Raiders rally for first win of season
ASHLAND — Through one month of the season, nothing has come easy for the Southern Oregon University football team. On Saturday afternoon, the Raiders’ first win was no exception.
SOU endured rain, sleet and ultimately Carroll (Mont.) in a 29-28 Frontier Conference victory at Raider Stadium, scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the final 16 minutes to come back from 19 points down. Sophomore quarterback Chase Knutz, making his first collegiate start in place of the injured Wyatt Hutchinson, threw three TD passes and threaded the game-winning 15-yarder to Christian Graney with 44 seconds left.
The Raiders went to 1-4 overall and 1-3 in the FC heading into a conference-wide bye week. The Saints dropped to 2-2 on both counts, losing their fifth consecutive head-to-head matchup against SOU.
The Raiders’ four FC games have been decided by a total of 10 points. After losing three in a row by three, they were trending toward being blown out when Carroll freshman Matthew Burgess’s third rushing TD put the Saints up 28-9 with 3:50 left in the third quarter.
But SOU’s defense held the rest of the way, and Knutz guided the offense on consecutive scoring marches of 61, 70 and 75 yards. He had nine completions on those drives, finishing 18-of-39 for 225 yards.
The Raiders also constructed their most useful ground attack of the season, which netted 154 yards. Austin May had 51 on 12 carries, and his 13-yard dance up the middle cut the deficit to 28-16 before the end of the third.
After a quick stop, SOU converted on two third-down tries to reach the red zone. On fourth-and-4, Knutz found Hykeem Massey in the flat and he took it up the sideline 18 yards to get the Raiders within six.
Another Saints punt left the Raiders with a 75-yard field and 5:41 to play. Knutz first came through on a third-and-12, hitting a diving John Barnes III for a 17-yard completion into Carroll territory, and later on fourth-and-7 when he connected with Jason Shelley up the middle for an 11-yard gain. On the game-tying completion, he narrowly avoided an interception and found Graney sliding into the middle of the end zone. Graycen Kennedy’s successful point-after try put the Raiders ahead for the first time.
Eight different Raiders had receptions, led by Parker Randle’s four for 54 yards, including a four-yard TD in the second quarter. Massey netted 87 total yards, with 45 through the air.
Junior linebacker Collin Crown keyed the defense with eight tackles in three for losses. Devin Holden had eight more, and Jake Regino forced and recovered a fumble.
Burgess was stopped short of his fourth straight 100-yard outing for the Saints, ending with 93 on 23 carries. Quarterback Devon Bridgewater went 14-of-27 for 206 yards and a score.
In total, the Saints out-gained the Raiders 408-359.
SOU will return to action on Oct. 12 at Raider Stadium, playing its only night game on the home schedule at 6:30 p.m. against Rocky Mountain (Mont.).