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Raiders take aim at Linfield confidence

Ten points proved to be just enough for Southern Oregon — in its 10-7 win over Mountain State University-Northern last week. On — Saturday, the Raiders may need to score about four times that just to — make it close.

SOU (3-3) faces the high-flying, high-scoring Linfield — Wildcats on Saturday at the newly renovated Maxwell Field in McMinnville.

The Wildcats (4-0) have always given the Raiders fits — - they lead the all-time series 31-9 - and enter this weekend's game as — the heavy favorites again thanks to an offense that's been unstoppable.

"They've got a transfer quarterback, Brett Elliott, and — probably the best receiving corps as a group that we'll see all year and — a very experienced offensive line," Raider head coach Jeff Olson said. — "They're going to throw the football and continue to throw the football. — They're a very confident group."

And they should be. The Wildcats are racking up an average — of 558 yards a game, including 453 through the air. Both marks rank at — the very top of NCAA Division III football.

Elliott, who left University of Utah to join Linfield, — has completed 66 percent of his passes (108 of 163) for 1,739 yards and — 17 touchdowns with just four interceptions.

All those yards have not gone to waste. The Wildcats are — scoring 48 points per game and have topped the 40-point mark in all four — contests.

That prolific passing game - helped in part by longtime — Ashland High head coach and current Linfield quarterbacks coach Jim Nagel — - is the biggest reason why the Wildcats are rated No. 2 in the D-III — poll.

Olson said the Raiders will have to tighten the screws — considerably in order to ground, or at least contain Linfield's air assault.

"It's just a lot of sprint-out stuff," Olson said of the — Wildcats' offense. "The big thing is, they've just got outstanding receivers, — very good speed. Man, they've got some kids that can run. They're just — a very error-free, productive offense, so far."

The Raiders, on the other hand, have been neither error — free nor particularly productive. Hamstrung by a couple key injuries and — an inexperienced offensive line, SOU is scoring about 10 points per game — on 289 yards. In contrast to Raider teams of the recent past, SOU is doing — almost all of its damage through the air - 198 yards compared to just — 91 on the ground.

Senior Brandon Griffith will start at quarterback after — an effective, game-saving finish against MSUN. Olson said Boomer Marshall, — the redshirt freshman, will also get significant playing time.

Olson was encouraged by the 11-play, 78-yard drive, orchestrated — by Griffith, that saved the Raiders last Saturday, but says fumbles and — interceptions have stunted the Raider offense considerably. Indeed, SOU's — four quarterbacks have combined to throw 11 interceptions, and the team — has lost nine of its 13 fumbles.

"In all three of our losses this year the one thing that — has hurt us is very, very costly turnovers on the wrong side of the field," — he said. "That's going to be huge. With our style of offense and how young — we are, we cannot get into a position where we're backed up. Field position — will be crucial for us."

Attempting to feast on the Raiders' turnover woes will — be a Linfield defense that's shown some cracks. The Wildcats are giving — up 420 yards a game, including 157 rushing. That may be the one glimmer — of hope for a Raider team aiming to control the clock on the strength — of running backs Antar Mahasin (68 carries, 235 yards), Bill Jolin (59 — carries, 229 yards) and Jacobe Krizman (13 carries, 40 yards).

Similar in philosophy to SOU's defense, the Wildcats will — roll out a three-man front and blitz like crazy. Those blitzes could come — from any place at any time, and how SOU handles that pressure will go — a long way toward determining how successful SOU's offense will be.

"We can't get caught up in who's coming from where," Olson — said. "I think the key is to line up and do what we do best.

"I told the guys the other day, 'We went up there a couple — years ago ranked No. 2 and they knocked us off in double overtime. It — would be nice to return the favor."