Raiders hit the road for game against RMC
Southern Oregon finds itself on the road again.
The Raider football team, with the third of four straight games on the road, makes its farthest-ever trip east when it visits Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont.
SOU will make the 2,352-mile trip in one day ' departing and returning Saturday via charter aircraft.
The Raiders (2-1), who moved up two places to seventh in this week's NAIA rankings, routed the Battlin' Bears, 50-7, in the first meeting between the two schools last year at Raider Stadium.
Rocky Mountain (1-3) has lost seven of its last eight games, but SOU coach Jeff Olson cautions that circumstances could lead to a closer-than-expected contest.
They seem to play extremely well at home, he says. We'll be a long way from home, so we're in for a real challenge.
Southern Oregon is coming off a 20-10 win at Humboldt State, it's second victory of the season over the Lumberjacks.
Rocky Mountain lost 45-6 to Western Montana in its most recent outing Sept. 24.
They played two of the top teams in the Frontier Conference very tough, says Olson, referring to the Bears' losses of 20-3 to then-third-ranked Carroll College and 35-23 to Montana Tech.
The Raider defensive backs will get a workout, Olson says. He expects Rocky Mountain to throw 50 or 60 times.
Freshman quarterback Benton Johnson is far and away the Frontier Conference passing leader, having already completed 104-of-202 passes for 1,116 yards and seven touchdowns, but he's suffered 10 interceptions.
His favorite targets are 6-foot-4 junior B.J. Charlton (29 catches for 362 yards and two touchdowns) and sophomore Jon Owen (19 for 152 yards and — TD).
Top ballcarrier Cory Albin, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior, rates fourth in the conference with 175 yards on 53 attempts.
The top player among 14 returning starters from 2001 is two-time All-American safety Travis Salter, who has averaged nearly 12 tackles per outing the past two seasons and assembled a game-high 17 against the Raiders last season.
They have a lot of experience returning on defense, says Olson.
A year ago, Southern Oregon scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and built a 44-0 halftime lead.
It outgained the Bears, 491 yards to 143.
Rocky Mountain will again have to contend with a weapon it had trouble containing last year in running back Dusty McGrorty, who had 118 yards and two touchdowns.
McGrorty led the country with 25 touchdowns last season and currently ranks No. 2 among the scoring leaders with a 14-point clip through three games. He is also third nationally with a 154.89 rushing yards per game.
Arizona State transfer Steve Baker is third in the NAIA for net punting with a 42.89 average, currently the best effort by a Raider player since SOU Sports Hall of Famer Denny Ellis netted 44.3 in 1965.
Baker is fourth nationally among kickers with 7.3 points per game.
A week ago against Humboldt State, the Raiders overcame a lethargic first half of offense and a seven-point second-half deficit in Arcata, Calif.
After being limited to 90 total yards and just four first downs in the opening half, the Raiders came alive for 219 yards and 17 unanswered points in the second half.
A 5-yard Dan Woodward-to-Matt Zosel touchdown connection tied the game 10-10 midway through the third quarter, and McGrorty's 47th career touchdown ' a 2-yard run ' with 1:43 remaining in the third quarter ' gave SOU the lead for good.
I told our coaches and players that it was one of the biggest wins in our time here, says Olson. If we had lost our second straight game with two more road games coming up, our backs really would have been up against the wall.
After the Rocky Mountain game, SOU turns around and goes back to Montana to face Montana State-Northern on Oct. 12 in Havre.
The Raiders return Oct. 19 for a game against Azusa Pacific at home, where they've captured seven contests in a row.