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SOU looks to put it together today

ASHLAND ' A year ago, the Raiders couldn't stop opposing offenses from moving up and down the field at will.

Now, the Southern Oregon University football team is getting plenty of stops. Unfortunately for the Raiders, so are their opponents.

In a flip-flop of strengths, SOU (2-2) enters today's crucial road clash at University of San Diego (1-3) with a rock solid defense and a sputtering offense.

When the 23rd-ranked Raiders face the NCAA Division I-AA Toreros, they'll roll out a defense that's giving up just 268 yards and 14.8 points per game ' 11th in the nation in both categories.

In years past, those kind of numbers would translate into Raider blowouts because SOU routinely racked up about twice that on offense.

— Not this year. SOU is averaging just 286 yards of total offense per game. Worse, they're scoring a shade under 11 per contest.

We're still somewhat searching for roles and identities on the offensive side of the ball, Raider head coach Jeff Olson said. We're inexperienced at quarterback and we're inexperienced at tailback, then if you go on the defensive side of the ball we've got experience all over the place right now.

The Raiders' offensive woes hit a low point last Saturday, when SOU shut down seventh-ranked Azusa Pacific's highly touted running game but lost anyway after getting blanked in the second half.

It got so bad that early in the fourth quarter, Olson yanked starting quarterback Brandon Griffith, a senior team captain, and replaced him with redshirt freshman and local fan favorite Boomer Marshall.

The move didn't produce the results Olson was looking for ' Marshall completed just 4 of 15 passes for 33 yards and was picked off twice ' but Olson liked the poise Marshall showed under pressure and will give him another shot against San Diego.

Both Boomer and B.G. (Griffith) will get a lot of snaps on Saturday, Olson said. B.G. has won the job, but Boomer has moved up significantly and played well under tough circumstances last week. We want to see how he does in a different situation.

The Toreros should provide another stiff test for the Raider defense, particularly the secondary. Led by quarterback Todd Mortensen, San Diego is gaining 252 yards per game through the air.

Mortensen has completed 87 of 159 passes for 960 yards and five touchdowns. His main targets are Adam Hannula (21 receptions, 249 yards), Michael Gasperson (18, 251) and Nick Garton (13, 149).

Mortensen has a good mentor to work under. The Toreros are coached by former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

Joe Zavala is sports editor of the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456.