PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) The Portland State football players call their style of play ”Barney Ball,” in honor of new head coach Bruce Barnum.
”Barney” Ball made a shocking debut on Saturday, as Portland State of the FCS upset Washington State 24-17 in a driving rainstorm that hampered WSU’s high-flying offense.
”It’s blue collar, tough, fundamental football,” Barnum said of his style.
Article continues below ...
It certainly was.
Portland State scored all 24 of its points in the second half, and won despite being outgained 411 yards to 294 yards.
”Our defense was the definition of bend, don’t break,” said Barnum, who was making his debut as a college head coach and is working under a one-year contract. ”They came together when they needed to.”
Portland State’s players celebrated in the locker room, chanting ”we’re undefeated!”
It was the first time Portland State beat a Pacific-12 team in 15 tries, and lifted their record to 3-32 against FBS teams. It was Washington State’s first loss to an FCS team in 20 outings.
”We never got in a rhythm on offense,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said.
”They were a real mature team,” Leach said of Portland State. ”They hung together, and we got impatient.”
”We didn’t come out with the same focus,” said WSU linebacker Jeremiah Allison.
He said the rain was a problem for both teams, and declined to blame that for the loss.
Steven Long scored on a 1-yard run with just over 2 minutes left in the game to lift Portland State to the upset.
The rain and unseasonably chilly temperatures stymied Washington State’s passing game under quarterback Luke Falk, who this year replaced national passing leader Connor Halliday. But Portland State had the stronger ground attack, out-rushing Washington State 233 yards to 104 yards.
Portland State quarterback Alex Kuresa completed just 7 of 12 passes for 61 yards, but led all rushers with 92 yards on 16 carries in the opener for both teams.
”He has the ability to make plays with his feet,” Barnum said.
Falk completed 27 of 41 passes for 289 yards with two touchdowns for WSU. He left the game in the closing minutes with an undisclosed injury.
Washington State’s opening drive stalled on Portland State’s 4-yard line, and the Cougars settled for Erik Powell’s 21-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The Cougars had a bizarre drive on their second possession, moving forward and back over 90 yards because of penalties, and converting three fourth-down plays, before Powell’s 22-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Aaron Sibley.
Washington State’s first touchdown came on a screen pass from Falk to Keith Harrington, which the freshman running back turned into a 24-yard gain that gave the Cougars a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
That lead stood at halftime, as the Cougars outgained Portland State 274 yards to 66 yards in the first half.
Portland State came out strong in the third quarter, driving 75 yards with Paris Penn scoring on a 4-yard rush to cut Washington State’s lead to 10-7.
On Portland State’s next possession, Jonathan Gonzales kicked a 42-yard field goal to tie the score at 10 with 4:37 left in the third.
Washington State turned the ball over on downs on its next possession, with Portland State taking over on its own 28. The Vikings were forced to punt, but WSU’s Kyrin Priester fumbled the catch and Portland State recovered on WSU’s 11. Nate Tago pounded over from the 8 to give Portland State a 17-10 lead with 13:06 left.
”We caught a break on that muffed punt,” Barnum said of the WSU fumble.
Tavares Martin returned the ensuing kickoff to Portland State’s 46, aided by a face-mask penalty against the Vikings. Gabe Marks caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Falk to tie the score at 17 with 9:11 left.
Kuresa led Portland State on a 14-play, 69-yard drive that consumed nearly 7 minutes, with Long rushing from the 1-yard line to lift Portland State to a 24-17 lead with 2:19 left.
Sibley intercepted a pass from WSU’s Peyton Bender with 42 seconds left to seal the win.
The WSU offense on Saturday looked much different from last year’s team, which threw for a school-record 5,732 yards and led the nation with 477.7 yards per game.
Portland State picked up a $525,000 check for coming to Pullman.
Kuresa is a junior college transfer who threw for 2,300 yards and 25 touchdowns last season at Snow College. Kuresa beat out senior Kieran McDonagh, who has started 29 games for the Vikings.