Singler leads Raiders against Carroll
ASHLAND — Southern Oregon and Carroll (Mont.) have never failed to deliver entertainment throughout the years, but the intrigue surrounding Saturday's game in Helena, Mont., has a slightly different flavor this time around.
How will the Saints (1-2 overall, 1-2 Frontier Conference) respond to one of the most shocking losses — last week's 28-14 setback at Montana State-Northern, which had been winless since the 2014 season — in Mike Van Diest's 18 years as head coach?
And how will the ninth-ranked Raiders (1-2, 1-1) fare in their first road game with a new quarterback, South Medford alum Jack Singler, a week after eking out a 24-20 home win in the final minute against Montana Western?
Those questions will be answered starting at noon PDT at Nelson Stadium, where Carroll has dropped two of its last four home games after winning 61 of its previous 64. With another loss, the Saints would drop to 1-3 for the first time since 1998.
Carroll leads SOU 5-4 in the all-time series, which dates back to its 16-13 win in Ashland in the 2001 NAIA quarterfinals.
Since the Raiders joined the Frontier Conference, they've gone 4-3 against the Saints (including 2014's national quarterfinal game, a 45-42 Raider win), but neither team has won consecutively.
Last year's 28-27 SOU overtime win on Oct. 17 in Ashland was as wild as any: With 3:41 left in regulation of a tie game, Carroll's 18-yard field-goal attempt was denied by the right upright; and with the score still tied at 21 and one second left, the Saints lined up for a potential 28-yard game-winning field goal before botching the snap. Sean Tow scored on SOU's first overtime possession, and the Raiders clinched the win when they knocked away Mac Roche's pass on an attempted two-point conversion.
Singler at the helm
Singler was voted the conference's offensive player of the week after completing 32 of 49 passes for 389 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against Montana Western in his first start as a Raider.
The redshirt-senior — taking over for Tanner Trosin, who is out due to injury — completed 5 of 7 passes for 99 yards on SOU's game-winning drive, including the decisive 7-yard score to Zack Davis with 51 seconds left.
Here and there
— Another key to last week's win was SOU getting its first two red-zone stops of the year, denying UMW thanks to AJ Cooper's end-zone interception (which was first tipped by Mylz Blake) and Armando Gauger's fumble recovery (which was forced by Colin Davis). Raider opponents have scored on 13 of 15 red-zone trips with 11 TDs.
— Although he was flagged a couple times, Cooper had a big day at corner with nine tackles, a forced fumble and three pass breakups to go with SOU's first interception of the season. Julius Rucker joined him in the secondary with 12 tackles and owns a team-high 24 on the season.
— Zack Davis, who is establishing himself as SOU's primary deep-ball threat, has 11 catches for 295 yards and three TDs. In seven games last year, he totaled 19 catches for 319 yards and three scores.
— With nine more catches for 100 yards last week, Matt Retzlaff, also from South Medford, has surpassed 100 receiving yards in four of his last six games and 11 times in his career. With 32 TD catches, he needs one more to match Dylan Young's SOU record; and with 2,746 career receiving yards, he needs 81 more to catch Young for that record. His next TD in any form will also be his 40th as a Raider.
— Dating back to last season, the Saints have lost seven of their last nine.
— First-year starting QB JT Linder, a senior, ranks 13th in the NAIA with 260 passing yards per game. He's thrown five TD passes and three interceptions, and his favorite target, Connor Fohn, ranks fourth in the nation with an average of 135 receiving yards.
— The Saints run on 44 percent of their offensive plays, but they're only generating 3 yards per carry.