Viking Spring Football Features Lots Of Talent On Both Sides Of The Ball As PSU Readies For 2022

With a wealth of returning talent on both sides of the ball, one of the focal points of the Portland State Vikings’ spring football campaign was to audition a new starting quarterback for the first time since the 2017 season.

Four different signal callers took snaps in the Vikings’ annual spring game Thursday night at Hillsboro Stadium. Four more could join the race before the Vikings kick off the 2022 season at San Jose State on September 3.

Using a modified scoring system that awarded the defense six points for a turnover and one point for a three-plays-and-out series, the Viks’ D built a 19-0 lead early in the second half of the contest before the offense rallied for five consecutive scoring drives to prevail 35-19.

red shirt sophomore Dante Chachere and redshirt freshman Jaden Casey were each under center for five series with one series each for senior Nathan West and redshirt freshman Caden Filer† Whoever ends up with the starting job will have one of the deepest, most talented wide receiver groups in FCS football and an offensive line that is emerging as one of the Big Sky’s best.

Sophomore Darian Chase caught nine passes for 60 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Jobi Malarywho missed all but one game with injury in 2021, rushed for 61 yards on six carries, capped by a 45-yard touchdown run to highlight the Vikings’ offensive attack.

On defense, the Viks were unable to put much pressure on the four quarterbacks, but All-Big Sky senior defensive end VJ Malo harried Casey into a fumble, while linebackers Broderick Harrell and David Joseph corralled a pair of picks to account for most of the defensive scoring.

Eighth year head coach Bruce Barnum sees no reason why the Vikings should not challenge for a playoff spot in 2022.

“It was a great spring, not just tonight,” Barnum said. “Tonight was just a culmination. It’s fun to watch this football team. We’ve got some talent, we are coming together. I like how they act in the locker room and you saw it out here. They have fun playing the game. I have been here for quite a few moons and I think it was probably my favorite spring football since I’ve been here.”

There is no questioning the 6-3, 185-pound Chachere’s athleticism, but the rangy speedster has yet to show his arm off in a game. He got right to work on the first series, directing the Vikings to the 20-yard line with four completions in five attempts before a 4th-and-4 toss slipped through the fingers of senior receiver Beau Kelly at the goal line. After a three-and-out drive and an interception on his other two series in the first half, Chachere led the Vikings to a pair of second-half TDs on drives of 25 and 35 yards. The Fresno native rushed for 17 yards and a score on five carries and put nine of his 10 pass attempts on target with one interception.

“He made some early mistakes,” said Barnum, “but to watch him from the end of last season once he knew the job was open up until tonight he has gotten better every day. He is fun to watch.”

Casey, who transferred into the program from Cal in 2021, completed 16 of 21 passes for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns and will challenge Chachere for the starting job. Barnum also stressed the need to add more depth to the offensive line, which will be anchored at center by 6-5, 295-pound senior Tyson Paulingone of four returning starters.

One area that is certainly not in need of additional depth is the wide receiver group, which returns two All-Big Sky performers from 2021 and another from 2020 that missed the season with an injury.

“I’ve got seven who I think just get them the ball,” Barnum said. “You don’t have to be an All-American quarterback here. Just get those guys the football. Just get it around them. There’s some talent there.”

Chase led the way on this night, hauling in all but two of his 11 targets, including a four-yard TD on the final play of the night on which he simply out-muscled the defender. At 6-1, 210-pounds he proved to be a handful in his first season in green and is only getting started. Beau Kellycoming off a breakout 2021 campaign in which he led the Big Sky in receptions, yards and touchdowns (yet somehow only earned 2ndteam honors??), had three catches for 55 yards. Nate Bennetta 3rd-team all-leaguer as a freshman last year, caught two passes, including a four-yard TD at the back of the end zone from Casey. Ten different Vikings caught passes in the game.

The defensive highlight of the night came from Joseph, who made a diving, full-extension interception in front of Mataio Talalemotu on the right sideline in the first half, the second of three turnovers forced on the night. The Viks seasoned O-line did a good job of keeping the disruptive Malo (20 tackles for loss, 2nd in the Big Sky in 2021) out of the backfield, but the 6-1, 270-pound Seattle native did force Casey to put the ball on the carpet as he tried to pivot out of harm’s way. Senior EJ Ane, a transfer from San Jose State expected to compete for a starting position on the defensive line, was able to scoop up the ball.

The Vikings defense gave up a pair of long drives in the first half, but was able to keep the offense off the scoreboard until the second half, when drives began in plus territory.

“Both sides did well,” Barnum said. “Both sides have shined at different times this spring. That’s what we need.”

The Vikings return an experienced defensive unit with nine starters and standouts at each level, with Malo at defensive end, sophomore Parker McKennan at middle linebacker (leading tackler as a freshman in 2021) and two-time All-American senior Anthony Adams back for a final season at cornerback.

SCORING PLAYS

Chachere 4 run
Bennett 4 pass from Casey
Ahmir McGee 3 run
Malary 45 run
Chase 4 pass from Casey

TURNOVER

Joseph interception
Harrell Interception
Ane fumble recovery

OFFENSE-Quarterbacks

Chachere 8-10-1-81, 5 rush-17
Casey 16-21-114-2td, 4 rush-16
West 0-1-1
Filer 0-3

OFFENSE-rushing

Malary 6-61-td
Easterling 8-44
A.McGee 7-25-td
Kelly 1-4
J.McGee 1-1

OFFENSE Receiving

Chase 9-60-td
Kelly 3-55
Rodriguez 3-15
Bennett 2-10-td
A.McGee 2-26
Talalemotu 1-12
Spence 1-11
Malary 1-0
Third Gill 1-0

DEFENSE

Joseph int-5t
Holt 4t
bell tfl-3t
west pbu-3t
malo tfl-qbp-3t
McKenna qbp-3t
Bolin 2t
Adams 2t
Jackson 2t
Final 2t
Porter 2t
Crocker 2t
Rusnak 2t
Harrelll int-t
fortress t
Gaines pbu-t
Urena 2pbu
Freeman t
Delacruz t
brown t
Ane fr-t

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