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Mistakes on offense cost SOU the upset

Joe Zavala —

Uhg, is there any way we can just pretend that Saturday — never happened.

In case you missed it - and 1,600 people were at Raider — Stadium, so there's a good chance you didn't - the Southern Oregon University — football team unleashed one of its finest, most clutch defensive performances — in the Jeff Olson era — and lost.

The Raiders held the No. 7 team in the nation, Azusa Pacific, — to just 226 total yards on 69 plays, including 74 rushing yards — and — lost. Cougar tailback Ben Buys was red hot coming into the game, averaging — over 100 yards per game. He left with half that on 20 carries and was — not a factor — and won.

It was one of those season-defining performances that — coaches and fans alike talk about years later. That is, if they end up — on top.

The Raiders didn't and here's why.

1. As good as the SOU defense was, the offense looked — overmatched, particularly in the second half. Azusa deserves most of the — credit for that - the Cougars, after all, entered the game with the nation's — fourth-best rushing defense. Ironically, the Raiders were able to run — effectively, but could not move the ball through the air consistently. — Their two quarterbacks, Brandon Griffith and Boomer Marshall, combined — to complete 15 of 39 passes for 136 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. — Why? They didn't have time. Azusa's defensive front wore down its SOU — counterparts and put heavy pressure on the SOU quarterbacks. The result — was this fourth-quarter stat line from Marshall: 4-for-15, 33 yards, two — interceptions. Ouch.

2. Azusa was clutch and SOU wasn't. The Raiders dominated — the first half, but had to settle for a 9-7 lead heading into the locker — room after a Cougar touchdown pass with 12 seconds left in the second — quarter. Earlier in the half, SOU blew a chance to score when Griffith — threw an interception on third-and-four at the Azusa Pacific five-yard — line.

3. Turnovers killed Southern. Besides Griffith's crucial — mistake, the Raiders lost two fumbles, which Azusa converted into a pair — of field goals. Griffith lost one on a sack and Bobby Poeltl coughed up — another during a punt return.

The bottom line is, the Raiders knew they needed a perfect — game in order to beat one of the best teams in the nation. They pretty — much got it on one side of the ball, but were far from it on the other. — The good news is the loss didn't cost them much in the NAIA top-25 poll. — SOU slipped from No. 17 to 23. With games against San Diego, Linfield — and Willamette still on the horizon, SOU still has plenty of opportunities — to move up the NAIA latter. To do it, their offense will have to step — up, no matter who's playing quarterback.

Rematch

Three weeks ago the Ashland High volleyball team was blindsided — at Roseburg in both teams Southern Oregon Conference opener. Thursday — night, the Grizzlies (5-2 SOC) will get a chance to redeem themselves — in front of their home crowd in what promises to be a high-intensity rematch.

Last season, Ashland took a similar straight-game thumping — at Roseburg, then beat the Indians (6-1 SOC) at Mountain Avenue gym later — in the season. The Grizzlies are much younger this time around, but AHS — head coach Josh Rohlfing always has his teams playing better by the second — half of the league's double round-robin schedule.

If the Grizzlies can somehow pull it off, they'll be in — great position to make a serious run at another SOC title.

Harriers at home

The Ashland High cross country team has two home meets — on their 2004 schedule and both of them take place this week.

The Grizzlies host North Medford, Eagle Point and Grants — Pass in a SOC four-way, Thursday at Lithia Park. Then, on Saturday, Ashland — will host the annual State of Jefferson Invitational.

The Grizzly boys are ranked No. 7 in the latest Class — 4A coaches poll.

Tidings Sports Editor Joe Zavala can be reached at (541) — 482-3456 or by e-mail at joe.zavala@dailytidings.com