DILLON, Mont. — Sam Rutherford's grand entrance into the Frontier Conference came at the expense of the Southern Oregon University football team on Saturday afternoon.
Rutherford, Montana Western's freshman tailback, rushed 11 times for 185 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Bulldogs jolt the 14th-ranked Raiders with a 38-34 upset victory at Vigilante Field.
UMW quarterback Tyler Hulse hit Collin Sale from 25 yards out for the go-ahead touchdown with 1 minute, 23 seconds left in the game. The Bulldogs (1-0) began their climb out of a 34-24 hole on Rutherford's five-yard score with 5:58 remaining.
SOU dropped to 0-2 overall and in Frontier play going into next Saturday's game at Sacramento State.
The late run spoiled what had otherwise been a strong second-half showing by the Raider defense, which stopped UMW on five straight possessions — four punts preceded a Josh Leff interception — before Rutherford's third TD.
That opened the door for the Raiders to overcome an early 24-12 deficit, which was built in part by Rutherford scoring runs of 45 and 32 yards. SOU junior quarterback Austin Dodge went over the defense to connect with Dylan Young for a 59-yard TD before halftime; Melvin Mason gave the Raiders the lead with a two-yard plunge in the third; and Dodge upped the advantage by leading a 72-yard drive to start the fourth, capped by his nine-yard find of Matt Retzlaff in the end zone.
Dodge went 29-for-43 with 338 passing yards. He took the Raiders to their own 48-yard line following UMW's final TD, but his screen pass on 4th-and-3 was dropped with 23 seconds left.
Last week, in a 35-30 loss to Rocky Mountain, the Raiders got within 18 yards of the go-ahead score before falling short.
Montana Western mustered just seven first-downs in the second half, but SOU came up empty on its last four drives.
Sophomore tailback Zach Marshall had a team-best 71 rushing yards for the Raiders on 15 carries, including one that went for an 18-yard score in the second quarter. Retzlaff put SOU on the board for the first time with a four-yard run that polished off a 78-yard drive.
Hulse — a junior who played his first two years at UMW as a receiver — completed 13 of 25 passes for 119 yards and a six-yard rushing TD in his debut at quarterback. That led the way to a huge day on the ground: UMW averaged 6.2 yards on 47 carries for a total of 293.
The Bulldogs, who were picked to finish seventh in the Frontier Conference, topped out at 211 rushing yards in 2012. Dylan Kramer tacked on 86 yards.
SOU's offense totaled 494 yards to the Bulldogs' 420.
After their visit to Sacramento State — a member of the Big Sky Conference — the Raiders will resume conference play on Sept. 21 at Eastern Oregon.