- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Any chance that Washington State might overlook Portland State evaporated when the Cougars lost their first two games of the season.

Saturday’s game against the Vikings is critical for the Cougars, who are playing their final nonconference game before heading into a tough Pacific-12 schedule.

Washington State (0-2) has lost to Rutgers and Nevada the past two weeks, games it was favored to win. This is their home opener in Pullman.

Portland State is an FCS school, and the Cougars have never lost to such an opponent. But they have had some close games against the lower division opponents.

Portland State (1-1) played in Pullman in 2008, losing 48-9. But the Vikings knocked WSU quarterbacks Kevin Lopina and Gary Rogers out of that game with injuries, leaving third-stringer Marshall Lobbestael to lead his team to victory.

“Our motto is to respect everyone,” offensive lineman Joe Dahl said. “We all know that Big Sky teams are capable of winning every game they play.”

Dahl said a major goal for the offensive line this week is to reduce penalties.

“We can’t be killing drives with penalties,” he said.

This is Portland State’s second game against a Pac-12 team this season. It lost 29-14 at Oregon State on Aug. 30, dropping them to 2-31 all-time against FBS schools. They are 0-13 against Pac-12 schools.

“We are not looking past anyone,” insisted Jamal Morrow, a running back for Washington State.

And Portland State should not ignore the WSU running backs, even though rushers are often considered afterthoughts in coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense.

When the offense is working well, running backs should receive plenty of touches as pass receivers. But the offense was not clicking in a 24-13 loss at Nevada last week.

“In the end they should have more yards than everybody,” Leach said of his running backs. “We need to get it in their hands a bunch.”

Look for Morrow, Gerard Wicks and Theron West to be major targets of quarterback Connor Halliday, the nation’s passing leader.

Leach is impressed by Portland State.

“They’re a good, aggressive team; run a variety of defense,” he said. “They’ll come up on you and press you, and they’ll play off you, and they’ll roll through several things, give you some variety.”

Dahl said the Cougars must stay positive despite the poor start.

“We don’t want to get down on ourselves and squander the entire season,” Dahl said.

What to know about the Portland State at Washington State game:

VIKINGS RAMPAGE: Portland State piled up 507 yards of offense in edging lower-division Western Oregon 45-38 last week. Shaq Richard rushed for a career-high 151 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Quarterbacks Paris Penn and Kieran McDonagh combined for 321 yards of total offense and five touchdowns passing and rushing.

HALLIDAY SHINES: Halliday leads the nation with 921 passing yards, having completed 78 of 113 passes for six touchdowns and three interceptions in two games. The Cougars have run only 32 times for 44 yards. WSU averages 482 yards of offense per game.

RUN PARIS RUN!: Portland State quarterback Paris Penn has run 14 times for 180 yards in two games, an average of 12.1 yards a carry. Penn ran for a career-high 112 yards on nine carries at Oregon State.

WHOA, NELLIE!: Legendary sports broadcaster Keith Jackson, a member of the WSU class of 1954, will be honored this weekend by the school’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. Jackson was the first play-by-play announcer on “Monday Night Football” and a fixture on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” during a career that spanned more than 40 years. A journalism building on the WSU campus will be renamed Keith M. Jackson Hall.

WSU RECEIVERS: Ten WSU players caught a pass against Rutgers and nine made a reception at Nevada. Vince Mayle leads the way with a Pac-12-best 20 catches while Isiah Myers has 15 receptions.

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