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Larry Stauth Jr./For the Daily Tidings

Southern Oregon University running back Rey Vega races through the College of Idaho to score a touchdown on Saturday, Sept. 8, at Raider Stadium.

Penza: SOU football is hitting its stride

It was only natural for Charlie Hall to wonder how his Southern Oregon University football team would crank things back up after an emotional win over Montana Tech the weekend before.

That’s what college football coaches do.

It just comes with the territory.

After such an emotional high at Raider Stadium the previous Saturday in their 44-12 win over Montana Tech and then a 16-hour road trip spread over two days, the Raiders’ second-year head coach — along with just about everybody who has a rooting interest in the program — was interested to see how SOU would come out against red-hot Carroll College.

There was no emotional letdown.

Instead, there was another dominant performance against a team that had previously been playing some pretty good ball themselves.

Following No. 3-ranked SOU’s 27-0 win against Carroll — the first shutout the Raiders have recorded in 15 years — not only was 900-mile trip back home a little easier to deal with, but these things are also true:

The Raiders are 4-0 through their first four Frontier Conference games .

They’re starting to play some of their best football of the season.

No need to look further than the Raiders’ last two games, which just so happened to both be against opposition from Montana.

In the last eight quarters, SOU has outscored Montana Tech and Carroll 71-12.

Let me repeat that: Seventy-one points scored, 12 allowed over the last two games.

If you want a recipe for success, an offense that averages in the mid-30s and a defense that has allowed next to nothing is a pretty good way to go.

The promising thing in all of this is that these two showings come after a pretty close call against The College of Idaho in the home opener on Sept. 8, a game that was hanging in the balance for all but about the final five minutes.

The Raiders have not just taken control of their past two games, they’ve been able to put their opposition away with room to spare.

On top of SOU’s defense barely allowing any kind of points, the Raiders gave up a grand total of 199 yards of total offense, easily their lowest figure of the 2018 season.

Offensively, arguably the preseason’s biggest storyline, new starting quarterback Wyatt Hutchinson, just seems to be getting better and better in the same fashion that his team is.

Hutchinson entered the season without a collegiate start under his belt, last seeing significant playing time in his senior year of high school at Clackamas High in 2015. (Hutchinson redshirted at Western Oregon two years ago and then served as Tanner Trosin’s backup last season.)

In his first four starts as SOU’s signal caller, Hutchinson has the kind of upward trajectory that Hall and offensive coordinator Ken Fasnacht could have hoped for — he’s making plays with his arm and his feet and, even though he’s not putting up a ton of yards through the air like Trosin did, is directing the Raiders’ offense in an efficient kind of manner.

And it doesn’t hurt that he’s’ got a running back in Rey Vega and a host of other playmakers to get the ball to as well.

The Raiders may be doing things a little differently on offense in years past, but the end result is what they want to see more than anything — win the game, win the week.

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that the road to the Frontier Conference title goes through Ashland.

That’s just the only way to look at it until we’re proven otherwise — and with the way the Raiders are starting to play, it may as well stay that way.

Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.

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