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Raiders rising with College of Idaho on tap

ASHLAND — The bleak outlook Southern Oregon faced two weeks ago — sitting at 0-2, down an All-American caliber quarterback, and preparing to face two straight NAIA Top 25 opponents — has faded with the summer.

With school back in session, ninth-ranked SOU (2-2, 2-1 Frontier Conference) will attempt to run its winning streak to three games at 1 p.m. Saturday against the College of Idaho Coyotes (2-2, 1-2) at Raider Stadium. And as the rest of the conference sits idle, the Raiders have a chance to move into a first-place tie with No. 10 Montana Tech and Rocky Mountain (Mont.).

The first 1,000 fans through gate will be issued free Operation Red t-shirts courtesy of Asante.

Series History:

- SOU leads the all-time series against the Yotes, 7-2. The first edition was a 27-20 Raiders loss in the 1948 Pear Bowl, and they had to wait 15 years for the rematch.

- C of I's program was shut down following the 1977 campaign, but the Yotes made their return as the Frontier's eighth football affiliate in 2014. Subsequently, they renewed their rivalry with the Raiders after a 46-year break, and SOU has won all four meetings since by an average of 34 points with an average of 590 yards.

- As one of three opponents the Raiders face twice, the Yotes will host the next meeting in Caldwell on Oct. 22.

NAIA Top 25: Only one team ranked ahead of SOU lost last week — Morningside (Iowa), which fell 35-21 at NCAA Division III powerhouse Wisconsin-Whitewater and dropped from No. 2 to No. 6 as a result — so the Raiders stayed at No. 9 a week after jumping three spots to that position. On Saturday, however, top-ranked Marian (Ind.) and second-ranked Saint Francis (Ind.) will hook up on the latter's home field.

Three Frontier teams were wiped out of the Top 25 last week, but Montana Western is back in at No. 24 - joining SOU, No. 10 Montana Tech and No. 17 Eastern Oregon. SOU has matchups left against each of those teams, including home dates with EOU (Oct. 15) and Montana Tech (Nov. 12). After their 24-20 defeat of UMW, the Raiders are 11-2 at home against the Top 25 under Craig Howard's direction, but EOU and Montana Tech are responsible for the losses.

More Home History: SOU is 91-56 all-time at Raider Stadium, 23-3 at home under Howard, and 17-3 at home in Frontier games. Five of the last seven conference games at Raider Stadium have been decided by four points or less.

The Vega Factor: Through four games, Portland State's loss has been SOU's considerable gain after gain. Rey Vega, a redshirt sophomore transfer from PSU, was voted the Frontier's offensive player of the week Monday after posting 154 rushing yards on 14 tries and 231 yards of total offense in last week's 34-14 romp at Carroll. Included in that performance was a 94-yard rushing TD, which went down as SOU's longest rush since Dusty McGrorty's 96-yarder on Oct. 25, 2003. Vega has also busted out a 48-yarder, boosting his yard-per-carry average to 6.5. For the sake of perspective, the Raiders' longest rush in 2014 was 56 yards; their longest rush in 2011 was 43 yards; and their longest rush in 2010 was a mere 27 yards.

Vega also went for 108 yards on 14 carries at UC Davis, making him one of three backs on SOU's roster — Louis Macklin and Sean Tow are the others — with multiple 100-yard rushing games on their résumés. Vega ranks first in the Frontier and 19th in the NAIA at 93.2 rushing yards per game, putting him one yard ahead of the conference's reigning offensive player of the year, Montana Tech's Nolan Saraceni. At his current pace, Vega would break 1,000 yards in the regular season. The last Raider to average over six yards per try in a 1,000-yard season was Griff Yates in 1998.

Briefly:

- SOU has held back-to-back Frontier opponents to 20 points or less for the first time since joining the conference in 2012.

- The Raider defense forced Carroll into six three-and-out possessions. SOU's first two FC opponents combined for three three-and-outs.

- In their first two games, the Raiders allowed 6.5 yards per rush. In their last two, they've allowed 4.1.

- Jack Singler has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 675 and four touchdowns yards through two games. SOU's starting QBs have finished with completion percentages between 61 and 66 every year since 2012.

- Last year, the Raiders had no passing TDs through three conference games. This year, they have seven.

- Matt Retzlaff has six receiving TDs this season, and no one else in the conference has more than three. Last week he tied SOU's career receiving TD record with his 33rd, which was also his 40th overall TD. He already owns SOU's career receptions record (200), and with 2,803 receiving yards he needs 25 more for sole possession of that record.

- Sean Tow has now rushed for TDs in eight straight regular-season games and is up to 25 for his career, ranking fourth in the Raider record book.

- Dating back to the end of 2014, the Raiders have yielded just 38 first-quarter points in their last 14 FC games.

- Ben Bachman's TD reception at Carroll was the first for a true SOU tight end in 47 games. He's second on the team with 16 receptions after registering three in his first two seasons.

- With one more win, Craig Howard (47-19 at SOU) would move into a tie with Chuck Mills for third place on SOU's all-time coaching victories list.

- SOU has converted 56 percent of its tries on third down (40-for-71) and 82 percent on fourth (9-for-11), and both rates rank third in the NAIA. Its opponents are 16-of-46 on third down and 2-of-6 on fourth.

Vega