So Davis goes on enjoying himself at Portland State, begging a movie camera from a nearby high school, planning the Vikings' excruciating road trips. Typically, their pregame meal is served by Hughes Air West, but the real travel stories do in fact concern the road. "The worst was in 1975 against Montana State, and it had to be my birthday," says Davis. "We bused 350 miles to a hotel in Spokane, Wash. and the next day bused through the Rockies another 350 to Bozeman, up above Yellowstone Park. The next day we had them 34-28 with two minutes to go. One of their passes bounced off one of our defensive backs into the hands of their receiver, and they won 35-34. Then we had two days to think about it on the bus home." Such jaunts are surely the reason the Vikings lose their share of away games, but they have won 23 of their last 27 at home.
Then there is weather. The conditions the Portland State offense faced at San Francisco State last week seemed the worst possible deterrent to the forward pass. Torrential rains turned tidy, eucalyptus-lined Cox Stadium to the consistency of mashed avocado.
Lomax was sacked on the first play from scrimmage. Then he arose to complete 27 of 39 passes for 412 yards and two touchdowns as Portland State won easily, 37-10. Gaussoin, after a sharp word or two of direction from Davis, consistently found a seam in San Francisco State's coverage and caught 11 passes for 155 yards and one touchdown. Returning to the sideline, he stood beside Davis and said he felt the tone of his instruction had been somewhat harsh.
"I still love you, you know," said Davis with disarming gentleness.
Mollified, Gaussoin said, "Yeah, I know that."
Later, while showering in full uniform, Lomax admitted to finding a perverse sort of glee in struggling in the slop. "If we can throw in this, we can throw in anything." He seemed to be seeing the last quarter again, the teams distinguishable only by the colors of their helmets. "You know, football is a stupid game if you think about it, but it's all such a challenge—the miserable conditions, the defense knowing we're going to pass—I can't help it, I really enjoy playing it."
Davis walked through the steam and sodden uniforms, reaching out to his players, whom he called "all the little poopers who can really fly."
"This is the best group we've had, kidwise," he said. "They believe school is important. They are a joy to be around." The man's love was apparent in his caressing of bruised necks, his deft praise for every player. "Fun game," he said again and again. "Fun game."