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Viking offense suffocated by quick ASU defense

NO ESCAPE: Portland State junior quarterback Connor Kavanaugh tries to evade ASU senior defensive end Jamarr Robinson during Saturday's game. Kavanaugh finished 12-of-23 passing wit 146 yards and an interception in the loss. (Photo by Aaron Lavinksy)
NO ESCAPE: Portland State junior quarterback Connor Kavanaugh tries to evade ASU senior defensive end Jamarr Robinson during Saturday's game. Kavanaugh finished 12-of-23 passing wit 146 yards and an interception in the loss. (Photo by Aaron Lavinksy)

When Portland State coach Nigel Burton made the decision to start junior quarterback Connor Kavanaugh on Saturday, he expected his signal caller’s speed and mobility to be a factor.

Unfortunately for the first-year coach, Kavanaugh and the rest of the PSU running attack were neutralized all night as the Vikings fell to ASU 54-9 in their regular season opener.

“With a guy like Connor Kavannaugh, I think he’s used to being able to escape the pocket, see a linebacker, shake him down and go, and he wasn’t able to pull away from these guys,” Burton said. “There were some times when he could have easily converted some things he’s able to do in practice that, with some of the guys [ASU] has running around now, he wasn’t able to pull away.”

In 2009, Kavanaugh averaged 5.4 yards per carry, on Saturday however, the Sun Devil defense held him to a pedestrian 1.5.

“They’re definitely fast; faster than me,” Kavanaugh said. “I learned to throw the ball away a little more than I did in the past. They are big, they’re quick, and they’re fast.”

Overall, PSU (0-1) ran the ball 25 times for a total of 29 yards against an ASU defense that ranked first in the Pac-10 last year in stopping the run.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge, Arizona State is a great team,” Burton said. “That’ll probably be the best, or one of the best, defenses in the Pac-10.”

The game started out well for the Vikings as the defense held the Sun Devils on their opening possession and forced a punt.

But after a field goal gave PSU an early 3-0 lead, the Vikings never answered back as ASU (1-0) went on a 37-3 run to put the game out of reach.

“They started bringing some pressure, [the] offense line played good, [it was] just up to me to get the ball out of my hands as quick as I could,” Kavanaugh said. “When you’re playing a team like Arizona State, you can’t kick field goals, you’ve got to get touchdowns.”

Some of the offensive miscues for the Vikings included allowing eight tackles for losses, three interceptions and one intentional grounding penalty in the end zone for a safety.

“Unfortunately, we did a lot of things to beat ourselves tonight,” Burton said. “We had a lot of miscommunication errors. Some things that didn’t even happen in practice.”

PSU never took a snap in the ASU red zone.

The sole bright spot for the Vikings was sophomore place kicker Zach Brown, who provided all the offense for PSU on Saturday with three field goals of at least 42 yards.

“There’s a reason the guy is pre-season All-America,” Burton said. “He wasn’t feeling very well tonight either and he still made a 52 yarder.”

Defensively, the Vikings allowed 553 yards of total offense, including six touchdowns by the ASU running back combination of Cameron Marshall and Deantre Lewis.

“It was execution, basic defense problems,” Burton said. “We’ll go back to the film and see exactly what each young man saw that made him do something different than what we had done that past three weeks, but we didn’t see anything new.”

Reach the reporter at tyler.emerick@asu.edu


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