Raiders ready for another ranked opponent

ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon football team will face its fourth ranked opponent of the season tonight when the Raiders visit No. 11 Azusa Pacific for a nonconference contest at 6.

The Raiders, 4-4 overall, are 2-1 in their previous three games against ranked teams with a pair of home wins over No. 24 Menlo and No. 17 Eastern Oregon and a road loss to No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Southern Oregon has won four of its last five games after opening the season 0-3, and the Raiders' four wins are the most since the 2007 team won five games.

"I'm really proud of the team, the way they've shown resiliency and fought back," SOU head coach Craig Howard said. "Even last week against a tough Simon Fraser team, we fell behind 21-3 in front of a homecoming crowd and the 2001 alumni football team, we fought back and won the football game."

Through eight games, SOU has averaged 23.9 points per game while yielding an average of 34.2. The Raiders have passed for 1,987 yards while opponents have gained 1,844 yards through the air. On the ground, SOU has totaled 1,025 yards while yielding 1,406.

Austin Dodge leads the Raider offense with 1,641 yards passing, completing 129 of 233 passes, with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Patrick Donahue has 35 receptions for 436 yards and five touchdowns, while Mike Olson has 31 catches for 423 yards and two scores.

Manny Barragan is the leading rusher with 501 yards on 128 carries. He's scored five TDs.

Defensively, Michael Springer has 63 tackles, including a team-high 15.5 for loss. Daniel Breaux's 4.5 sacks pace the team, and Josh Leff and James Antaplyan each have two interceptions.

"We travel to Los Angeles to play a really good football team in Azusa Pacific," Howard said. "Their quarterback is one of the finest quarterbacks in the country, and we're going to have our hands full defending him. They also play great defense."

Azusa Pacific is 6-2. The Cougars dropped out of the NAIA top 10 this week after losing a close road game at Lindenwood (Mo.). They have scored at least 31 points in every game, with 40 or more seven times and at least 50 four times.

Azusa Pacific is averaging 48 points per game, while limiting opponents to 20.9. They have gained 2,663 total rushing yards, for an average of 332.9 per game, while limiting opponents to less than 100 rushing yards per contest (92.4).

Six different runners have gained at least 100 yards and scored multiple touchdowns for the Cougars, led by quarterback John van den Raadt's 799 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns and a 9.6 yards-per-carry average. He has also connected on 54.4 percent of his passes for 1,194 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Defensively, the Cougars boast an aggressive group that has 66 tackles-for-loss and 27 sacks.

Southern Oregon has faced APU 12 times, with the teams meeting every year since 1999. The Raiders are 8-4 in the series, their last win coming on the road in 2009, 20-13. Azusa Pacific won last year's contest, 38-13, at Raider Stadium.

The 2011 Raiders have already out-produced several recent SOU teams, and they are on pace to finish with their highest yardage totals since 2003 and their highest passing yardage marks since 2001.

Already 3-0 at home, SOU will have a chance in a couple weeks to finish the season undefeated at home for the first time since 1999.

"We want to finish with a bang," Howard said. "We've been practicing hard. These seniors are a great group of guys, and I want to see them go out with a winning record, 6-4. That's right in front of us; we just have to play well on the road and one more home game."

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