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SOU football wraps up home slate vs. College of Idaho

ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon University football team will be home for the last time this season at 1 p.m. Saturday, playing host to No. 25-ranked College of Idaho on Homecoming weekend at Raider Stadium.

All fans 12 and older planning to attend are subject to SOU’s vaccination policy, which requires proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test taken no more than 48 hours prior to entry. Photo ID must be presented for verification. Per state mandate, non-participants will also be required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

The Raiders (3-4 overall, 3-4 Frontier) saw their slim conference title hopes fade last week with a loss to Montana Tech. But they can still foil the Yotes’ (5-2, 5-2) ambitions, which were kept alive as they broke a second-place tie with Montana Western by defeating the Bulldogs in double-overtime. The Yotes are a game behind first-place Rocky Mountain (Mont.), while SOU enters the week as part of a four-way tie for fourth place.

SOU shut out Montana Tech in the second half but the first was a different story as the Orediggers won 34-14 last Saturday at Raider Stadium. Diggers quarterback Jet Campbell completed 16-of-30 pass attempts for 247 yards and four touchdowns, two of which went to Trevor Hoffman.

The Yotes’ OT win over Montana Western boosted them back into the NAIA Top 25 coaches’ poll at No. 25 and knocked the Bulldogs out from the No. 22 spot. Rocky Mountain climbed three spots to No. 13 thanks to its 39-34 win against Carroll (Mont.).

The Frontier champion will get an automatic bid in the 16-team NAIA Championship Series as long as that champion is ranked among the top-20 in the final coaches’ poll. If C of I and Rocky end as co-champions, the tiebreaker will go to the Battlin’ Bears by virtue of their 33-30 win over the Yotes in the second week of the season.

The Raiders maintain an 11-7 advantage in the head-to-head series with College of Idaho but have dropped four consecutive matchups, three of which were played in Caldwell. Since the Yotes entered the Frontier Conference in 2014, SOU is 8-5 against them. But they’ll be attempting to sweep the series for the second (full) season in a row.

The Raiders are 7-1 against the Yotes at home and have won five of six home Frontier contests. In this year’s first meeting, the Yotes won 29-3 on Sept. 18 in Caldwell by holding the shorthanded Raiders to 205 total yards of offense and their lowest point total since 2011. Running back Nick Calzaretta scored a pair of touchdowns and quarterbacks Ryan Hibbs and Jack Rice combined to complete 17-of-22 pass attempts.

SOU’s all-time record at Raider Stadium stands at 106-63, and the Raiders need a win against the Yotes to clinch their eighth winning home record in nine seasons as part of the Frontier Conference. They have a 28-10 overall Frontier record at Raider Stadium, which includes a 10-7 mark against NAIA Top 25 opponents. They’ve already pulled off one upset of a ranked opponent this season: then-No. 18 Eastern Oregon on Oct. 2. Last week’s loss to Montana Tech was SOU’s first at home against a team with a sub-.500 Frontier record.

Dating back to 2018, the Yotes have won 23 of their last 26 Frontier games. They captured the 2019 title by going undefeated and were part of a three-way tie for first place last spring with a 3-1 record. Their title hopes are still alive now as they’ll finish the season against three teams with sub-.500 records: SOU, Eastern Oregon and Carroll.

Briefly

— Kehdon Fletcher’s blocked punt last week marked his third block of the season — making him the only player in the NAIA with three among a group of 10 players with more than one. He’s the second Raider to record three blocks in a single season during the Frontier era, joining Sam Woods (2015); only one other Raider, Tre Holmes (2018), had more than one in a season.

— Filling in for injured quarterback Matt Struck, redshirt-freshman Blake Asciutto came on to complete 11-of-19 passes for 117 yards in the second half after the Raiders had generated 14 yards in their passing game during the first. Asciutto also registered the first passing TD of his career, a 25-yard connection with Bryce Goggin in the third quarter.

— The Raiders entered last week leading all Frontier teams with 19 sacks on the season but didn’t record any against the Orediggers. Alejandro Sanchez is still tied for No. 3 on the NAIA leaderboard with 7 ½, and n Holmes will enter his final appearance at Raider Stadium with 14 ½ in his career.

— Goggin posted another stellar line last week with five catches for 84 yards and a touchdown and hasn’t been limited to fewer than 84 yards since the opening week of the season. He now ranks first in the Frontier and 14th in the NAIA in receiving yards per game (98.5) and fourth in the Frontier and 50th in the NAIA in receiving TDs (5).

— SOU’s offensive struggles have been perpetuated by a third-down conversion rate of 31 percent (34-of-109) that ranks 73rd out of 98 NAIA teams. On the other hand, first-place Rocky Mountain is only a touch better at 32 percent. The biggest issue remains a rushing attack producing 1.9 yards per carry.

— Stokes Botelho collected his second interception and Greg Thomas Jr. got his first against the Diggers. Six different Raiders have at least one.

— Drew Schuler’s 43 tackles lead the team. On the NAIA leaderboard, he’s six shy of cracking the top-100.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's JoN'Mae Wafford trips up Eastern Oregon's quarterback Kai Quinn for a loss during the 2nd quarter of an Oct. 2 game in Ashland.