The Montana State University-Northern Lights were able to do what few Frontier Conference teams have done for almost two years now, slow down the Southern Oregon Raiders on offense. Problem was, the Lights could only do it for a half.
The No. 18 Lights held SOU to just one touchdown in the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s game in Ashland, Ore., but the Raiders exploded for 31 points in the third quarter on their way to a 55-28 triumph.
The loss was MSU-N’s second straight in the road, and it dropped the Lights to 4-3 in the Frontier ahead of this Saturday’s huge home game with Carroll College. SOU improved to 4-2 in league play, and has now won four straight games after starting the season 0-3.
Northern’s top-rated defense got off to a fantastic start Saturday against the most prolific offense in all of NAIA football. The Lights held the Raiders scoreless in the first quarter, and took a 7-0 lead on Derek Lear’s short touchdown pass to Orin Johnson early in the second frame.
SOU started moving the ball a bit better in the second stanza, but the Lights stood tall, allowing the Raiders just seven one touchdown and late first-half field goal. As good as SOU’s offense, trailing 10-7 in Raider Stadium at halftime was a monumental win for the Northern defense.
But MSU-N’s offense didn’t capatiolize in the first half. The Lights punted four times and Lear was picked off while trying to answer SOU’s first score.
And then, the sleeping giant awoke in the third quarter. In all, SOU scored 55 unanswered points, including 31 in the 15 minutes of the third. SOU All-American quarterback Austin Dodge threw two TD passes in the first seven minutes of the third, and three in all, while the Raiders added a Sean Tow 12-yard TD run and a second field goal. By the time the third-period barrage was over, the Lights trailed 41-7, and SOU never looked back. Dodge would go on to add two more TD passes in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Northern did tack on late rushing touchdowns by Mario Gobbato and Zach McKinley, as well as Johnson’s second TD reception, a 5-yard pass from Travis Dean, but it all came much too late for Northern to mount a realistic charge.
The Lights, one of the top offenses in the NAIA themselves, did total 400 yards of offense, but scoring in the first three quarters proved difficult. Northern ran the ball 50 times, but picked up just 179 on the ground, while four turnovers proved costly.
McKinley led the ground effort with 56 yards, while Lear carried for 33 and Gobatto added 34. Lear finished his day just 9-of-21 for 91 yards and two picks. Dean came on in relief to throw for 123 yards, but he too was interecpeted once. Dylan Woodhall caught three balls for 69 yards and Brandt Montelius had three for 50 yards.
Meanwhile, SOU continued its torrid offensive pace in spite of Northern bringing in the top-rated defense in the conference. The Raiders amassed 500 yards on offense with Dodge throwing 469 yards on 23 completions and five TD’s. Ryan Retzlaff had eight catches for 168 yards and Dylan Young added another eight grabs for 160.
Huntler Chandler paced the MSU-N defense with 12 tackles, while Kaimi Kanhelauia had eight, and Tanner Varner interecepted Dodge for what was only the fifth time all season.
Northern will now look to regroup, and will need to win out in order to have any chance at the Frontier title and an NAIA playoff berth. The Lights do have all their of their remaining games at home, starting with Saturday’s rematch with Carroll College.
The Lights and Saints kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Blue Pony Stadium.
Lights are 4-3 in the Frontier and 4-3 overall; Up Next vs Carroll Saturday
Carroll College 5-1 6-1
Rocky Mountain 5-1 6-1
Southern Oregon 4-2 4-3
MSU-Northern 4-3 4-3
UM-Western 3-3 3-3
Montana Tech 2-4 2-4
Eastern Oregon 2-4 2-5
Dickinson State 0-7 1-7
S. Oregon 55, MSU-Northern 28
Carroll 31, UM-Western 7
Montana Tech 34, Dickinson State 14
Rocky Mountain 45, Eastern Oregon 13
Saturday, Oct. 26
MSU-Northern vs Carroll
Rocky Mountain at Dickinson State
UM-Western at Southern Oregon
Eastern Oregon at Montana Tech
SOU 55, Lights 28
MSU-Northern 0 7 0 21 28
Southern Oregon 0 10 31 14 55
MSU-N—Orin Johnson 8 pass from Derek Lear (Jor Rueschhoff Kick)
SOU—Melvin Mason 5 Run (Aldrick Rosas kick)
SOU—FG Rosas 28
SOU—Dylan Young 29 pass from Austin Dodge (Rosas kick)
SOU—Ryan Retzlaff 32 Pass From Dodge (Rosas Kick)
SOU—Seaon Tow 12 Run (Rosas Kick)
SOU—Retzlaff 32 Pass From Dodge (Rosas Kick)
SOU—FG Rosas 45
SOU—Dylan Young 48 pass from Dodge (Rosas kick)
SOU—Sean Mcshane 31 Pass From Dodge (Rosas Kick)
MSU-N—Mario Gabbato 3 run (Rueschhoff Kick)
MSU-N—Zach McKinley 1 run (Rueschhoff Kick)
MSU-N—Johnson 5 Pass From Travis Dean (Rueschhoff Kick)
First downs 24 26
Total Net Yards 401 568
Rushes-Yards 50-179 28-99
Passing 222 469
Comp-Att-Int 15-35-3 28-47-1
Punts-Average 6-36 3-43
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 6-51 12-115
RUSHING—Northern, Trevor Baum 1-(-7), Orin Johnson 4-14, Derek Lear 12-33, Dylan Woodhall 1-11, Travis Dean 2-28, Jor Rueschhoff 1-6, Jake Messerly 1-(-5), Mario Gabbato 9-34, Jai Johnson 3-9, Zach McKinley 16-56; S. Oregon, Austin Dodge 3-(-9), Chris Kammel 5-9, Matt Retzlaff 3-(-1), Seaon Town 3-41, Melvin Mason 9-60, Chase Lawrence 1-1, Zach Marshall 3-0, Dylan Carlson 1-(-1)
PASSING—Northern, Derek Lear 8-21-2—91, Travis Dean 6-13-1—123. S. Oregon, Austin Dodge 28-45-1—469, Chris Kammel 0-2-0—0.
RECEIVING—Northern, Orin Johnson 4-36, Dylan Woodhall 3-69, Jake Messerly 1-30, Mario Gabbato 1-8, Jai Johnson 1-6, John Jansen 2-23, Brandt Montelius 3-50. S. Oregon, Matt Retzlaff 1-21, Dylan Young 8-160, Ryan Retzlaff 8-168, Seaon Tow 1-20, Sean McShane 2-43, Melvin Mason 3-20, Zach Marshall 1-13, Blakelyn Birks 4-24.