EUGENE, Ore. — A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some of the Southern Oregon University football players turned into a memory they won't ever forget, winning at Autzen Stadium in their 42-7 blowout win over Montana State-Northern.
The game was originally scheduled to be played in Ashland last week, but smoke kept the game from happening. With the fear this Saturday's make-up date would prove to be just as smoky, SOU worked with the University of Oregon to move their game to Autzen Stadium.
The Raiders capitalized on that opportunity.
"This is a team that really wanted to show who they were," head coach Charlie Hall said after the game. "There was good rhythm today, there was good synergy today. The offense and defense helped set each other up through the day."
In their first possession, Central Point-native Matt Struck led the offense down the field in a 10-play, 65-yard drive in his first start for SOU since transferring this summer from Missouri State. The drive was capped off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Adrik Lamar, toe-tapping on the side of the endzone for six.
Just over a minute later, another Raider touchdown, this time Struck connecting with Bryce Goggin for a 39-yard catch and run to put the Raiders up 14-0 halfway through the second quarter.
In stark contrast to their week one loss to Rocky Mountain, the Raiders were able to open up the passing game because of their success on the ground. SOU picked up 148 yards on the ground, led by Hykeem Massey who picked up 61 yards.
Montana State-Northern was able to cut SOU's lead in half three minutes later on a 38-yard slip screen to Izayah Boss. The Raider defense, however, wouldn't let that happen again for the rest of the game.
"It was an easy game to call when the guys were executing the way they were today," Raiders defensive coordinator Jerome Souers told NewsWatch 12 Sports on Saturday.
The SOU defense had 11 tackles for a loss, five more than their game against Rocky Mountain. On top of that, they got pressure to the Lights' quarterback, sacking him five times and coming up with an interception. In another improvement, the defense only allowed 234 yards of offense in the game, 133 yards less than two weeks ago.
At the helm of the offense, Struck was responsible for all six of the Raiders' touchdowns, throwing for five and rushing in another. He became the first SOU quarterback to throw for five touchdowns in a game since Austin Dodge in the 2014 NAIA Semifinals.
Goggin ended up with two touchdown receptions as did Lamar. The fifth passing touchdown went to Ben Graziani who got behind the MSU-Northern secondary for a 37-yard strike.
"I think it was good for everyone to see what we're capable of," Struck said. "Now we just need to get back to the drawing board and go dial another opponent up."