ASHLAND, Ore. — Austin Dodge and the Raiders offense looked sharp at SOU’s first scrimmage of the season and the defense also made some big plays. The Raiders expect big things this season, with ten starters returning from the nation’s top offense last year. Expectations for SOU outside of Ashland, aren’t quite as high. The Raiders were picked to finish third in the frontier conference and rank 22nd in the nation in the pre-season polls. While some teams might feel burned by this lack of respect, the Raiders are trying to use it in their favor.
“Sometimes I hope they put us at a number that’s lower than it should be so we can tell our guys, hey, look what they did, look where they think we’re gonna be, let’s prove them wrong, you know,” Daniel Breaux said. “I take it as a challenge anytime we’re placed low in the rankings I say let’s show them we should be higher up and I think that’s something the coaches try to do too.”
“Yeah I definitely use it as motivation because we’ve had a very good offense every year we’ve been here,” Drew Gibson said. “I definitely think it’s a good mentality to come in with, being underdogs, and it gives you something to work for every year.”
To show they deserve a higher ranking, SOU is going to have to avoid something that has plagued them over the last few years, slow starts. Under Craig Howard, the Raiders are 6-7 in August and September games, and 15-5 in October and November. With so many returning starters this year, the Raiders hope that familiarity with the offense and each other will get them off to a hot start.
“We’ve learned through our past seasons that we’ve been a slow starting team so as coaches and players we’ve discussed that,” Craig Howard said. “We’ve got a plan to eliminate that. We want a great, fast start instead of that start where you have to fight back.”
“A lot of the guys that are playing and starting for us right now are guys that have been around the program for so long,” Breaux said. “They know the plays, they’ve built the chemistry with the other players and so I think the cohesiveness we’ve built and the team that we’ve built is something that’s going to help us coming in to the first game in Menlo, coming in hot, no slow starts.”