ASHLAND — Looking for a little inspiration following a disappointing performance two weeks ago, the Southern Oregon defense prepped for Saturday's game by watching video of Lawrence Taylor menacing quarterbacks.
Then SOU senior defensive tackle Juwuan Brown did his best impersonation of the Pro Football Hall of Famer, leading a Raider onslaught that began in the opening minutes and didn't let up until they were comfortably ahead of Dickinson State 38-0 at the half.
Brown had three sacks, all in the first half, as Southern Oregon's defense unleashed its most dominant performance in two years, supporting an offense that continued its track-meet pace in a 45-7 rout of the Blue Hawks in front of a near capacity crowd of 4,352 at Raider Stadium.
"Everybody just did their assignments, went in the film room and got better and learned from our mistakes," said Brown, who finished with seven tackles. "Last (game) we didn't play our best, and we wanted to come out and improve and show what we had."
The Raiders certainly accomplished that.
Two weeks after Rocky Mountain burned SOU to the tune of 676 yards of offense, Southern Oregon held Dickinson State to 178, recorded five sacks and blocked a punt to get back above .500 in the Frontier Conference (2-1).
The game was all but decided in the opening minutes, as Southern Oregon scored touchdowns on three of its first five plays from scrimmage to race out to a 21-0 lead with still 10 minutes to go in the opening quarter. The Austin Dodge-to-Patrick Donahue connection was good for two of those scores — a 61-yarder on the first play of the game and a 50-yarder — and Manny Barragan scored the other on an electric 91-yard burst up the middle.
Dodge hit Mike Olson for a 15-yard touchdown and Shane Kirkpatrick for a 21-yard score in the second quarter, as the Raiders amassed 496 yards of offense in the first half.
The Raiders, who entered the game ranked first in the nation at the NAIA level in yardage and fourth in scoring, eased up in the second half and still finished with 646 yards of total offense. Dodge completed 16 of 25 passes for 304 yards and four scores, Barragan rushed for 181 yards in his second-best day as a Raider and Donahue had 125 yards receiving and two touchdowns on only four catches. Cole McKenzie, who entered the game as the nation's top yards-per-game receiver, had six catches for 97 yards, including a 52-yard bomb.
"Any time we can (run) like that, with our passing game it's hard to stop us," SOU head coach Craig Howard said. "It was one of those games where we felt like we could run or pass, and the balance we try to establish is important."
SOU finished with 334 yards passing and 312 rushing in its most balanced offensive performance of the season.
The Raiders expected Dickinson State to try to control the clock on the ground and the Blue Hawks did not disappoint. But they didn't move the ball, either. Dickinson State was held to 4 yards on 21 rushes in the first half, as the Raiders defensive line and linebacker corps consistently muscled their way into the backfield for quick stuffs.
Dickinson State quarterback Dave Velasquez couldn't make up the difference with his arm. Throwing mostly on the run or under duress — or both — the senior completed 8 of 21 passes for 54 yards and was sacked four times. He did account for the Blue Hawks' only score — an 11-yard scramble in the third — but by then SOU had the game well in hand.
"Their defense stuffed us, and we couldn't get back in the game when we had opportunities to do that," said Dickinson State coach Hank Biesiot. "That was a bit disappointing."
The Raiders gave their largest crowd in years a good show in the first quarter. After winning the coin toss and starting at their own 39, Dodge dropped back, faked a handoff and threw a perfect pass to Donahue, who caught the ball 50 yards downfield at the DSU 20 and raced into the end zone.
The Blue Hawks, who had just four first downs in the first half to SOU's 19, punted after their first possession stalled and the Raiders took over again at their own 4. On a second-and-five play, Barragan took a handoff up the gut, sidestepped one diving lineman, broke into the open field then outraced Dickinson State's entire secondary all the way to the end zone.
"I knew we needed to bust it out and just broke a couple tackles and off I was to the races," Barragan said. "I got a little tired at the end, I'm not going to lie. But other than that, it was awesome. It was an awesome game to be a part of."
Moments later, the Raiders had the ball again, this time at the DSU 40 after Mike Olson's 23-yard punt return. Dodge hit Donahue for a 39-yard gain to the 1 on the next play, but it was called back on a holding penalty against the Raiders. That only delayed the inevitable, because on the very next play Dodge threw a 42-yard dart to Donahue, who caught the ball in stride at the 17 and ran it in from there to give the Raiders a 20-0 lead with still 10:12 to go in the first quarter.
Now, the Raiders will see if their momentum can travel — they're at Montana Tech next Saturday — better than last time, when they followed a lopsided season-opening win with a 52-30 loss at Rocky Mountain.
"That's what we gotta figure out, that's the thing that'll keep me up late at night," Howard said. "We haven't lost a game at home since I've been here and we've dominated at home this year, but we need to know how to win on the road. There's no way around it, it's a long trip (to Montana Tech)."
So. Oregon 45, Dickinson St. 7
At Raider Stadium
Dickinson State 0 0 7 0 —7
Southern Oregon 21 17 7 0 —45
SOU — Donahue 61 pass from Dodge (pass failed)
SOU — Barragan 91 run (Olson run)
SOU — Donahue 50 pass from Dodge (Amsler kick)
SOU — Olson 15 pass from Dodge (Amsler kick)
SOU — Kirkpatrick 21 pass from Dodge (Amsler kick)
SOU — FG Amsler 26
DSU — Velasquez 11 run (Bryant kick)
SOU — Kammel 1 run (Amsler kick)
First Downs 14 31
Rushes-Yards 47-117 41-312
Passing Yards 61 334
Comp-Att-Int 11-24-0 20-33-1
Total Yards 178 646
Punts 11-32.8 2-31.5
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 7-75 10-104
Dickinson State — Moore 16-39, Straub 8-27, Stanton 3-17, Moore 1-17, Smith 1-10, Harkless 6-8, Velasquez 10-6, team 1-2.
Southern Oregon — Barragan 12-180, Kammel 8-43, Wiggan 5-38, Marshall 10-32, Olson 2-12, Dodge 2-9, team 2-(minus 2).
Dickinson State — Velasquez 8-21-0 54, Harkless 3-3-0 7.
Southern Oregon — Dodge 16-25-1 304, Kammel 4-8-0 30.
Dickinson State — Smith 6-21, Straub 3-22, Clausen 1-13, Stanton 1-5, .
Southern Oregon — McKenzie 6-97, Donahue 4-125, Otaguro 3-40, Olson 3-36, Barragan 1-10, Kirkpatrick 1-21, Togia 1-(minus 1), Wiggan 1-6.