Trailing 34-14 to North Dakota in the third quarter and facing its eighth consecutive loss of the season, the Portland State University football team turned to redshirt freshman quarterback Davis Alexander.
Alexander, a 2016 graduate of Gig Harbor High School and The News Tribune’s 2015 All-Area player of the year, went 7-for-10 passing for 67 yards, a rushing touchdown and an interception in a little more than a quarter of action against the Fighting Hawks.
Portland State ultimately lost the game, but Alexander’s late-game performance was good enough for head coach Bruce Barnum, who named the former Tides player the starter for the rest of the season.
“It was amazing,” Alexander said. “I felt like I was champing at the bit ... I wanted to play so bad.”
Alexander was the third quarterback used by PSU this season. In his three starts, the team’s final three games of the season, Alexander went 82-for-146 (56.2 percent), throwing for 1,165 yards (388 average), five touchdowns passing, one touchdown rushing and two interceptions.
In his first start against Cal Poly, he threw for 409 yards.
“I played pretty well against North Dakota, and I wanted to prove that it wasn’t a fluke,” Alexander said. “I was full of confidence. I don’t like it any differently than that. I felt like my teammates believes in me. A lot of my teammates were excited for me. I think what helped is they were just as excited for me as I was for myself.”
Watching the quarterback carousel in front of him all season was a challenge, Alexander admitted.
“I needed a lot of mental fortitude,” Alexander said. “You never know if you’re actually going to get a chance. But I’d say I stayed pretty even-keel.”
Alexander said he didn’t lobby the coaches for a chance to play. He just put in the work and waiting for his opportunity.
“I didn’t press the issue at all,” Alexander. “I think that honestly hurts you and hurts your team even more. You have to support the guy in front of you and believe he’s going to lead the team to victory. You just have to be ready to go.”
Alexander’s next task will be to collect his first college win. The Vikings went 0-11 this season, finishing in last place in the Big Sky. In Alexander’s three starts, Portland State scored 78 points, but gave up 157 points. What went so wrong this season?
“Just about everything,” Alexander said. “It just seemed like we were in a hole. The offense and defense were just never clicking at the same time.”
Still, there are some reasons for optimism for the Vikings. Alexander will be the frontrunner to be the starting quarterback next season and will look to build on a breakout campaign.
We have some good pieces. We have a lot to work on, obviously. I just want to bring a new energy to this team, get them back to where they were during my recruiting year, when they were 9-3.
Davis Alexander, former Gig Harbor High quarterback
“It’s going to be exciting,” Alexander said. “We have some good pieces. We have a lot to work on, obviously. I just want to bring a new energy to this team, get them back to where they were during my recruiting year, when they were 9-3.”
Alexander said the biggest adjustment to the college game was the speed.
“I’m sure that’s what everyone says — but the speed really is the biggest thing,” Alexander said.
But he acclimated quickly, and once he did, he quickly earned the trust of the Portland State coaches.
“In high school, (previous Gig Harbor High School coach Aaron) Chantler gave me a lot of the rope with the offense and the playbook. So did Portland State once I started playing pretty decent. They gave me the keys to the offense, let me call audibles, all that stuff. That’s been super cool with them trusting me.”
Alexander has noticed lots of folks back home have been keeping tabs on him throughout the season.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Alexander said. “I have a really good support system back in Gig Harbor. The people back home have been awesome. There have been so many people have been following and watching. People were very proud of the fact that I stayed level headed when things weren’t necessarily going right for me, when I wasn’t starting. I had everyone’s full support.”