When the Washington State scheduled Division I-AA's Portland State in football, the Vikings were supposed to be a punching bag for the Cougars to beat up on before the Pac-10 schedule. But the Cougars are off to an 0-3 start — including the worst loss in school history two weeks ago.
PULLMAN — This certainly wasn’t what Jim Sterk had in mind.
Last summer, when the Washington State athletic director agreed to host Division I-AA’s Portland State, the Vikings were supposed to be a punching bag for the Cougars to beat up on before the Pac-10 schedule.
But between August 2007 and today, WSU has changed coaching staffs, undergone a roster overhaul, and the team is off to an 0-3 start — including the worst loss in school history two weeks ago.
Now the program is simply trying to avert an all-out crisis. The thought of losing to Portland State today has WSU fans on edge.
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“I may go for a run for stress relief before I head up to the stadium,” Sterk said.
Washington State has had 17 players make their first career starts in its first three games, and 17 walk-ons have seen significant playing time — including seven starts by walk-ons, Sterk pointed out.
“We’re growing a lot of first-timers out there that need our support,” Sterk said. “People need to be a little patient, but we’ll see a lot of improvements over the year.”
Patience is something Cougars fans have had over the years, but a loss to Portland State (1-1) might test that patience more than ever.
The intrigue of this game extends to the other sideline as well.
Former NFL coach Jerry Glanville is in his second season of coaching Portland State. He also brought with him close friend Mouse Davis to serve as the offensive coordinator. Both served as assistants at Hawaii in 2005 and 2006.
Davis coached Portland State from 1975 to 1980, when he made his mark with the “run-and-shoot” offense the Vikings will run today.
“They’re characters,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said of Glanville and Davis.
In Glanville’s first season, the Vikings went 3-8 — including an 73-68 loss to Weber State, the highest-scoring regulation game in NCAA history. No doubt Portland State has received more attention since Glanville and Davis’ arrival, but a win against a Pac-10 school could be just what the program needs to get more recruiting buzz.
Wulff seemed most concerned about his team’s focus — and not letting the spectacle of Glanville become a distraction.
Last season, Portland State upset Wulff’s Eastern Washington Eagles, 28-21.
“The thing I’m most concerned about is if before pregame warmup that he [Glanville] will be over on our side of the field joking with our players,” Wulff said. “Because he did that last year.
“You can’t get too concerned about it. You’ve got to just play your game. I’m sure there are people that could talk for hours about Jerry and Mouse, but we’ve got a football game to play. We’ve just got to stay focused on what we need to take care of, and that’s our own business.”
“I’m anxious,” Sterk said. “But I’m anxious before every game.”
“We’re facing a team that is going to come in here and play their best football,” Wulff said. “It’s no forgone conclusion that we are going to win this game.”