DILLON, Mont. — Up by just three points, 25-22, and struggling to live up to the record-setting scoring pace it had established in its first six games, the Southern Oregon Raiders went into halftime at Montana Western facing pressure from all sides.
In the locker room, head coach Craig Howard made sure the Raiders understood the stakes.
"I told them that they were grown men and that we were fighting for our playoff lives," he said. "And I told them that in the second half, they need to play like they love each other.
"Once we got out there we were able to establish the run, and then we just caught fire, and ... it's hard to stop us once we get into that crazy mode."
The 23rd-ranked Raiders went crazy again all right, scoring 35 points in the third quarter to pull away from Montana Western and established program records for points and yards in a 76-29 rout of the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at Vigilante Field.
The win was Southern Oregon's third in a row and improved the Raiders to 5-2, both overall and in the Frontier Conference. They remained one game behind both seventh-ranked Carroll College (6-1 Frontier) and eighth-ranked Montana Tech (6-1 Frontier), both of which were also victorious Saturday.
Southern Oregon hosts Carroll next Saturday in a game that could give the Raiders' once fledgling playoff hopes a major shot in the arm.
"Well, it's going to be a huge game for us, of course," Howard said, "but that's why I came to SOU, for games like that. I think the school and the community are going to get behind us. It's a perfect weekend for college football in Ashland and we've got the right opponent coming in."
The Raiders' 76 points broke a nearly 50-year-old program record for points in a game — they scored 70 against Moffett Air Force Base in 1964 — while their 732 yards broke the single-game program record for the third straight week. Southern Oregon limited Montana Western to 218 total yards, including only 17 rushing yards, while forcing three turnovers and a pair of safeties.
Austin Dodge threw for more than 400 yards for the third straight game, tallying 420 yards and three touchdowns on 31 of 47 passing. Those numbers pushed his season totals to 205 completions for 2,751 yards and 25 touchdowns, setting new SOU records in all three categories.
Manny Barragan ran for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Zach Marshall rushed for a score and took a screen pass 50 yards up the right sideline for another touchdown. Joseph Wiggan also scored for the Raiders, rushing for 40 yards. Patrick Donahue caught 13 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown, while Cole McKenzie caught eight passes for 117 yards and two scores. Mike Olson caught four passes and ran for a pair of touchdowns.
Kalii Robinson led the SOU defense with seven tackles, including one for a loss, while Juwuan Brown tallied four tackles and a sack.
For Montana Western (2-5), Jeff Logan threw for 180 yards and three touchdowns, while Dylan Kramer rushed for a touchdown and Matt Lickfold led the team with four catches for 62 yards and a score.
The first half remained close throughout as both teams struggled with turnovers and the windy conditions. Southern Oregon scored the first two points off a blocked punt safety, but the Raiders fumbled away the ensuing free kick to give Montana Western the ball deep in the red zone. Southern Oregon's defense forced a three-and-out and the Bulldogs missed a short field goal to give the ball back to SOU.
Dodge took advantage of the opportunity, slinging a deep pass through the win to Donahue for a 69-yard touchdown. Colin Amsler's point after attempt missed, and the Raiders led 8-0. The Bulldogs responded two possessions later, tying the game with a Kramer touchdown and successful two-point conversion.
Montana Western took a brief lead early in the second quarter after Logan found Junior Mataafa in the end zone from five yards out to make it 15-8. The Raiders tied it when Dodge connected with McKenzie from nine yards out. On SOU's next drive Jaylenn Hart took a pass from Amsler on a fake punt attempt 30 yards down the sideline to keep the drive alive and set up a 22-yard Amsler field goal.
Southern Oregon added to its lead with an 11-yard run by Barragan for his first score of the game, but Logan hooked up with Jordan Pastras on a 54-yard score to pull Montana Western within three at 25-22 going into halftime.
The Raiders took control in the third quarter, scoring 35 straight points before Montana Western finally picked up a touchdown late in the period. Southern Oregon took the opening drive 72 yards on 11 plays, scoring on a 1-yard run by Olson. On the Raiders' next drive, Barragan ran it in from 10 yards out.
"The wind was a factor, and we adjusted to it," Howard said.
Olson scored on another 1-yard run a few minutes later and Dodge hit McKenzie for a 59-yard score to set the SOU season record with his 25th TD pass. Marshall's 16-yard touchdown run pushed SOU over 60 points for the third consecutive game with a 60-22 lead.
Montana Western scored its final points late in the third, when Logan hit Lickfold for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Wiggan's 3-yard touchdown run put SOU up 67-29 early in the fourth quarter, and a few drives later the Raiders picked up two more points when the fourth-down snap sailed over the UMW punter's head and out into the back of the end zone for another safety.
Southern Oregon regained possession at midfield following an interception with less than four minutes remaining, and Marshall took a screen pass from Chris Kammel 50 yards into the end zone for the final, record-setting score.
"It was a complete team victory," Howard said. "We struggled early, but then at halftime I thought, 'It's time to go, men.' And they responded in that third quarter."
Southern Oregon 76, Montana Western 29
At Vigilante Field
Southern Oregon 8 17 35 16 —76
Montana Western 8 14 7 0 —29
SOU — Safety
SOU — Donahue 69 pass from Dodge (kick failed)
MW — Kramer 3 run (Peniston pass from Logan)
MW — Mataafa 5 pass from Logan (Crossley kick)
SOU — McKenzie 9 pass from Dodge (Amsler kick)
SOU — FG Amsler 22
SOU — Barragan 11 run (Amsler kick)
MW — Pastras 54 pass from Logan (Crossley kick)
SOU — Olson 1 run (Amsler kick)
SOU — Barragan 10 run (Amsler kick)
SOU — Olson 1 run (Amsler kick)
SOU — McKenzie 59 pass from Dodge (Amsler kick)
SOU — Marshall 16 run (Amsler kick)
MW — Lickfold 23 pass from Logan (Crossley kick)
SOU — Wiggan 3 run (Amsler kick)
SOU — Safety
SOU — Marshall 50 pass from Kammel (Amsler kick)
First Downs 31 16
Rushes-Yards 54-246 30-17
Passing Yards 486 201
Comp-Att-Int 33-50-1 16-44-1
Total Yards 732 218
Punts 3-30.3 9-33.3
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-2
Penalties-yards 7-84 3-20
Southern Oregon — Barragan 22-100, Wiggan 9-40, Marshall 6-31, Hart 1-30, Donahue 1-19, Scottow 1-6, Kammel 4-6, Olson 3-4, team 3-(-2).
Montana Western — Kramer 14-33, Lake 3-11, Logan 8-1, Lickfold 3-(-5), Detwiler 2-(-23).
Southern Oregon — Dodge 31-47-1 420, Kammel 2-2-0 66, Schroder 0-1-0 0.
Montana Western — Logan 14-34-0 180, Bradley 2-10-1 21.
Southern Oregon — Donahue 13-222, McKenzie 8-117, Olson 4-44, Sierra 3-29, Barragan 3-22, Marshall 2-52.
Montana Western — Lickfold 4-62, Pastras 3-57, Hulse 2-30, Perbera 2-21, Smith 2-15, Kramer 1-6, Peniston 1-5, Mataafa 1-5.