ASHLAND, Ore.--For the fifth meeting in a row, the outcome of Southern Oregon-Eastern Oregon was decided by ten points or fewer.
Though No. 7 SOU (6-0) overcame its largest deficit of the season and squeaked by with a 31-27 win, it didn't come easily.
The offense had to rally for 21 points in the fourth quarter. The defense had to force three turnovers in the second half (and four total in the game). And the Raiders had to benefit from their fair share of luck.
"I felt like through the course of the game there was never any panic with the staff or with the players," head coach Charlie Hall said. "We knew we had a plan, we knew we had confidence to do the things we needed to do, we just needed to make some corrections. The Hail Mary helped. I think that was a big boost, trying to pull that off, going into halftime and getting that momentum back."
The Hail Mary, a 40-yard chuck and pray touchdown pass from Tanner Trosin to Jordan Suell, was actually planned, at least as best it could.
Hall said that just this week, the team instilled a new configuration, practiced it the day before the game, and it ended up working.
After that burst of momentum, the offense kicked into gear and found its stride--which was a must, given the big plays the defense had given up in the first half (two of the Mountaineers' touchdowns were from more than 40 yards out).
Hall said those big plays allowed were a product of the defensive game plan being to take away the running component of EOU quarterback Kai Quinn.
"As a defensive philosophy, you can't stop everything," Hall said. "It's playing the percentages and playing down and distance and playing strengths against their strengths. I felt like we had a good plan going into it. It does put stress on certain players to be able to be disciplined and not have their eyes in places where they shouldn't be and take care of their responsibility. I thought Kai and the Eastern coaches took advantage of that at the optimum times and they made some big plays on us but those are all correctable things."
"I felt for the most part, once we got rolling on offense in the second half, we just couldn't be stopped at that time," Hall said.
The Raiders will look to keep their perfect season going on Saturday against the College of Idaho.