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MailTribune.com
  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Southern Oregon's revised goal: finish up strong

    Raiders look to go out on a high note with victory in season finale at Montana Tech
  • The Southern Oregon University football team this week finds itself in a situation it's managed to avoid for nearly two years — preparing for a game which has zero playoff implications.
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  • ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon University football team this week finds itself in a situation it's managed to avoid for nearly two years — preparing for a game which has zero playoff implications.
    A week after suffering an agonizing home loss to Eastern Oregon, the unranked Raiders head to Butte, Mont., for a playing-out-the-string game against Montana Tech, another team that had hoped today's game would mean far more than it does.
    Things went south in a hurry for SOU.
    Only two weeks ago the Raiders were tied with Carroll College atop the Frontier Conference standings and ranked 20th in the NAIA coaches' poll heading into a clash with the then fifth-ranked Fighting Saints. A second straight conference title was within the Raiders' grasp. Two games and 10 turnovers later Southern Oregon (6-4, 6-3 Frontier) has a much more modest goal in mind: go out on a positive note.
    "I don't blame players for turnovers, I blame myself," SOU head coach Craig Howard said. "I mean, you coach them not to turn the ball over. We just can't make those critical mistakes. The key is that we continue to love one another and continue to coach hard. Finish the season strong with a win at Montana Tech."
    Montana Tech (3-6, 3-6) has its own sob story to overcome. The Orediggers were the preseason co-favorite, along with Carroll, to claim the Frontier Conference championship, but have been out of contention for a while thanks to a four-game losing streak that included a 59-32 loss to SOU. In that Oct. 5 game, Southern Oregon junior quarterback Austin Dodge shattered his own program record by tossing eight touchdown passes, including three apiece to brothers Ryan and Matt Retzlaff.
    The Orediggers have split their four games since, but still find themselves in seventh place in the eight-team league.
    The Raiders can secure no worse than a tie for second place by earning their third straight win over Montana Tech, and have a shot at second. Also, the Raiders have a host of statistical milestones to shoot for.
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