Raiders turn attention to dangerous, desperate Coyotoes
The Southern Oregon University football team breathed a hard-earned sigh of relief after Saturday's improbable come-from-behind win over Eastern Oregon, but that's where the relaxation period ended.
Up next for the fourth-ranked Raiders (1-1 overall, 1-1 Frontier Conference) is one of their steepest road challenges of the season Saturday in Caldwell, Idaho. A capacity crowd of around 6,000 is expected to watch SOU and College of Idaho (1-2, 1-1) meet at Simplot Stadium for a 1 p.m. Mountain Time (noon Pacific) kickoff and will try to help the Coyotes avenge consecutive calamity-driven losses.
C of I opened with a home win of its own against EOU (which was ranked 13th until this week), 40-28. What followed was a 32-31 loss against Pacific in which the Yotes surrendered a 31-12 lead in the fourth quarter, and then a 24-20 loss at Montana Western in which the Yotes scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:29 left before allowing the Bulldogs to quickly travel 80 yards for the win.
So, instead of the Yotes breaking into the NAIA Top 25 in the program's second season back after a 37-year hiatus, they'll be fighting to stay afloat before playing three of their next four on the road (including an Oct. 24 rematch against SOU at Raider Stadium).
Meanwhile, the Raiders appeared to rediscover their offensive pace and defensive urgency just in time to enter a wide-open Frontier Conference race. Two games in, the top-three teams in the preseason poll have all worn a loss and Montana Tech and Montana Western are the only teams with perfect 2-0 records.
More on the comeback: SOU scored the final 24 points of last week's 38-35 win, waiting until the final minute of the third quarter to make its move. The last time the Raiders overcame a 21-point deficit in the second half and won was Nov. 8, 2003 at Lewis & Clark, when they trailed 33-7 before rallying for a 41-40 victory.
SOU and EOU have now played four straight games that have been decided by four points or less, and only four of their previous 15 matchups dating back to the 2000 season had been that tight. SOU's last seven wins at Raider Stadium had all been decided by 17 points or more.
Rankings: The Frontier and Great Plains were the only conferences with four teams in the NAIA Top 25 when the first poll of the regular season was released this week. Marian, which shared the top spot with SOU in the preseason, received all 15 first-place votes, while the Raiders went to No. 4, which is where they topped out during the 2014 regular season. Carroll dropped three spots to No. 7 following a 19-10 loss at Montana Tech, and No. 15 Montana Tech and No. 19 Montana Western entered the rankings for the first time since 2013 as EOU joined Rocky Mountain in the receiving-votes category.
• The Raiders upped their offensive production from 328 yards in Week 1 to 542 yards in Week 2 with 276 yards on the ground (their fourth-highest total in the last five years) and 266 through the air. They averaged 15.5 yards on their first four drives and 74 yards on their last four.
• All six touchdowns produced by the SOU offense this season have been scored with the rush. They ended last season with 52 passing TDs and 35 rushing.
• After a quiet debut, quarterback Tanner Trosin settled nicely into the SOU offense by completing 17 of 20 passes (without a sack) for 173 yards and rushing 14 times for 116 yards and three TDs. In the last 10 years, no Raider quarterback had rushed for more than 42 yards in a game.
• The Raider defense limited EOU to a total of 10 yards and one first down on the last three Mountaineer possessions. In the six possessions that preceded those, EOU scored five TDs.
• SOU is 10-6 in Frontier Conference road games since joining the FC in 2012. Carroll is the only team with more conference road wins during that stretch (11-4).
• SOU's leaders in receptions are Zack Davis (10), Matt Retzlaff (9) and Teran Togia (9). Retzlaff has caught at least four passes for at least 50 yards in nine straight games dating back to last season.
• Raider punter Thomas Giddens ranks sixth in the NAIA in punting yards per attempt at 46.6. Last week he buried EOU at its own 11-yard line twice with 50-plus-yard punts.
• Marcus Montano, whose 27-yard field goal sealed last week's win, is perfect on three attempts this season (41 yards, 38, 27).
• SOU's 108.5 penalty yards per game are the fourth-most in the NAIA.
About College of Idaho: Last season, in the first meeting between the Yotes and Raiders in 46 years, the teams were tied at 28-all with two minutes left in the third quarter before SOU scored 28 unanswered to end the Sept. 20 meeting at Ashland High. Yotes quarterback Teejay Gordon totaled 352 yards of offense, including an 82-yard touchdown run, but SOU prevailed with 661 yards of offense. Five weeks later in Caldwell, the Raiders led 42-10 by halftime and won 66-16 with three scoring plays of 50 yards or more. SOU had a 693-260 advantage in offensive yardage on that day, which ended it being its highest output of the season.
Gordon and head coach Mike Moroski are back to lead the Yotes, who went 4-7 in 2014 after a 3-0 start and were picked to finish sixth in this year's Frontier preseason poll. Gordon has registered 990 rushing yards in C of I's zone-read offense since last week got back running back Zach Garzoli, who rushed for 500 yards in 2014. The Yotes are averaging 368 yards of offense, passing 80 times and running on 113 plays so far. Gordon is completing 58.5 percent of his passes (38 of 65) with six TDs and two interceptions.
Defensively, C of I has totaled 10 sacks, the sixth-most in the NAIA, and Nate Moore has all three Yotes interceptions. They're led in tackles by Tanner Oshiro (19), Troy Carr (17) and Josh Price (17) but allowing 5.2 yards per rushing attempt.