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UND, Portland share similarities

GRAND FORKS -- When the University of North Dakota travels to Portland State on Saturday, the Green and White might look across the field and see a little bit of themselves in the Vikings.

Like North Dakota, Portland State's offense has been hampered by turnovers and penalties. As a result, the Vikings are one of three teams in the Big Sky Conference that are winless in league play.

The Vikings rank No. 1 in the Big Sky in total offense and No. 3 in the nation (537 yards per game), but PSU also leads the league in turnovers and penalties.

UND has turned the ball over 21 times, while the Vikings have committed 23 turnovers. Portland State is third in all of Football Championship Subdivision in turnovers.

The Vikings are also the most penalized team in the conference with 53 flags for 478 yards. The mistakes piled up last week in a loss at Southern Utah in which the Vikings committed five turnovers.

As a result of the mistakes, Portland State's seven points against the Thunderbirds in Cedar City was the lowest Big Sky total for the Vikings since 2006.

Points a'plenty

Both the UND and Portland State offenses will need to limit those mistakes if the two teams are going to enter into another shootout like the one that took place last year in the Alerus Center.

UND's result with Portland State -- which was officially a non-conference game -- a year ago is a reminder of North Dakota's offensive shortcomings this year. UND beat the Vikings 45-37 and backup quarterback Marcus Hendrickson threw for six touchdown passes. This season, UND's quarterbacks have thrown seven touchdowns all season.

In last year's matchup, the Vikings outgained UND 515-401 in total offense. Special teams miscues and Greg Hardin's six catches for 190 yards were too much for PSU to overcome.

But the Vikings racked up yards, led by running back D.J. Adams' 144 rushing yards on 16 carries. Adams, a transfer from Maryland, is averaging 106.1 yards per game this season, which is third-best in the conference.

"He's the guy who's going to carry the load," UND coach Chris Mussman said.

But UND is also concerned with sophomore dual-threat quarterback Kieran McDonagh and Fresno State transfer wide receiver Victor Dean, a who is 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds.

"He's a big, tall kid who's going to be productive in the red zone," Mussman said. "They're gifted offensively."

Dean is one of 11 Football Bowl Subdivision transfers new to the Vikings in 2013.

"It's going to come down to our kids playing better defensively, which we have the last three weeks," Mussman said.