SOU defense delivers in big win
ASHLAND — Sean Rogers may have sounded like he was being modest, deflecting the attention back to his teammates, but in this case he had a point.
“Even when I was in the backfield, I looked to my left and there was a linebacker, there was a D-tackle,” said SOU’s junior defensive end. “It was really the team effort flushing (the quarterback) right to me and I just had to take advantage of the opportunity.”
He did, and so did his teammates.
Rogers had four of Southern Oregon’s 11 sacks and the seventh-ranked Raiders capitalized on five first-half turnovers by College of Idaho to take a 29-0 halftime lead en route to a 36-7 victory Saturday at Raider Stadium.
Southern Oregon’s most lopsided win of the season allowed the Raiders (7-0) to keep their perfect season going and maintain a one-game lead over 11th-ranked Montana Tech (6-1) in the Frontier Conference standings with three games left in the regular season — that includes the SOU-Montana Tech season finale.
College of Idaho (3-5, 3-4 Frontier) was demoralized only a week after scoring 59 points in a win over Montana Western, and barely avoided what would have been SOU’s first defensive shutout since 2003 when quarterback Darius Peterson scored on a meaningless 9-yard run with 2 minutes, 15 seconds to go in the game.
Besides Rogers’ explosion, Isiah Carter had two sacks, Tyson Cooper 12 tackles and one of SOU’s three forced fumbles and Oshay Dunmore an interception and three pass breakups, bolstering a defense that entered the game ranked third in nation in sacks and 21st in total defense.
“I really believe our maturity’s kicking in,” said SOU cornerback AJ Cooper, who forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and broke up a pass, nearly coming down with what would have been his third interception of the season. “We’re getting deeper in the season so we know we gotta adjust. In the second half (of the season) it’s hard to beat teams twice. We just want to complete the sweep for each team. Every week we want to get better and the longer we play the better we get.”
Six weeks after SOU beat C of I 41-25 in Caldwell, Idaho, the Raiders made sure the rematch wouldn’t be nearly as competitive by pouncing on nearly every Yotes’ mistake in the first half — and there were many. The Yotes fumbled six times in the first two quarters, and SOU scooped up four of them. Cooper, Keegan Lawrence, James Porter and August Forrest III all recovered fumbles for the Raiders, whose ball-hawking ways allowed them to keep the Yotes off the board despite their 193 yards of total offense in the opening half.
SOU also bottled up Peterson all game long, as the NAIA’s reigning Offensive Player of the Week was held to 7-for-18 passing for 151 yards and no touchdowns with an interception, though he did rush for 108 yards and a score.
“Obviously their best player is (Peterson), we knew that coming in,” AJ Cooper said. “So we wanted to for sure stop him and then just do our job in the back seven.”
The Raiders’ offense, meanwhile, although far from perfect, did enough to send some fans to the exits at halftime, comfortable that a win was in the bag.
Quarterback Tanner Trosin completed 26 of 39 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, and also rushed for 13 yards and a score, somersaulting into the end zone to give the Raiders a 13-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The Raiders grabbed the momentum early and never let go, driving 75 yards on their opening possession to take a 6-0 lead on Rey Vega’s 4-yard touchdown run. Vega led the Raiders with 52 rushing yards and also caught five passes for 75 yards, and Michael Roots added 47 yards rushing and another TD.
Already up 15-0, the Raiders began pulling away when Trosin and Jordan Suell teamed up for the most spectacular play of the day. On a first down from the C of I 22, Trosin rolled out of the pocket to his right and threw on the run to the 6-foot-6 Suell, who snared the ball while somehow managing to get one foot down before tumbling out of the side of the end zone.
Roots’ 28-yard touchdown run up the gut gave SOU a 29-0 lead following the point-after kick, and Trosin’s 7-yard pass to Ricky Te’O with 6:32 to go in the third was SOU’s last score of the day.
SOU slot receiver Bronsen Ader had another big day in his second game back from a sprained knee that kept him out of two games. The junior had nine catches for 115 yards, including a 36-yarder on the first play of the game.
“I feel 100 percent and it just feels good to be back,” Ader said.
“I’m not looking for him, I’m just trying to progress like my coach wants me to,” Trosin said of his chemistry with Ader, who’s SOU’s leading receiver (29 catches, 575 yards) despite playing in only 4 ½ games. “If it just happens that he’s in the progression at the time, I’m just making the throw. I think we have a lot of great receivers — I think we have one of the best receiving corps in the nation.”
After Te’O’s touchdown, which completed SOU’s first drive of the second half, the only question left to be answered was whether the Raiders would be able to complete the rare shutout. They still had a chance after Forrest blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt by Kyle Mitchell late in the third quarter and appeared on their way to pulling it off after C of I still was scoreless with 7 minutes to go. But the Coyotes converted two third downs on their second-to-last offensive series against SOU’s backups, and Peterson capped the drive with a keeper.
“(A shutout) was a goal all week, but I’m willing to let go of a shutout if that means my young bucks can play,” Rogers said. “We pride ourselves that we can get our twos and threes in so in the future they have experience. So when they have to start in a year or two, they’re ready.”
Southern Oregon has one more home game left on its regular-season schedule, next week against Montana Western, before hitting the road for games against Montana State University-Northern and Montana Tech.
Two wins away from possibly clinching no worse than a tie for the Frontier Conference title, SOU head coach Charlie Hall said the Raiders must remain focused on what lies directly ahead. Everything else, he said, is a distraction.
“That’s my job,” he said. “The coordinators worry about the game plan; I’m just trying to help with the mindset of our players and try to keep that once-a-week mentality. I think when you see a result like this I think it’s the result of good preparation and focus on the immediate.”
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.