BUTTE, Mont. — A couple key missed opportunities plagued Southern Oregon as the Raiders dropped their 2011 football season opener to Montana Tech, 50-47 in two overtimes Saturday afternoon at Alumni Coliseum.

BUTTE, Mont. — A couple key missed opportunities plagued Southern Oregon as the Raiders dropped their 2011 football season opener to Montana Tech, 50-47 in two overtimes Saturday afternoon at Alumni Coliseum.

The loss gives the Raiders an 0-1 record as they begin their first season under new head coach Craig Howard. Southern Oregon mounted an improbable comeback from a 10-point deficit in the final minutes of regulation, but fell short in the second overtime.

"Our boys really fought hard," Howard said. "It wasn't because of effort that we lost. We made some critical mistakes and we had to overcome that. It was just a heartbreaker."

After both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime, the Digger defense held the Raiders to a field goal in the second OT. Tyler Crowley's fourth field goal gave SOU the 47-44 advantage, its first lead since early in the second half. But freshman running back Pat Hansen took a pitch to the left side on the Diggers' first play and ran it all the way in for the clinching touchdown, his fifth of the game.

"There was some thought given after that touchdown in overtime to go for two to win it," Howard said, "but I didn't want a coaching decision winning or losing it after the boys had come on strong late. Obviously in hindsight I wish we'd made that call, but I wanted to give them the chance to make plays."

The game did not start the way the Raiders hoped, as SOU turned over the opening kickoff to give Montana Tech the ball and excellent field position. The Diggers took advantage of the opportunity, scoring a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.

The Raiders got on the board on their next possession, converting a fourth-down at the Diggers' 32-yard line before stalling at the 19-yard line. Crowley came on to convert the field goal and pull SOU to within four points.

Southern Oregon quarterback Mike McDonald led the Raider offense on three touchdown drives in the first half as both teams exchanged scores. The Raiders led 24-20 at halftime, but the SOU offense stalled for most of the second half as Montana Tech scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 10-point lead.

Late in the third quarter, McDonald broke to the left and picked up 30 yards before a Montana Tech defender pushed him out of bounds at the 5-yard line. McDonald was shaken up on the play and missed the next two plays for the Raiders.

With backup quarterback A.J. Palazzolo in for McDonald, the Raiders had second-and-goal from the 1-yard line trailing by 10 points at the start of the fourth quarter. Palazzolo fumbled the snap and Montana Tech recovered the ball for SOU's third costly turnover of the game.

The Diggers moved the ball out past the 30-yard line, but the Raider defense held and kept the offense within two scores. McDonald came back in for SOU and the Raider offense responded with a scoring drive culminated by Crowley's second field goal to make it a 34-27 contest.

A big return for the Diggers on the ensuing kickoff gave the hosts a short field midway through the fourth quarter.

With 5:39 remaining in the game, the Diggers had a fourth-and-one deep in the Raiders' territory, Hansen converted on the run and four plays later Montana Tech kicked a 32-yard field goal to reclaim a two-possession lead with less than four minutes to play.

The Raiders returning the ensuing kickoff to midfield and a personal foul penalty moved the ball to the Montana Tech 35-yard line. Three plays later McDonald connected on his third touchdown pass of the game to pull SOU to 37-34 with just under three minutes remaining.

Southern Oregon sacked Montana Tech quarterback Brian Schwarzkoph at the 13-yard line on first down and then stopped Hansen for a 3-yard loss. On the following play, Schwarzkoph threw to the sideline where the ball was tipped and intercepted, giving the Raiders the ball at the MT 26-yard line with 1:47 left to play.

A couple short plays set up third-and-seven for SOU, and McDonald broke out of the pocket and ran to the left, going out of bounds just far enough to pick up the first down at the 16-yard line. On another third-and-seven play, McDonald threw to the end zone, but the receiver could not come down with it and the Raiders sent Crowley out for the game-tying 30-yard field goal to force overtime.