Courtesy: SOU Sports Information
GRANTS PASS, Ore. – The offense still puts up video game numbers. The defense is still capable of coming up with big stops. And the 14th-ranked Southern Oregon University football team still has a thorn in its side in the form of Rocky Mountain College.
For the second straight season, the Battlin’ Bears (2-0 overall) dealt the Raiders their first Frontier Conference loss – the latest a 35-30 setback Saturday afternoon in the second edition of the Kickoff Classic at Mel Ingram Field.
In a game that featured 1,135 yards of offense, the Raiders (0-1) could have used a little more. Junior quarterback Austin Dodge (Vancouver, Wash./Skyview) found Matt Retzlaff (Medford, Ore./South Medford) with a 10-yard rocket for a touchdown with 12 minutes, 31 second left in the game, but that was the last time either team cracked the scoreboard. SOU was turned away in Rocky Mountain territory its last two possessions.
Bears quarterback Bryce Baker picked apart the Raider defense for the second straight season, completing 34 of 51 passes for 517 yards and three touchdowns – including one each to frequent targets Andre McCullouch (eight catches, 177 yards) and Jade Olson (five catches, 97 yards). He went for 510 yards in lifting Rocky to 2012′s 52-30 win against SOU.
Dodge, the reigning Frontier Conference offensive player of the year, matched Baker for most of the day. He connected on 38 of 55 attempts, helping Dylan Young (Salem, Ore./North Salem) to 12 catches for 140 yards with a TD and Ryan Retzlaff (Medford, Ore./South Medford) to 11 catches for 96 yards.
Matt Retzlaff (Medford, Ore./South Medford) scored a total of three times for the Raiders, punching in a pair of second-quarter drives on the ground from one and three yards outs.
The Bears took a 21-17 halftime lead when Baker found McCullouch from 34 yards out and threatened to run away with the victory on a couple occasions, but Dodge wouldn’t let them.
With the Raiders trailing 28-17, Dodge aired out a 58-yard bomb to Young on the first play of a 65-yard drive that was capped by Young’s three-yard TD catch.
Following Rocky Mountain’s ensuing, and demoralizing, 22-play scoring drive – during which the Bears converted four straight third-down tries to eventually go up 35-24 with 4:11 left in the third – SOU took the ball to the Bears’ one-yard line and fumbled it away.
SOU’s defense gave the Raiders another chance, though, with three straight stops, two of which ended with interceptions by and Steven Josephson (Eagle Point, Ore./Eagle Point) and Heston Altenbach (Coquille, Ore./Coquille). Josephson made his pick when Baker had the Bear’s on SOU’s 3-yard line, preventing them from going up three scores.
But Dodge’s find of Retzlaff for a TD was all the Raider offense could come up with. Dodge’s final heave, from Rocky’s 18-yard line, was knocked away from Teran Togia (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) with 2:25 remaining.
The Raiders were 0-for-3 on fourth downs in the game and 11-for-19 on third downs. Josh Johnson spurred Rocky at defensive end with a game-high 13 tackles.
Altenbach and Josh Leff (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) led the Raiders with nine tackles apiece. Along with his pick, Altenbach added a forced fumble.
Zach Marshall (Camas, Wash./Camas) paced the Raiders’ ground game with 108 yards on 24 carries.
SOU will play the first of four straight road contests next Saturday at Montana Western in Dillon, Mont. The Raiders will make their debut at Raider Stadium, where they’ve won 10 straight games, on Oct. 5 against Montana Tech.