Last week the Vikings of Portland State nearly scored an FBS upset when they narrowly lost to San Jose State, 21-17. While surely disappointed with the result, they may have found their guy in QB Dante Chachere. The sophomore from Fresno threw for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also running for another 83. He’s replacing a 3-year starter and so far coaches feel good about what they have. He’s got a deep and talented WR corps to throw to and overall nine starters return on offense.
All eyes are on QB Dante Chachere, who is replacing a record setter for the Vikings. Before his first start last week against San Jose State, he played in 10 games but attempted just two passes. Known for his running ability, he put up 23 carries for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns entering this season. Minus his two interceptions, he was otherwise efficient in his week 1 performance – 7.3 yards per attempt completing 65% of his passes with 2 TDs. The big question coming into this season was his passing ability, which he mostly answered last week.
He’ll have potentially the best WR corps in FCS, which generated 286 yards per game last season, ranking 14th. All four starters return making this the deepest position on the team.
The group is headlined by 5-9 slot receiver Beau Kelly. Despite his diminutive stature and position on the inside, he’s averaged at least 14 yards per catch in three of his last four seasons (the exception was the shortened 2020 season, 12.2 YPC). He led the Big Sky in the 2021 regular season in touchdowns (10), catches (69), and yards (981). Next in line is Nate Bennett, who is a lanky 6-3 and is one of the better route runners in the group. While Kelly is the #1 receiver, Bennett was actually on the field for every offensive snap the Vikings took in week 1, and had the second highest receiving grade per PFF.
Emmanuel Daigbe was a 2019 All-Conference WR who returns after missing time from an injury. He’s been slow out of the gate, with just 27 yards on his 5 catches this year. WR Darien Chase is another exciting player for them and while he didn’t record a stat last week, he’s known for his impressive highlight catches. He was a borderline 3⁄4 star recruit who originally enrolled at Nebraska. Lastly, it is worth mentioning former UW receiver Marquis Spiker is a Portland State Viking, but doesn’t start and hasn’t recorded a catch this year.
Okay, to the running backs. Looking for experience in the running back room, Portland State nabbed Andrew Van Buren as a transfer from Boise State. Similar to Wayne Taulapapa, he was never a primary starter but rather a consistent contributor for multiple seasons. Chachere lead the team in yards (83) and attempts (14), but Van Buren was right behind with 13 carries. However, he turned that into just 29 yards. RB Jalynnee McGee is the only other running back to get any carries, with just four. He’s a physical runner at 5-10, 195 pounds. The offensive line is experienced as well, returning a plethora of talent that has started over the past two seasons.
This is a pass first team that likes to spread teams out. However, they run a lot of plays from the pistol formation, keeping them in a position to run the ball whenever they want. This year they plan to lean on their experienced and talented wide receivers while sprinkling in some Chachere runs to keep teams off balance and take advantage of his athleticism.
It’s an FCS school, so you should expect Washington to dominate defensively. But sometimes teams don’t play these opponents with the same fire as they would against say, a Michigan State team playing in Husky Stadium. Nevertheless, Dante Chachere’s scrambling ability should help us understand whether last week was a fluke or if the pass rushers really will struggle wrapping up sacks this season.
The next best part of this Portland State team are the wide receivers, and Kent State’s had their way at times with UW defensive backs. This will be another good opportunity to shore up the secondary which lacks depth, against a talented group. Small and shifty FCS receivers sometimes gives UW problems and a player like Beau Kelly will be a good test.