SOU gets back on track
Raiders roll past Montana State-Northern in record fashion for season's first victory
ASHLAND ' A 60-watt bulb is enough to shed light on a dark room.
A 61-point outburst on the Lights of Montana State-Northern is equally illuminating on Southern Oregon's true capabilities in what, prior to Saturday, has been a dark season.
The Raiders finally got a taste of an NAIA opponent Saturday afternoon and wasted little time devouring the Lights, 61-0, as an appetizer for more to come from an SOU program determined to regain its swagger.
— This is going to give our whole team some confidence, said SOU senior tailback Dusty McGrorty, who surpassed school and Northwest small-college career rushing records with 250 yards rushing and four scores against the Lights. We just showed the NAIA that Southern Oregon's still here.
If there was any doubt, the Raiders (1-3) erased it early Saturday. SOU scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions, and nine of its first 12 against Montana State-Northern (1-5).
We really showed some of our capabilities today, said SOU senior quarterback Dan Woodward. We're going to feed off that and realize we can go out and take it to some people.
Accepting the challenge of a sluggish start to the season, Woodward completed 8 of 10 passes for 132 yards and three TDs before calling it a day midway through the second quarter. He hit Bobby Poeltl for a 17-yard score on SOU's first drive, then added TD tosses to Jared Leeper and Andrae Thurman to help the Raiders open a 28-0 lead with 7:24 to play until halftime.
I think there was just a need to light a fire under this team, said Woodward. I know I came out with a different mind-set. I was fired up, I was antsy, I was ready to go. A lot of people were in the locker room before the game just chomping at the bit. We were ready to come out and play football from the get-go.
The only things in question after the 34-0 first half were whether the much-maligned Raider defense would post its first shutout of the season, and whether McGrorty would reach his milestone.
The defense did its part by pulling down five interceptions, grabbing one fumble and thwarting the Lights' lone serious scoring threat as Mario Vital broke through to block Chris Nagel's 32-yard, fourth-quarter field goal attempt.
At halftime I challenged the guys to finish the job today because we've had the lead in all of our other games and not done that, said SOU head coach Jeff Olson. But they finished today.
As for McGrorty, the senior workhorse made his case for a run at breaking former teammate Griff Yates' rushing marks by busting loose for 101 yards in the first half and 106 more on his first four carries of the third quarter.
Needing only 43 more yards to eclipse Yates, McGrorty was given the chance to set the mark in front of his home crowd, accomplishing the feat on his 32nd carry of the game when he bolted left on a toss play and scored from 6-yards out to make it 61-0 with 5:42 to play in the game.
I don't like doing that to other coaches because I certainly don't want it done to me, Olson said of the decision to keep McGrorty in the game, but I wanted to see him get the record here in front of his home fans. His family's here, his predecessor Griff Yates is here. I think it's a special thing. They may not understand that on the other sidelines, but I wanted to see him get it done here.
To wit, McGrorty's name was called on eight of SOU's 11 plays on the fateful fourth-quarter drive. Obviously exhausted but equally determined, the senior All-American got the final yards he needed on the 6-yard scamper, then earned a well-deserved seat on the SOU bench.
That last 30-some yards seemed like the toughest of my life, said McGrorty. I was thinking about (the record) and trying to break tackles and my hands were getting sore, but we finally got it.
And, in turn, SOU finally got a much-needed breakout victory.
Our main goal today was to get away from being so uptight and get back to having fun and playing the game the way it's supposed to be played, said Woodward. I felt like everybody was smiling today and ready to play for the first time in a while. And to have Dusty run hard like that and give me a cushion for some time back there, it seemed like old times.
And like a harbinger of more good times to come.
At Raider Stadium
SOU ' Poeltl 17 pass from Woodward (Baker kick)
SOU ' McGrorty 6 run (Baker kick)
SOU ' Leeper 25 pass from Woodward (Baker kick)
SOU ' Thurman 4 pass from Woodward (Baker kick)
SOU ' McGrorty — run (kick failed)
SOU ' McGrorty 34 run (Baker kick)
SOU ' Poeltl 25 pass from J. Despotakis (Baker kick)
SOU ' Dice 36 pass from Griffith (pass failed)
SOU ' McGrorty 6 run (Portwood kick)
' Crandell 5-24, Olson 4-12, Woodward 3-9, Woodhouse 3-9, Fischer 3-7, Cochrell 10-6, Marshall 1-(-1).
' McGrorty 32-250, Stout 5-38, White 1-14, Thurman 1-13, Robinson 1-4, Griffith 1-3, J. Despotakis 1(-8).
' Crandell 13-25-3 113, Fischer 3-11-2 14, Marshall 1-1-0 41.
' Woodward 8-10-0 132, J. Despotakis 6-6-0 61, Griffith 3-3-0 73.
' Arnold 4-56, Woodward 3-12, Brown 2-46, Cochrell 2-25, Herrera 2-14, Woodhouse 2-10, Marshall 1-3, lson 1-2.
' Poeltl 7-90, Dice 2-57, Thurman 2-27, Leeper 1-25, Caughell 1-23, Robinson 1-19, B. Despotakis 1-14, Aouriri 1-8, White 1-3.