ASHLAND — With Hall of Fame and senior night ceremonies taking place Saturday night, Southern Oregon's football team couldn't have asked for a better atmosphere at Raider Stadium.
But before the first half was finished, it was quiet enough to hear SOU punter Tyler Crowley warming up on the sideline. And there was plenty of reason for him to stay loose.
Thirteenth-ranked Linfield scored early and often to spoil the party in SOU's home finale, with the Wildcats coasting to a 37-21 win.
Linfield (3-0) led 27-7 at halftime, as Raider quarterback Paul Sweeney successfully completed as many passes to the defense (two) as he did to his own receivers in the first 30 minutes.
The Raiders (1-3) also fumbled twice in the first half, including running back Brandon Baldwin's fumble on their first offensive play of the game and a botched snap to start the second quarter.
"We just weren't ready to start off," said receiver Vance Beach, who came in as SOU's leading receiver but left without a single catch. "I think it's discipline stuff and just some little, pathetic mistakes.
"That stuff wasn't done by the other team; we did it to ourselves."
Up 6-0 on a pair of field goals at the time of the second fumble, Linfield scored its first touchdown on the ensuing possession when Aaron Boehme hit Chris Slezak on a 4-yard pass to cap a 27-yard drive.
Boehme then connected with Trevor Patterson on 41- and 61-yard touchdown passes, the second coming with 13 seconds left in the first half to put the Wildcats in the driver's seat going into the locker rooms.
Boehme accumulated 304 passing yards and three touchdowns, hitting on 26 of 40 tosses.
Baldwin scored a first-half touchdown for the Raiders and totaled 145 rushing yards on 22 carries. The sophomore now has four scores in as many games and — throw away his 27-yard effort against Portland State — has averaged 169.3 yards on the ground in three contests.
While the running game again thrived, the air attack continued to be ineffective.
Sweeney, a first-year starter, went 5-for-16 for 44 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions.
He's now thrown seven interceptions in SOU's past three games, completing only 41 percent of his passes.
Freshman Alex Miller was inserted at quarterback after Sweeney's last errant throw, and led SOU on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that he finished with a touchdown pass to Ian Lloyd. The Mountain View product completed 6 of 11 passes and scrambled for 26 yards on three tries.
"Could I shake something up (at quarterback)? Sure, maybe," Helminiak said, when asked if Sweeney had played his way out of a starting spot. "But I don't know, and I'm not going to say one way or another until I'm able to evaluate what happened and know where we're good and where we're bad."
Tyler Bungard led the Raiders with 10 tackles, and freshman Cole McKenzie contributed a touchdown catch.
Southern Oregon will begin a five-game road stretch that spans the rest of the season next weekend, when the Raiders tangle with NCAA Division II rival Western Oregon at 2 p.m. in Monmouth.
"We've got a season to play. Five games left, and they're all winnable games and all losable games," Helminiak added. "You look at the last two games, and I don't think we played anywhere near our best football. But (the players) gotta see it, and they have to consciously make the decision to make the changes, and we as coaches need to make sure we're getting them better."
At Raider Stadium
Linfield 6 21 7 3 —37
Southern Oregon 0 7 7 7 —21
LIN — FG Kunioka 35
LIN — FG Kunioka 37
LIN — Slezak 4 pass from Boehme (Kunioka kick)
SOU — Baldwin 2 run (Crowley kick)
LIN — Patterson 61 pass from Boehme (Kunioka kick)
LIN — Patterson 41 pass from Boehme (Kunioka kick)
LIN — Williams 2 run (Kunioka kick)
SOU — McKenzie 2 pass from Sweeney (Crowley kick)
LIN — FG Kunioka 33
SOU — Lloyd 21 pass from Miller (Crowley kick)
First Downs 24 14
Rushes-Yards 42-170 30-162
Passing Yards 304 123
Comp-Att-Int 26-40-0 11-28-4
Total Yards 474 285
Punts 4-37.8 3-42.7
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-2
Penalties-yards 10-71 6-47
Linfield — Williams 24-101, Abbott 10-52, Avritt 6-18, Boehme 2-(-1).
Southern Oregon — Baldwin 22-142, Miller 3-26, Lloyd 2-5, Sweeney 2-9.
Linfield — Boehme 26-40-0 304.
Southern Oregon — Sweeney 5-16-4 44, Miller 6-11-0 79.
Linfield — Patterson 11-170, Slezak 7-50, Henderson 30-39, Abbott 2-22, Cederberg 2-16, Avritt 1-7.
Southern Oregon — McKenzie 4-37, Arrowsmith 2-32, Lloyd 1-21, Barone 1-18, Beach 1-9, Svedin 1-3, Jorgensen 1-3.