ASHLAND — Southern Oregon's high-powered offense will face a tough football road test this weekend when the Raiders visit No. 16 Montana Tech in a Frontier Conference at 11 a.m. PST in Butte, Mont.
Southern Oregon (2-1) boasts the fifth-ranked scoring offense in the NAIA, averaging 43 points per contest.
The Raiders scored three touchdowns in the first five minutes of last Saturday's 45-7 win over Dickinson State, and SOU will have to score a lot of points to take down a Montana Tech (3-1) team that has beaten a pair of ranked teams — No. 2 Carroll and No. 22 Rocky Mountain — already this season.
The game will be streamed live online, and fans will be able to watch the game by following the links on the SOU athletics site www.souraiders.com.
"Montana Tech is a good football team," said Raider coach Craig Howard. "They are athletic and fly around on defense and have some big-time play-makers on offense."
Quarterback Nick Baker leads a Digger offense that has averaged nearly 30 points per game. The junior has completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 1,044 yards and eight touchdowns with six interceptions. Pat Hansen has rushed for 336 yards and five scores for the Diggers, and Mike Touzinsky leads the team with 38 tackles, including three sacks.
Tech dropped its season opener to Eastern Oregon, 26-23, before bouncing back the following week with a 37-20 upset of perennial power Carroll.
Montana Tech has won its past two games on the road, defeating Montana Western 30-24 on Sept. 15 and taking down Rocky Mountain 24-6 last weekend.
The Southern Oregon offense ranks first among Frontier Conference teams in nearly every statistical category, and the Raiders rank favorably among the NAIA leaders as well.
Southern Oregon is first in the nation in first downs (29.7 per game) and total offense (585.7 yards per game), while the Raiders' 349 passing yards per contest ranks third.
Cole McKenzie leads the NAIA in receiving yards, averaging 145 per game, and Mike Olson ranks second in scoring (12.7 points per game).
Quarterback Austin Dodge has averaged 336 passing yards and 353.3 yards of total offense per game, with both numbers ranking second in the nation.
McKenzie's 8.3 catches per game ranks third, and the SOU defense has posted some impressive stats as well with Juwuan Brown ranking third in sack rate (1.3 per game) and Kalii Robinson ranking fourth in tackles (12.7 per game).
Today's game will be SOU's first road contest this season against a Frontier Conference West Division opponent, ramping up the importance of picking up a win.
Last season, the Diggers defeated the Raiders 50-47 in a double-overtime game in Butte, and SOU will be looking to leave Montana with a different outcome this weekend.
"We are playing for something really important," Howard said. "Our goal is to win the Frontier Conference, and right now our challenge is to go on the road against a quality opponent and find a way to come out of Butte still in control of our own destiny."