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No offense, no win

A good showing against a good team just wasn't good enough.

"Moral victories don't count, they never have," said Southern — Oregon University football coach Jeff Olson after the Raiders lost 13-9 — to Azusa Pacific on Saturday.

The 17th-ranked Raiders, bowing their necks on defense, — allowed one long scoring drive but little else in yeoman's work. Yet, — they didn't have much to cling to by night's end.

The game was played before 1,600 fans at Raider Stadium.

"It doesn't matter," said senior linebacker David Zauher, — who led SOU with 12 tackles, of any frustration the Raider defenders might — be feeling toward the offense. "We're all in this together. If (the offense — isn't) putting up points, we've gotta have their back. We're going to — play our hearts out every game, no matter what. Sometimes it just doesn't — roll your way, but we've got a lot of football left. Nothing's over yet."

Seventh-ranked APU (4-0) entered the game averaging 347 — yards of total offense, with All-American tailback Ben Buys ranked ninth — in the NAIA at 110 yards per game, but left with those marks tarnished — by the Raiders. SOU (2-2) limited Buys to 53 yards on 20 carries and Azusa — Pacific to 226 yards of total offense.

Still, two Raider fumbles gave the Cougars a short field — that they converted for 33- and 30-yard field goals in the second half. — And that proved to be enough as SOU's offensive woes continued against — a sound Cougars defense.

"Give them a lot of credit," APU coach Peter Shinnick — said. "They played strong football. Their defense has played well all — year; we just found a way to score more points tonight."

"Both defenses really did a great job against each other's — offense," said Shinnick, whose team won its second straight over SOU and — first in Ashland. "Southern Oregon had a great game plan on both sides — of the ball, but we just kept this thing close and finally got the lead — and never let go of it."

SOU had the look of a team destined for glory in the early — going as quarterback Brandon Griffith scrambled for 28 yards and tailback — Bill Jolin averaged about 5 yards per carry in driving the Raiders to — the Azusa 5-yard-line on SOU's second series.

Unfortunately, self-destruction for the Raiders reared — its ugly head again as Griffith released an ill-advised pass in the left — flat and it was intercepted by linebacker Mike Perez at the goal line.

Undaunted, SOU mounted another drive in its next series — as Griffith and crew marched from their own 24 to the APU 15 on a mixture — of passes and quick spurts by reserve tailback Antar Mahasin in relief — of an injured Jolin. When the drive stalled, Ryan Baker drilled a 32-yard — field goal with 12:52 to go in the second quarter to put SOU ahead 3-0.

After holding the Cougars to a three-and-out series, SOU — hit a wall of its own but caught a break following a Baker punt when Cameron — Tucker coughed up the ball during his return thanks to a hit by Anthony — Dobrowolski.

Caleb Krantz recovered the fumble at Azusa's 41 and a — 27-yard run by Mahasin - cleared by a devastating block from Carl Dice — - set the stage for a 9-yard touchdown completion from Griffith to Bobby — Poeltl. The extra-point attempt was blocked by Kenny Simmons, leaving — SOU's lead at 9-0 with 6:10 to go until intermission.

Azusa finally got things going with 3:05 on the clock, — marching 73 yards in 12 plays as quarterback Sean Davis calmly completed — 7 of 9 passes for 51 yards and scrambled for 21 more on the drive. Tight — end Ricky Burgan hauled in a 2-yard TD pass to cap the series, which was — completed with only 12 seconds to go until halftime.

"That was huge," Shinnick said of APU's late scoring drive. — "That just gave our offense a little confidence, a little boost that we — needed."

The Raiders held the Cougars without a first down on the — first series in the third quarter, but Poeltl's fumble on a punt return — gave the ball right back near midfield. Six plays later, APU's Mike Betancourth — drilled the first of his two field goals.

Neither team managed much offense from that point until — the Cougar defense stepped up and forced a fumble by Griffith on the second — play of the fourth quarter.

The senior dropped back on a third-and-four at the Azusa — 44 but never got a pass away as linebacker Clint Shamblin knocked the — ball loose on a sack and it was returned by Jacob Fisher to the SOU 13. — Poeltl saved a touchdown with his all-out hustle on the play, and the — Raider defense did what they do best from that point on in holding APU — to a 30-yard field goal.

Griffith was pulled shortly thereafter, giving way to — former South Medford High standout Boomer Marshall with 12:34 to go in — the game. Marshall picked up one first down and completed 2 of 4 passes — on his first series, including one play that Poeltl was a shoestring tackle — away from a major gain.

SOU got the ball back following a forced fumble by the — Raider defense before time expired, but Marshall and company couldn't — quite put anything together.

"They had no reason to respect the run at that time," — Olson said of the Cougars. "They were going to tee off and come after — him, but for his first real solid action as a quarterback at this level, — Boomer handled things very well. He was very composed."

Marshall had one potential completion at the APU 15 to — Mike Olson negated with a vicious hit by defensive back Gabe Higerd and — another pass hit Poeltl's face mask near the same spot a few minutes later. — The redshirt freshman finished completing 4 of 15 passes for 33 yards. — with two interceptions on Hail Mary offerings.

"We were so close to hitting the deep ball," lamented — Olson. "We were so close."

Just not close enough.

"Offensively, we've yet to find an identity," said Marshall. — "Hopefully in this next week or two we can find an identity and stick — to it and become a good football team on both sides of the ball. Right — now we're a little suspect on the offensive side of the ball, not because — of personnel, not because of coaching, just because we really haven't — found ourselves. But we will."

Reach reporter at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com