINGS GET ON THE GOOD FOOT: Portland State pulled out a tough 38-35 victory at Cal Poly (10/24) behind a last-minute field goal by JR K Jonathan Gonzales. Gonzales had made two previous field goals in the game, but had one blocked earlier in the fourth quarter. However, Head Coach Bruce Barnum sent Gonzales out for the 27-yard game winner with 33 seconds to play. Gonzales was named Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. JR QB Alex Kuresa had 333 yards of total offense and accounted for all four touchdowns. It was PSU's fourth straight road win, tying a school record.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: Portland State ended another losing streak to a Big Sky Conference opponent when it whipped Montana, 35-16, at Providence Park (10/31). The Vikings had lost eight in a row to the Griz, but stopped a losing streak for the third straight week (PSU had also wiped away and eight-game losing streak to Montana State and three-game losing streak to Cal Poly in previous weeks). SR S Patrick Onwuasor set the defensive tone, intercepting three Montana passes in the first quarter to tie a school record. Then SR RB David Jones and JR QB Alex Kuresa combined for 284 rushing yards and three touchdowns to lead the offense. PSU's five touchdowns came from 35 yards or longer. Onwuasor was named Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
TURNING THE TABLES ON TURNOVERS: Portland State beat Southern Utah at its own game in a key Big Sky Conference matchup on Nov. 14, winning 24-23. The Thunderbirds went into the contest leading the nation in turnovers forced (25), turnover ratio (+21) and fewest turnovers (4). But the Vikings made three key interceptions as the Thunderbirds were driving in PSU territory to lead to victory. Portland State did not commit a turnover in the game. Xavier Coleman had two of those interceptions, both coming at the PSU 2-yard line, to go with three tackles and three pass breakups. Coleman was named Big Sky Conference co-Defensive Player of the Week.
THE MAGIC NUMBER 9: Portland State set a school record for wins in a Division I season with nine after a 34-31 victory at 18th-ranked Eastern Washington (11/21). PSU ended a three-game losing streak to the Eagles, coming back from a 17-13 halftime deficit. At 9-2, PSU bettered three previous marks of 8-3 in the regular season. The win over Eastern also gave the Vikings the Dam Cup for the fourth time in five years of the Rivalry Series.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Vikings established a school record by winning five road games (5-1) during the regular season. The previous mark had been four, set several times. PSU also tied a school record with four straight road wins.
JONES JOINS THE LIST: A converted wide receiver, SR RB David Jones became a star in his first season in the backfield. Jones passed 1,000 rushing yards in the final regular season game, marking the 19th time in PSU history that has occured. With 1,080 rushing yards, Jones ranks 15th on the list. He has six 100-yard games.
MORE FIRSTS FOR BARNYBALL: Portland State Head Coach Bruce Barnum was named the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year, becoming the first Vikings' coach to earn the honor in 20 seasons in the league. He was later named the FCS National Coach of the Year, becoming the first PSU coach in any sport to earn national coach of the year honors at the Division I level.
NEW KID IN TOWN: JR QB Alex Kuresa was named the Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year after leading the Vikings to a 9-2 regular season - their best ever at the Divison I level. Kuresa conpleted 115-205 passes for 1,870 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed 144 times for 707 yards and seven scores. His leadership played a vital role in the Vikings' success... SR S Patrick Onwuasor was named first team Big Sky Conference. The Vikings had five second team choices (Kyle Smith, OT; David Jones, RB; Sadat Sulleyman, DT; Davond Dade, DE; Xavier Coleman, CB) and five on the Big Sky third team (Mike Davis, OT; Cam Keizur, OG; Jonathan Gonzales, K; Daniel Fusi, DT; Aaron Sibley, CB).
2015 SEASON NOTES
BRUCE BARNUM GIVEN FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT TO COACH VIKINGS
Football Coach Bruce Barnum is no longer "interim" at Portland State.
The announcement of Barnum's new multi-year contract at PSU was made following practice on Oct. 14 to the Viking football team by Director of Athletics Mark Rountree. It was a popular selection as the team leapt to its feet, cheering, then began chanting "Barny Ball, Barny Ball!" - the team's slogan for its style play and a take-off on Barnum's name.
"It is my privilege to announce that Portland State has signed Bruce Barnum to a multi-year contract," said Rountree. "Coach Barnum has proven he can lead our team to compete at the highest levels, and is committed to developing student-athletes to be successful for the rest of their lives.
"The search committee recognized his strong commitment to integrity and the holistic success of students, which is why he was the unanimous choice for the job. Bruce exemplifies Portland State's identity of being fearless and determined, and I know he will have a huge impact on our campus and our community."
Rountree had been working to resolve the head coaching situation at Portland State. The athletics program opened the search and met with candidates, including Barnum. Barnum, who had been the Vikings' Interim Head Coach since late last November, was given a five-year contract.
