A few weeks ago, Rocky Mountain College quarterback Bryce Baker went absolutely crazy, throwing for 544 yards in a 52-30 win over Southern Oregon.
On Saturday afternoon, it Derek Lear’s turn.
The Montana State University-Northern junior quarterback officially threw for 532 yards, a Northern single-game record, as well as seven touchdowns, also a Northern single-game record as the Lights beat UM-Western 46-39.
While Lear was 12 yards shy of Baker’s passing total from three weeks earlier, he also set a single-game mark at Northern for total offensive yards gained by a player as he rushed for 74 yards against the Bulldogs as well.
And that’s what’s making Lear such a dynamic player the last several years at MSU-N. He’s a true dual threat QB, and he’s really showing it this season. In four games, Lear has rushed for 216 yards, averaging 54 per game, which ranks him 10th in the Frontier in rushing. After Saturday’s performance, which earned him NAIA Player of the Week honors, he’s averaging 326 yards of offense, which ranks him first in the Frontier and third in the NAIA in total offense. The last two seasons, Lear has finished in the Top 5 nationally in that category. Lear also moved up to No. 6 in the NAIA in passing, as well as No. 6 in pass efficiency. Lear also finished in the Top 5 last season in pass efficiency, and this year he’s completing 60 percent so far. His quarterback rating on Saturday was a stellar 159.6 as he completed 32-of-45 pass attempts.
After Saturday’s game, Lear now holds every single-game passing record at MSU-N, with the exception of one, pass attempts in a game. That record still belongs Brandon Kerkes who attempted 51 passes in a game against Carroll College in 2000. But with Lear being so efficient, and so deadly with his feet, the Lights will likely never need him to break that record.
Raiding the Frontier
Coming into the 2012 season, the Southern Oregon Red Raiders were somewhat of an unknown quantity, through they had certainly played well in recent years as an NAIA Independent against Frontier schools.
But SOU has made a big splash so far, going 2-1 to open league play, and offense is the big reason why. The Red Raiders lead the Frontier in a host individual offensive categories, and quarterback Austin Dodge is having a huge season. Dodge averages a Frontier-best 336 yards passing per game and he’s already throw eight touchdowns against two interceptions. He is currently second in the NAIA in passing while receiver Cole MacKenzie is first in the Frontier in both receptions per game with eight per, and receiving yards per game, averaging 145 yards per outing. MacKenzie also leads the NAIA in the latter category.
But lately, the Raiders haven’t been all pass. And it’s not Carroll star Chance Demarias, or Montana Tech star Pat Hansen or Northern star Stephen Silva who’s leading the league in rushing, it’s SOU’s Manny Barragan. Barragan averages 104 yards per game on the ground and he’s coming off a 180-yard performance in a win over Dickinson State last Saturday.
There’s no doubt the Raiders have been high-octane so far this season, but the next weeks will really tell the tale of just how far they’re going to go in the Frontier. SOU hosts first-place Montana Tech this Saturday, then travels to Havre for its first matchup with MSU-Northern since 2005.
Through the air
What happened to the Frontier Conference being a running league?
Already this season, there have been six games in which quarterbacks have thrown for more than 300 yards, and there have been two, 50—yard performances. SOU’s Dodge has thrown for 300 in every game this season, going for 359 against Western, 345 against Rocky and 304 last week against Dickinson State.
Tech’s Nick Baker nearly got to 400 yards when he threw for 394 in a loss to Eastern Oregon, while Lear’s 532 yards against Western and Bryce Baker’s 544 are first and second-best in the NAIA this season.
Another shoot-out? Maybe
Lear and Rocky’s Bryce Baker will go head-to-head this weekend when the Battlin’ Bears come to Havre for Northern’s homecoming game. So fans may be expecting some video-game like offensive numbers Saturday at Blue Pony Stadium.
But Rocky’s offense has really cooled off since Baker threw for 544 yards against SOU. In their last two games, both losses, the Bears have scored just 12 points and one touchdown. In a 19-6 loss to Carroll, RMC got only two Nick Knell field goals, and the Bears put up one TD in a 24-6 loss to Tech last week.
The Bears are now averaging just 26 points per game and a little over 380 yards of total offense. However, Northern fans beware, the Bears’ defense is coming to Havre playing very well, despite two straight losses.
Though Lear had a career-day last week, Rocky’s defense is yielding a scant 192 yards per game passing and the Bears have four interceptions this season. It’s no surprise either, as the Bears returned four starters in the secondary this season, two of which were picked as pre-season all-americans.
And the Lights’ secondary is playing well also. Northern comes into Saturday’s game third in the league in pass defense. So while Rocky’s offense has cooled off as fall has begun, the Bears’ and Lights’ defense’s might not allow the shoot-out that everyone is expecting on Saturday.