No. 13 Raiders set to make home debut
The buzz Southern Oregon University spent the last three weeks generating should be palpable when the Raiders take to their home field for the first time Saturday afternoon.
Up to No. 13 in the NAIA coaches' poll, still unbeaten and set to welcome an old rival to town, SOU (3-0) continues its momentum-gathering mission against the Carroll Saints (1-2). The Frontier Conference matchup is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Raider Stadium.
Touting the Frontier's top defense and an offense that has yet to be seriously challenged — especially in last week's 52-point, 537-yard outburst at Montana Western — the Raiders can start thinking about turning their hot start into a conference title push. They'll play four of their next five games at home, leading up to a two-game road swing to end the regular season at last-place Montana State-Northern and fifth-ranked Montana Tech.
• The all-time series between the Raiders and Saints is tied, 5-5. The first two matchups, both Carroll wins, were in the 2001 and '02 NAIA Championship Series quarterfinals. SOU has won four of the seven Frontier matchups.
• Only two of the 10 meetings have been decided by more than six points. Last year's was one of them — a 34-14 Raider romp in Helena, in which tailback Rey Vega rushed 14 times for 155 yards and caught three passes for 87.
• The date of SOU's 45-42 comeback win against the then-top-ranked Saints in the 2014 national quarterfinals — a game the Raiders trailed by 17 points entering the fourth quarter amid a Helena blizzard — is significant for a couple reasons. The Raiders went on to win their first NAIA title and made a return trip to the final in 2015, but the Saints have gone 9-14 since. Prior to that date, they'd lost just 14 times since the middle of the 2004 season.
• Saturday will mark the second time SOU has faced an unranked Carroll squad.
• The Saints have dropped their only two Frontier games in Ashland. In the last one, on Oct. 17, 2015, they bungled two potential go-ahead field goal tries in the final four minutes and SOU prevailed 28-27 in overtime.
Player of the Week, Part II: SOU quarterback Tanner Trosin was voted the Frontier's offensive player of the week Monday for the second time in three outings, and the numbers bear repeating. The latest award arrived after he went 36-for-48 with 404 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing TD in the 52-28 win at UMW. He now ranks third in the NAIA in passing yards per game (360.3), has thrown for eight TDs without an interception, and has amassed 300-plus yards in five straight starts dating back to his (shortened) 2016 campaign. Compare that to his first year as a Raider, 2015, when he posted 221.4 passing yards per start. With 290 more yards, he'd hit 5,000 as a Raider and move into fourth place on the school's career list.
Besides precision — he's attempted 192 passes since his last Frontier interception — what's made Trosin so dangerous is variety. Last week, he connected with 10 different targets. This year, four different receivers have made at least eight catches that resulted in first downs or touchdowns: Bronsen Ader (9), Jordan Suell (9), Dominic Giampaoli (8) and Matt Boudreaux (8). Trosin is 22-for-30 on third-down plays — including 15-for-23 on third-and-long — with 19 of those completions resulting in first downs.
• The Raiders are posting circuit-best averages of 24.7 points allowed per game, 333.3 yards allowed per game (Rocky Mountain is next at 395), and 5.3 yards allowed per play. They also have 11 sacks and have forced eight turnovers through three games; last year, in contrast, they had one sack through three games and didn't force their eighth turnover until the eighth week of the season.
• Freshman lineman Tre Holmes had another sack at UMW, and his 1.2 per-game average ranks fifth in the nation.
• Even though his performance at UMW was cut off after his second catch, Bronsen Ader is still No. 6 on the NAIA leaderboard at 120.3 receiving yards per game. Matt Boudreaux is averaging 60.7 on 12 catches after totaling five catches a year ago, and Jordan Suell has already equaled his 2016 TD total (3).
• Raider opponents have only converted seven of 23 third-down tries. SOU has converted 23 of 48.
• Trosin's 36 completions last week were the most for a Raider since Austin Dodge went 37-for-53 with 461 yards on Oct. 26, 2013.
• SOU's two turnovers are the fewest for the team in a three-game stretch since the 2014 season.
• With 258 career tackles, Isiah Carter is up to No. 8 on SOU's career list. With six more, he'd pass Laurence Calcagno (2012-14) for seventh.
• The Raiders have started 3-0 eight times and 4-0 five times. Charlie Hall is the second coach to start his SOU tenure 3-0, following SOU Hall-of-Famer Al Simpson, whose first team went 8-0 in 1946.
Home History: SOU enters the week with a 93-58 all-time record at Raider Stadium after going 25-5 during the Craig Howard era. In home openers, the Raiders are 20-10 over the last 30 years and have won each of their last six. And against unranked opponents, they're 10-1 at home in Frontier play, winning by an average of 35 points.
• In his 19th season, Carroll head coach Mike Van Diest has led Carroll to a 195-44 record that includes a 139-30 mark in Frontier play. He's a 14-time conference champion (most recently in 2014) and a six-time national champion (most recently in 2010), but his team is 2-9 on the road over the last three seasons and has missed the postseason back-to-back years for the first time in his tenure.
• The Saints are coming off a 34-3 win over MSU-Northern in which their tailbacks combined for 321 rushing yards, led by Major Ali's 24-carry, 147-yard effort.
• They returned eight starters on offense from last year's 4-6 team, but their roster includes 36 true freshmen. In his first year as a full-time starter, senior quarterback Tanner Gustavsen is completing 53 percent of his attempts for 162.3 yards per game with four TDs and four interceptions. The Saints, though, are averaging 1.5 rush attempts for every pass.
• Defensively, the Saints have generated just two sacks and five tackles for losses. Linebacker David Johnson and lineman Beaugh Meyer are returning all-conference performers, while safety McBride Galt ranks among the NAIA leaders in passes defended and came up with an interception last week.