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Raiders ready to break in new turf against Montana Western

Southern Oregon football fans today will be welcomed back to Raider Stadium, where amenities now include synthetic field turf, the most prolific quarterback in NAIA history and a football team that at the moment can't miss.

The fifth-ranked Raiders (5-0 overall, 4-0 Frontier Conference) and Montana Western (2-4, 2-3) are set for a 1 p.m. kickoff, and at halftime the SOU Sports Hall of Fame class of 2014 will be recognized. The first 700 fans will receive Operation Red t-shirts, and the first 250 will get pink pom-poms for Asante Breast Cancer Awareness Day. Kids 12 and under get in free thanks to Oak Tree Northwest.

The Raiders got to soak up a five-game win streak during their only bye week of the season, then on Monday were awarded their highest in-season ranking since they were second after the first game of 2002. Another win would make them 6-0 for the first time since 1947. It would also allow them to keep a one-game cushion in first place with two unforgiving road tests coming up at fourth-ranked Carroll College and College of Idaho.

He went all the way to the Montana-Canada border and all he got were these NAIA records: Raider quarterback Austin Dodge just couldn't wait to do it in front of the home crowd, insisting instead on nailing down SOU's 45-24 victory at Montana State-Northern with a sixth touchdown pass that made him the NAIA's career record-holder at 121. In the process of throwing for 417 yards, he also became the NAIA's new leader in career passing yardage with 13,461. Down went the old marks established by Ohio Dominican's Chris Reisert in 2008.

Following the fifth six-touchdown game of his career – only one other Raider QB, Mark Helfrich, ever hit that number once – Dodge leads the nation this season in TD passes (19) and passing yards per game (363.6). Historically, this is about when he's heated up, too. He threw for over 400 yards in 13 of 23 games during his sophomore and junior campaigns, and eight of those 10 sub-400-yard games occurred in the first four weeks of those seasons. He's averaging 38.2 attempts, which is nine less than at this point in 2013.

How to play catch-up: Dylan Young's SOU career is only 16 games old, but he's already threatening some career Raider receiving records. His three TD catches last game put him at nine in 2014, which ranks second in the NAIA, and 20 for his career, which ranks seventh in Raider history. He can match Martin Turner's 31-year-old record with eight more.

Young's speed makes him a primary target of the deep-ball, which became a staple of the SOU offense when Dodge's arm was thrown into the mix. Dodge's timing with the receivers in 2014 had been slightly amiss, though, until the win at MSU-Northern; there, four of his TD bombs spanned over 40 yards. Only two of his previous 13 TD passes this season were over 40.

Sean McShane, who has accounted for 440 all-purpose yards the last two games, was gifted an 81-yard score early and hauled in the 45-yard record-breaker in the fourth quarter.

Automatic 'Rick: Aldrick Rosas has converted all 87 extra-point chances since he joined SOU last season. The NAIA record is 162 straight, but seven more would tie him for third all-time. He is also 12-for-15 in field goals after his 41-yarder at MSU-Northern.

'D'-facts: The SOU 'D' continued its trend of coming up big late at Northern, where it allowed seven second-half points. The Raiders have conceded 10 fourth-quarter points in four Frontier games, and SOU is outscoring opponents 87-38 in the second half.

About Montana Western: Before judging the Bulldogs by their record, consider their losses: at Eastern Washington (41-9), against 17th-ranked Rocky Mountain (37-30), at College of Idaho (31-28), and at fourth-ranked Carroll (31-14). Last year they defeated SOU, 38-34, as Sam Rutherford rushed 11 times for 185 yards and three TDs. In the rematch at Raider Stadium, Rutherford was injured on his first carry and watched from the sideline as Dodge hit Young with four TD passes in SOU's first five possessions of the second half en route to a 51-16 win. Dodge totaled seven TD strikes, and SOU scored 34 unanswered after halftime.

Rutherford, who was second-team All-Frontier as a freshman, is posting 5.7 yards per carry, 81.3 per game and has four TDs… Second-year starter Tyler Hulse averaged 182.2 yards through the air (10 TDs) and 46.7 on the ground (seven TDs), though he is completing just 49.1 percent of his passes… Philip Selin ranks 13th in the NAIA with 4.5 sacks… As a team, the Bulldogs are 18th in rush defense (116 yards/game) and 33rd in rush offense (176 yards/game)… Their wins were at home against Montana Tech (38-6) and MSU-Northern (50-30)... SOU leads the all-time series, 4-1.