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Trosin fits in nicely

Ordinarily, when a quarterback believed to be the backup trots out onto the field in the first half and throws four touchdown passes in roughly a quarter and a half, there’s only one way to describe what’s coming: quarterback controversy.

But nothing about Southern Oregon’s offensive detonation Saturday against the woefully overmatched visitors from Montana State-Northern could remotely be called ordinary, and Kamerun Smith’s phenomenal first-half performance against the Lights, while impressive, will likely have no bearing on the Raiders’ depth chart.

Junior transfer Tanner Trosin is the starter. Smith, the sophomore, is the backup.

“We had a plan,” SOU offensive coordinator Ken Fasnacht said following Saturday's blowout. “We were going to play Kamerun on the third and the sixth drives for sure. Tanner’s probably the starter, he’s proven that over the last weeks, but because he is a run-threat quarterback and there’s a risk that he can take some hits and be out for a play we want to make sure Kamerun’s always ready to play. And then Kamerun came in 6-for-8, (169) yards, pretty good. Like I said, Tanner’s probably the starter because of what he’s done, but we know we’ve got to have Kameron ready just in case and we’re going to still try to get him meaningful reps in each game.”

Both quarterbacks torched the Lights in the 82-9 thrashing, during which SOU set program records for most points scored in a quarter, a half and a game. Smith’s big day included a 73-yard touchdown pass to Zack Davis with 24 seconds left in the first half, and Trosin completed 8 of 12 passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 18 yards.

The rout must have impressed NAIA coaches, too, because SOU moved up two spots to No. 2 in the Top 25 coaches’ poll Monday.

Fasnacht said Trosin earned the starting job after leading the Raiders to a comeback win over Eastern Oregon two weeks ago and following that up with another solid outing against College of Idaho. Against Eastern, Trosin completed 17 of 20 passes for 173 yards and rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns to help SOU overcome a 21-point second-half deficit. Smith started against EOU and played the first five offensive series before the Raiders, down 21-7, inserted Trosin. He immediately led an eight-play, 65-yard touchdown drive, rushing in from the 4 with 22 seconds left in the half.

It was more of the same against the Coyotes in Caldwell, Idaho, where Trosin completed 13 of 22 passes for 167 yards and rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Trosin knew he had a tough act to follow when he decided to transfer to SOU from American River Community College in Sacramento, Calif. Austin Dodge set every major NAIA passing record in four spectacular years at SOU and led the Raiders to their first national championship last December. But Trosin was familiar with the spread offense that the Raiders run and knew he could make it hum if he worked hard enough.

“Well, I knew it was going to be a big challenge in front of me,” he said. “I had to come here and prepare like I never prepared before. I put everything on the field, got better every day and it kind of paid off for me in the camp and in the summer.

“I’ve had some experience with this offense in high school. We ran a spread offense as well, so I got to throw a lot, I got to run a lot, so I got a lot of practice in that area over there. And my previous (college), AR, is another spread offense team, so I got to get a lot of running that, too. I’ve kind of had a lot of experience in the spread — I’m pretty comfortable with it. But it’s different because (SOU) likes to throw more than they run. They’re not used to having a running quarterback. It’s like another threat for the offense so it’s cool.”

Indeed, Trosin may prove to be as productive as his predecessor but probably not in the same way. Dodge was a classic drop-back passer who excelled at throwing the deep ball. He wasn’t much of a threat to run, but few teams could stop the Raiders’ bombs-away approach with Dodge under center.

Trosin, who’s listed at 6-feet and 180 pounds, may not be able to hit a moving target 50 yards away like Dodge often did, but his ability to tuck the ball away and run for big yardage gives Raider opponents something else to worry about.

Still, he had yet to throw a passing touchdown heading into Saturday’s game, so the SOU coaching staff decided it was time to explore Trosin’s full repertoire. Against the Lights, he delivered from the opening snap. On SOU’s first play from scrimmage, Trosin hit Matt Retzlaff with a 31-yard touchdown pass. Later, Trosin threw a 43-yard TD pass to Retzlaff. Both were thrown over the top of the Lights’ defense. That was exactly what Fasnacht wanted to see.

“We needed to make sure we could throw the ball today, too,” Fasnacht said. “We hadn’t thrown a passing touchdown, so we were going to focus (on that). We knew he could run around, and that was good. But we wanted to force-feed the passing game on him as well and obviously he hit on the first play of the game for a touchdown. He’s getting better every week with the throwing portion of it. We know he’s a dual-threat quarterback so it’s going to make us harder to defend and we’re excited about it.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@dailytidings.com.