BILLINGS, Mont. – For the first time since 2016, second-ranked Southern Oregon University met its Frontier Conference match Saturday afternoon at Herb Klindt Field, where a turbulent third quarter turned in a 34-21 loss to No. 21 Rocky Mountain (Mont.).
RMC senior quarterback Jacob Bakken completed 16 of 24 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns, took off 12 times for a score and 87 yards gained on the ground and got plenty of help from his defense. In the Bears' first win against the Raiders since 2012, they allowed just 21 net rushing yards and limited SOU quarterback Wyatt Hutchinson to 140 passing yards through the first three quarters, sacking him seven times.
The Raiders (4-1 overall, 4-1 FC) had won 14 consecutive regular-season games, a streak that dated back to the start of last season and tied a 70-year-old team record. They dipped into a first-place tie with Montana Western going into next Saturday's noon homecoming date in Ashland with Eastern Oregon. It'd be a three-way tie had Rocky (4-2, 3-2) not forfeited its opener to Carroll (Mont.).
Hutchinson finished with a season-high 310 passing yards in completing 25 of his 46 attempts. His touchdown pass, a 15-yarder to Rey Vega with 1 minute 40 seconds left, accounted for the last points of the day and ended a run of 20 unanswered for the Bears.
Vega added two rushing touchdowns – giving him 23 in his career, and tying him for the fifth-most in team history – but was kept to a season-low 30 yards on 12 carries.
It was 14-14 with 1:16 left in the first half and fourth-down for RMC when the game swung. SOU's Jason Shelley settled underneath Matt Larson's punt and called for a fair catch, but before the ball reached him he collided with another Raider. Officials ruled that the ball touched Shelley on the bounce; the Bears recovered, setting up Dillon Johnson's 31-yard field goal to break the tie as time expired.
The third quarter was less controversial. Johnson started it with another field goal to make it 20-14, and after an SOU three-and-out, Bakken put the Bears in Raider territory again by taking a 32-yard rush by himself. He finished the drive with a perfectly-placed 25-yard pass in the corner of the end zone to tight end Darneail Jenkins.
Hutchinson was intercepted by Keenan Fagan on SOU's ensuing possession. The Bears then marched 64 more yards on eight plays, taking full control on Bakken's five-yard TD pass to Lucas Overton.
Ryder Rice dominated defensively for RMC with three sacks. Over their first four games, the Raiders allowed Hutchinson to be sacked three times combined.
Tyson Cooper and Luke Goins had nine tackles each for SOU, and Harry Kolone came up with an interception. On the other side of the ball, Parker Randle caught five passes for 79 yards and Bronsen Ader caught eight for 75.
SOU had won three straight Frontier road games against NAIA Top 25 opponents.