ASHLAND — As Azusa Pacific receiver Lionel Fujioka celebrated a 33-yard touchdown catch, Southern Oregon cornerback James Wheeler threw up his arms as if to say, "What happened?"
After another lopsided loss, it's a question that could apply to both the game and the entire Raiders season.
Azusa Pacific quarterback John van den Raadt led two long scoring drives and added an 80-yard touchdown run of his own in a dynamite first half as the Cougars spoiled Southern Oregon's homecoming with a 38-13 win Saturday night at Raider Stadium.
The loss was the Raiders' sixth in a row since their promising 2-0 start, and third straight loss by 21 points or more.
"Any time you go through a spell like this, mentally, it's going to take its toll," SOU head coach Steve Helminiak said. "I thought we came out, really, with good intensity. And then (Raadt) scored €… and I could feel it drop a little bit. You can't do that.
"You're going to have highs and lows, and when you're going through a tough time like this those lows seem a little bit lower."
After taking a 28-6 lead into halftime, the Cougars (5-3) leaned on their defense to complete a dominant all-around performance. Raadt's 29-yard touchdown pass to David Trifeletti gave the visitors a 37-6 lead with 9:56 to go in the game. The other numbers were even worse for SOU. Trifeletti's TD lifted the Cougars' total to a whopping 461 yards of offense, while SOU was stuck at 180.
The Raiders completed a 35-yard touchdown drive late when Brandon Baldwin bulldozed his way in from the 2-yard line, but by then the Cougars were in run-down-the-clock mode.
Raadt did it all for the Cougars, completing 15 of 25 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns and also rushing for 137 yards on 13 carries. Trifeletti added 95 yards rushing, as Azusa Pacific bullied SOU with 291 yards on the ground.
On the other side of the ball, the Cougars' defense loaded up on Baldwin, SOU's top running back, and forced the Raiders to go to the air. The strategy worked to perfection, as Baldwin was held to 50 yards while SOU quarterback Paul Sweeney struggled through an 11-for-38, four-interception nightmare.
Azusa took the early lead midway through the first quarter when Jay York picked off Sweeney's tipped pass and returned it down the sideline 43 yards for a touchdown.
The Raiders answered two minutes later when Sweeney hit Danny Keenan in stride on a 30-yard go route, capping a five-play, 63-yard drive. That turned out to be the highlight of the day for both Sweeney and the Raiders.
The PAT attempt by Tyler Crowley was no good, leaving the Raiders still trailing, 7-6.
Azusa extended its lead to eight points early in the second quarter on Oliver Petty's 6-yard touchdown run, which capped a 12-play, 82-yard drive. Petty, who kept the drive alive moments earlier with a first-down run on third-and-nine, trotted untouched into the end zone after the SOU defense was fooled by a fake handoff going the other way.
The Raiders' defense was victimized again two minutes later when Raadt broke three tackles on his way to an 80-yard touchdown run. Chris Duke's PAT made it 21-6 Azusa with 9:59 to go in the first half.
"That's his game," Azusa Pacific head coach Victor Santa Cruz said of his double-threat quarterback. "He's been outstanding this year in regards to his after-contact runs. It's good to see him be able to take a big step forward this week."
The Cougars didn't stop there, putting together another long drive on their next possession. This time, Fujioka did the honors, catching Raadt's 33-yard post-route pass over the middle for another easy score and a 27-6 Azusa Pacific lead.
A blown coverage left Fujioka wide open on the play, leading to Wheeler's exasperated reaction.
"Just some miscues on the defense," SOU defensive end Jarrod Moroni said. "The smallest mistake can get you, and that's what we saw tonight. The best thing we can do now is still come together because we've still got two more games left."
The Cougars had a chance to add to their lead right before halftime after Sweeney was picked off again, but Raadt's pass into the end zone was overthrown and Duke's field goal attempt at the buzzer hit the upright then the crossbar.
That was about the only thing in the first half that didn't go right for the Cougars, who racked up 294 yards, including 181 on the ground, in the first two quarters.
Southern Oregon, meanwhile, was stuck in a rut, as Sweeney completed 5 of 18 passes for 89 yards.
Azusa Pacific 38, Southern Oregon 13
At Raider Stadium
Azusa Pacific 7 21 3 7 —38
Southern Oregon 6 0 0 7 —13
A — York 43 interception return (Duke kick)
S — Keenan 30 pass from Sweeney (Crowley kick failed)
A — Petty 6 run (Duke kick)
A — Raadt 80 run (Duke kick)
A — Fujioka 33 pass from Raadt (Duke kick)
A — FG Duke 42
A — Trifeletti 29 pass from Raadt (Duke kick)
S — Baldwin 2 run (Crowley kick)
First Downs 19 14
Rushes-Yards 45-291 26-47
Passing Yards 171 173
Comp-Att-Int 15-25-0 11-38-4
Total Yards 462 220
Punts 5-34.4 8-40
Fumbles-lost 4-3 0-0
Penalties-yards 9-71 6-45
APU — Raadt 13-137, Trifeletti 20-95, Petty 10-66, Besch 1-(-2), McPherson 1-(-5).
SOU — Baldwin 17-50, Springer 4-18, Sweeney 5-(-21).
APU — Raadt 15-25-0 171.
SOU — Sweeney 11-38-4 173.
APU — Fujioka 4-48, Besch 3-33, Wall 3-15, Chamberlin 2-38, Trifeletti 2-33, Petty 1-4.
SOU — Keenan 5-87, Beach 3-54, Baldwin 3-32.