BUTTE, Mont. — Southern Oregon University's perfect regular season is complete, and so is the collapse of Montana Tech's Frontier Conference title defense. The two coincided Saturday afternoon as the fifth-ranked Raiders thwarted the No. 22 Orediggers, 24-10, at Alumni Coliseum.
For the first time since 2010, the Frontier has an undefeated champion. And after punctuating their dominating run and becoming the first 10-0 team in SOU history, the Raiders are mortal locks to get rewarded with a Nov. 18 home game in the first round of the NAIA Championship Series.
They prevailed with a high-wire defensive act against the Diggers (6-4) — who, after setting an NAIA record with 932 yards of offense in a 93-19 win against Montana State-Northern on Oct. 21, lost three in a row and will miss the postseason for the first time since 2014. Their point total Saturday was the team's lowest since Sept. 13, 2014, and they didn't find the end zone until halfway through the fourth quarter. They'd scored at least 19 points in their previous 31 regular-season games.
The Raiders' offensive output matched their lowest of the season, but touchdown catches by Matt Boudreaux of 28 yards in the first quarter and 39 in the third helped them stay in control. The senior had a career-high 179 reception yards on eight connections with quarterback Tanner Trosin.
After Tech quarterback Quinn McQueary ran in a four-yard score with 5:33 left to trim SOU's lead to 18-10, Rey Vega unleashed an 81-yard rushing TD to seal the deal. Vega rushed 14 times for 121 yards, his second 100-yard game in a row, and helped the Raiders accumulate 443 yards of offense.
The Diggers totaled 293 yards and failed to make most of them count. Their misfortunes piled up in the first half against a revved-up Raider defense: McQueary was intercepted by Dareion Bell from SOU's 23-yard line on their first drive; Oshay Dunmore forced and recovered a fumble on the first play of their second drive; they got to SOU's 11 before getting pushed back by penalties and were eventually forced to punt; they were stopped on four plays in a row inside SOU's 5; and, later, they were stopped on fourth-and-1 from SOU's 6.
In punctuating the half, McQueary was picked off again by AJ Cooper. It set up Marcus Montano's 28-yard field goal that put the Raiders up 9-3 at the break.
SOU refused to break in the second half, too, stopping the Diggers on separate fourth-downs at its own 7- and 5-yard lines. At the beginning of the third, Keegan Lawrence blocked Derrick Holt's punt attempt in the end zone for a safety, which preceded Trosin's second TD pass to Boudreaux. Josiah Maglente-Tonu also forced a fourth turnover by causing and recovering a McQueary fumble.
Tyson Cooper led the Raiders with 12 tackles. AJ Cooper and Isiah Carter both had 11, and Carter's total made him the fifth Raider ever to record 300 tackles in a career.
Trosin completed 17 of 41 passes for 302 yards and was intercepted twice.
The final rankings and 16-team playoff field will be announced at 2 p.m. today. No one in front of the Raiders lost, meaning they're likely to stay at No. 5. That would still be their highest position ever going into the playoff.
Home playoff tickets would go on sale Monday.