Portland State puts football back on football

(STATS) - The Portland State football program is still trying to regain normalcy, but the Vikings got a big lift Saturday.

The offseason deaths of two players in the program, linebacker AJ Schlatter and left tackle Kyle Smith, has stunned everybody from coach Bruce Barnum on down.

But the official groundbreaking for the new Viking Pavilion, a renovation of the current Peter W. Stott Center, capped a day in which a 65-play scrimmage provided a preview for next season.

There were five scoring plays on offense and eight series' stops on defense during the scrimmage. Senior running back Nate Tago scored on 83- and 4-yard runs, while quarterback Alex Kuresa was 10 of 13 for 173 yards and a touchdown.

For the defense, junior college transfer linebacker Taylor Biaggi had seven tackles, including a "touch" sack.

Bonding together is pivotal for the Vikings, who did just that last year when they rallied around the popular Barnum, who opened the season as the interim head coach. But his team's breakout season led to Barnum receiving a five-year contract extension, and he was named STATS FCS Coach of the Year following their 9-3 finish and second playoff appearance in school history.

Kuresa made the offense go last year and is joined by a number of returning key skill-position players. The Vikings defense suffered losses, but the returning playmakers include cornerback Xavier Coleman and defensive ends Michael Doman and Davond Dade.

Portland State opens its 2016 season by hosting Central Washington on Sept. 3

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