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Raiders look for program's eighth 3-0 start

ASHLAND — Fourteenth-ranked Southern Oregon University will take its longest bus trip of the year, a two-day trek to the University of Montana Western, for Saturday's football matchup in Dillon.

The Raiders (2-0 overall, 2-0 Frontier Conference) continue their season-opening tour of the region in a noon PDT start. They'll attempt to start 3-0 for the eighth time in program history, while the Bulldogs (1-2, 1-1) will try to snap a two-game skid that has dropped them out of the NAIA Top 25 from their No. 19 preseason perch.

If history is an indicator, the Raiders can expect a fight in Dillon, where they've gone 3-2.

Consider their last three trips: In 2016 a five-turnover performance resulted in their most lopsided loss, 43-24, in four years; in 2015 they had to make four straight goal-line stops to seal their first-ever Frontier overtime win, 37-30; and in 2013 they gave up a 10-point lead in the final six minutes, losing 38-34.

In last year's loss at UMW, the Raiders were held to 5 rushing yards — easily their lowest single-game total since joining the Frontier.

SOU made a bigger jump than any other team from the preseason poll to Monday's first NAIA Top 25 of the regular season, moving up 11 spots to No. 14. Last season, the Raiders appeared in the poll every week until their loss at UMW dropped them to 4-5 overall, and they peaked during the regular season at No. 8.

The Raiders' Tre Holmes, a true freshman defensive tackle and product of North Medford High, was voted the Frontier's defensive player of the week Monday.

At College of Idaho, in a 41-25 win, he recorded two sacks — the most for a Raider in two years, and the most for a Raider freshman in six years. He also recovered a fumble and forced one on the Yotes' first two drives.

He's been part of a tough defense.

SOU's opponents have converted just two of 23 third-down tries, which is the best defensive rate in the nation. Over the previous three seasons, Raider opponents had third-down conversion rates between 38 and 41 percent.

The Raider defense is also up to nine sacks. Last year, it didn't tally the ninth sack until the season's seventh game and didn't have any through the first two.

Offensively, Tanner Trosin is averaging 338.5 passing yards per game and 19.3 per completion. In 2015, his only full season at SOU, he averaged 221.4 yards per start and 11.9 per completion. That same year, during the regular season, he made 12 completions that went for 30-plus yards; he's already up to seven in 2017, including five to Bronsen Ader.

Trosin has now gone 144 pass attempts in conference action since his last interception, and in 13 career Frontier games he's totaled 18 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Ader's 330 reception yards are the most for a Raider through two games since Cole McKenzie amassed 338 in the first two of 2012 — though McKenzie did his work on 19 receptions, and Ader has 11 with three touchdowns.

Ader needs 146 more receiving yards to hit 1,000 for his career.

Charlie Hall is the second coach in Raider history to start his tenure 2-0. The other was SOU Sports Hall-of-Famer Al Simpson, whose first team in 1946 finished as the only undefeated outfit in program history with a record of 8-0.

Montana Western has played the Frontier's two tightest games — defeating College of Idaho 16-14 at home and losing 27-24 at Eastern Oregon.

Between those games, they snuck in a 76-0 loss at Weber State, the 21st-ranked team at the NCAA FCS level.

Trosin will be the third dual-threat quarterback the Bulldogs faced. C of I's Darius-James Peterson netted 59 yards on 26 carries against them, while EOU's Kai Quinn rushed 20 times for 189 yards and three scores, including the go-ahead 37-yard TD run with five minutes left.

The Bulldogs graduated all five of their all-conference selections from last year's team that ranked eighth in the NAIA in rush defense. This year's team has given up 5.4 yards per carry and 228 per game, but the secondary has come up with five interceptions.

First-year starting quarterback Bennett Gibson, a redshirt-senior, has completed 35 of 59 passes for three TDs, an interception and an average of 238 yards in conference play. The rushing attack is led by Hunter Thomsen's 99.5 yards per game.