"Coach Barnum has made a huge difference in our athletics program in a very short time. His commitment to our student-athletes and Portland State is outstanding and we look forward to continued success," said PSU President Wim Wiewel.
Barnum got quick results in 2015, leading his Vikings to a landmark 24-17 win over Washington State on Sept. 5 - the first-ever win by a PSU team over a Pac-12 team. Then on Sept. 12, the Vikings opened Big Sky Conference play with another road win, 34-14, over then-23rd ranked Idaho State. A 66-7 blowout victory over another FBS team, North Texas, shows how far the Viking team has come in one year.
Moreover, the Vikings showed dramatic improvements in areas where they had come up short in recent seasons, including improved turnover margin, fewer penalties, and a vastly upgraded defense.
The Vikings went on to complete their best season ever at the Division I level with a 9-3 record, number-five national ranking and 5-1 mark against nationally-ranked opponents. For his efforts, Barnum was named Big Sky Conference and FCS National Coach of the Year.
Barnum is a veteran of 27 seasons of college coaching and 15 years as an offensive coordinator, but this is his first head coaching position. He was named Portland State's Offensive Coordinator in 2010. He was an unquestioned success in that role as PSU averaged 200+ rushing yards per game in each of the last five seasons. In 2013, PSU set school-records for total offense (6,486 yards), offense per game (540.5), rushing offense (3,330 yards), rushing offense per game (277.5) and rushing touchdowns (36) while maintaining balance in the attack with 263.0 yards per game in the air, leading the nation in yards per completion (16.7). Portland State ranked third in the nation in total offense (first in the Big Sky) and third in rushing offense (second in the Big Sky).
Barnum was named interim Head Football Coach on Nov. 26, 2014. Shortly thereafter, he was given a 12-month contract - due in part to the fact that Portland State was still in the search process for a new Director of Athletics.
Rountree was hired a little more than a month later, taking over the Viking program in January.
Barnum is the 14th head coach in the 69-year history of Portland State football and the fourth in PSU's 20-year history in the Big Sky Conference.
BIGGEST WIN IN SCHOOL HISTORY?: Immediately following the Vikings landmark football victory over Washington State on Saturday afternoon in the Palouse, the question was pondered, "is it the biggest win in school history?" The answer? A resounding, "Maybe!"
Portland State beat the Cougars, 24-17, in the Palouse in come-from-behind fashion, outscoring WSU 24-7 in the second half. It was an epic victory and just the third in PSU history over a Football Bowl Subdivision program. All three of those wins can make a claim as best ever. One could even make a case for a regular-season ending win over Cal State Northridge in 2000 (49-22) that vaulted the PSU program to its first-ever NCAA I FCS playoff appearance.
Not to take anything away from Portland State's NCAA II national-ranked and contending programs from 1986-95, this evaluation comes from PSU's 20 years as an NCAA I FCS program.
On Sept. 9, 2000, Portland State traveled to Honolulu to take on a strong University of Hawai'i program led by, coincidentally, former Viking great June Jones. The Vikings, under the guidance of Tim Walsh, came away with a 45-20 victory - the first ever by PSU over an FBS school. That win came in the middle of the night east coast time and after midnight on the west coast. Though it got a lot of recognition, it probably never received its due. The Warriors were coming off a 9-4 season and an Oahu Bowl win over Oregon State. Alas they had a down season that year (3-9) in the middle of five great bowl-appearance seasons.
By the end of the year, PSU was 8-3 (following that win over Cal State Northridge) and on its way to the NCAA playoffs.
Six years later, the Vikings opened its 2006 campaign at the University of New Mexico and came away 17-6 winners over the Lobos. Walsh's Vikings stymied the New Mexico offense, holding it without a touchdown. PSU went on to have the top defense in the Big Sky that season as well as the league's Defensive Player of the Year in Adam Hayward. PSU went 7-4, and tied for second in the Big Sky at 6-2. The Lobos went on to a 6-6 record and a bowl game.
That brings us to the Sept. 5 upset at a soggy and cold Martin Stadium in Pullman. It marked the first win ever by a PSU team over a Pac-12 program or any "prestige" conference, in 15 tries. Portland State's comeback from a 10-0 halftime deficit was exciting and inspiring to the Viking faithful.
Portland State later turned in an explosive 66-7 win over another FBS program - North Texas - on Oct. 10. That marked the biggest margin of victory in history by an FCS team over and FBS team. However, a Conference USA program doesn't hold the same prestige as a Pac-12 school.
One thing is certain, in an age of instant social media and nationally-televised games (PSU's win over Hawaii was televised only in the Portland area, New Mexico was not televised), the Viking win over Washington State will be the most viewed, remembered and discussed. It gives Portland State a landmark win that can easily be referenced and will not soon be forgotten. In that regard, it is the biggest win in school history.