Seventh-ranked Southern Oregon's stated goal is to go 1-0 every week, but the Raiders are deep enough into the season now to recognize the mounting stakes that going 1-0 every week to this point has brought them. With three regular-season games to go, a Frontier title, a berth in the NAIA Championship Series and a home playoff date or two are well within their reach.
At noon Saturday against Montana Western (4-4 overall, 4-3 Frontier) — the last guaranteed game at Raider Stadium left on the schedule — the Raiders (7-0, 7-0) can go a long way in helping their case(s). On senior day, which will also serve as Breast Cancer Awareness Day, they can also move to 8-0 for the second time in school history. UMW, on the other hand, will try to add another notch to its belt after becoming the first and only team to knock off Montana Tech three weeks ago.
• SOU has an 8-2 edge in the head-to-head series with the Bulldogs, including a 5-0 mark at Raider Stadium. Each game in Ashland has been lopsided, with the exception of last year's 24-20 decision in which the Raiders took the lead with 51 seconds left.
• In the first matchup this year, on Sept. 16 in Dillon, SOU won 52-28 behind a masterful performance from Tanner Trosin, who completed 36 of 48 passes for 404 yards — including 290 in the first half. The Raiders finished with a 526-293 advantage in total yardage; the Bulldogs hadn't given up so many points since SOU pinned 76 on them in 2012.
• The only non-Frontier game between the teams was a first-round meeting in the 2002 NAIA Championship Series, a 30-12 SOU win. The Raiders didn't win another postseason game for 10 years.
• SOU's 31-6 win against UMW on Oct. 11, 2014 in Ashland stands as the lowest point total for an opponent since the team's most recent shutout in 2003.
Home History: With last week's 36-7 manhandling of College of Idaho, SOU ran its record to 96-58 all-time at Raider Stadium. That includes records of 19-5 in Frontier play and 13-1 against unranked Frontier opponents, and 16 straight home wins in which the Raiders have scored 30-plus points. SOU is seeking to complete its second perfect home Frontier slate; the other was in 2012. However, the Raiders have dropped their final home conference game each of the last four seasons.
NAIA Top 25: After the top-14 teams stayed in place in last week's coaches' poll, the top-12 didn't budge this week behind top-ranked (and defending NAIA champion) Saint Francis (Ind.). That makes the Raiders No. 7 for the third week in a row, and though they started the year at No. 25, their last four wins have resulted in a net one-spot climb. If the Raiders can stay in the top-eight, they're likely to host an opening-round playoff game on Nov. 18. This week, only one team ahead of them (No. 4 Morningside) plays a team with a winning record.
At No. 11, Montana Tech is the only other top-25 Frontier team and remains one game behind SOU in the standings with a Nov. 11 matchup in Butte looming. SOU hasn't gone this long between playing ranked opponents (the last one was the season-opener against then-No. 7 Eastern Oregon) since joining the Frontier.
The Ambush in Perspective: In last week's 36-7 defeat of College of Idaho, the Yotes were coerced into three turnovers on their first five plays from scrimmage, turned the ball over five times in the first half on the way to a 29-0 deficit, and watched as reigning NAIA Offensive Player of the Week Darius Peterson was sacked 11 times by the Raiders. For perspective's sake, that's more sacks than the Raiders totaled during the entire 2004 (9 sacks), 2005 (8 sacks) and 2009 (7 sacks) seasons. Junior defensive end Sean Rogers was responsible for four of them — the most for a Raider since at least the 2000, to go with a forced fumble and a career-high 10 tackles — and was subsequently voted SOU's first NAIA Defensive Player of the Week in 15 years. The Raiders now lead the NAIA with 37 sacks; post-Y2K they only totaled more in 2015 (41 in 14 games). In the Frontier ranks, Montana Tech's 24 sacks rank second, while at the bottom of the list UMW has seven and Montana State-Northern one.
• Sean Rogers has taken over the NAIA lead in sacks per game, recording seven the last two weeks to bring his season total to 9 ½. His career total is up to 17, the seventh-most in SOU history. Tre Holmes (6 ½) and Isiah Carter (6) rank sixth in seventh nationally in sacks. As a team, SOU leads the nation in sacks per game (5.3) and ranks 20th in sacks against (1.4).
• SOU has rung up 27 plays of 30-plus yards from scrimmage. Its opponents have 16.
• With 282 career tackles, Isiah Carter is five away from matching J.D. Callicoatt (1996-99) for fifth place on the SOU all-time list, and junior Devvon Gage is up to 251. This season, Tyson Cooper's average of 8.4 per game is the fifth-best in the conference.
• The Raiders will be attempting to hold an eighth straight opponent under 30 points. The last time they did that was 1986, when they lost four of the eight games.
• Tanner Trosin's effort last week was his ninth straight 300-plus-yard passing game and his fifth outing this season with at least one rushing and one passing TD. After recording two passing TDs against C of I, he passed Mark Helfrich for fifth on the SOU career list with 39, and he's three away from David Searle's No. 4 spot. He also became the first Raider to hit the 6,000-passing-yard career mark (6,014) and would be third on the list with 86 more. And with his next rushing TD, he'd become the first Raider quarterback with 20.
• Trosin has completed 69 percent of his third-down passes (50-of-72). Jordan Suell has brought in 11 third-down passes resulting in first-downs, while Bronsen Ader and Matt Boudreaux have four apiece.
• Ader tallied 115 reception yards last week, his third 100-plus-yard receiving game this year (in addition to a 99-yard game). Suell also has three such games.
• Dating back to last season, Marcus Montano has converted 75 consecutive point-after tries. He's also 6 of 8 on field-goal attempts this year, with four for 30-plus yards and a long of 48.
• Through seven games, the Raiders own a 19-9 advantage in takeaways. Through seven Frontier games last year, they had a 16-10 disadvantage.
• The last (and only) time SOU was unbeaten through eight games was 1946, when the Raiders finished 8-0. The last team to go undefeated in Frontier play was Carroll's 2010 national championship squad.
About Montana Western:
• Since losing to SOU, the Bulldogs have been as unpredictable as any team in the conference but have won three of their last four — dropping 61 points on MSU-Northern, upsetting Montana Tech by a 42-35 score and last week defeating EOU, 30-21. The loss in that mix, however, was a 59-27 game at College of Idaho in which the Yotes scored more points in the first half than in any other full game all season.
• Redshirt-senior quarterback Bennett Gibson averages the 18th-most passing yards (259.4) in the NAIA with 15 TDs and nine interceptions. Against SOU, he completed 19 of 30 passes for 242 yards, two TDs and two picks. His favorite target, George Sherwood, is averaging over 66 reception yards per game and scored against the Raiders.
• On the ground, the Bulldogs are averaging 3.6 yards per carry and giving up 5.0. Hunter Thomsen nets 93.6 yards per game — he's gone for 100-plus four games in a row — and 4.4 per carry, but was limited to 3.1 per try on 15 carries against SOU.
• The Bulldogs have 15 interceptions; Zach Janis and Tristan Clark have three apiece and also lead the team in tackles.
• Ryan Nourse, in his four season with the Bulldogs, is 17-23 overall at the school.