ASHLAND, Ore. — It wasn't the dominating performance over Montana State-Northern from a few weeks ago, but if you ask the Southern Oregon Raiders football team, a win's a win. Trailing 27-7 in the fourth quarter, SOU completed the comeback with less than a minute to go to defeat Carroll College, 34-33.
"It's been two years," head coach Charlie Hall said excitedly after the game. "691 days since our last game at Raider Stadium so to give our fans... at least those who stayed saw a heck of a game."
The offense certainly turned heads in the fourth quarter, but the defense kept the Raiders in the game. Another week of lack-luster, first-half offense meant the defense had their work cut out for them. Their work around the ball kept the game close enough for a dramatic comeback in the fourth.
Carroll started the fourth with a touchdown run from Duncan Kraft, capping off a 9-play, 55-yard drive to give the Fightin' Saints a 27-7 lead. SOU started their comeback with a 65-yard pass from Matt Struck to Ben Graziani to give the Raiders their first score since the opening minutes of the first quarter.
Kraft broke off a 66-yard run a minute and a half later and the energy level in the stadium dropped. With a 33-14 deficit facing the Raiders, some fans were worried that was it.
But SOU had other plans.
An 11-play, 62-yard drive followed the Carroll touchdown highlighted by a pair of Shane McLaughlin catches, including a bobbling catch with two defenders on him. The sophomore finished with 53 yards on 4 receptions.
The Raider defense would hold their ground the rest of the way, getting the ball back in the hands of their offense to do what they could to narrow the score gap.
Two drives were capped off with connections between Struck and Bryce Goggin. The latter, a corner route to the endzone where Goggin was able to haul in the ball and get a foot down while taking a heavy hit.
"The ball's mine," Goggin said after the game when asked what he was thinking about as the game-clinching pass soared through the air towards him. "As long as the ball's in the air it's mine. But in reality, [the win] was all eleven of us really coming together."
The QB-WR duo was the offensive catalyst in the game, going for 131 yards on ten catches and two touchdowns. Goggin now has 296 yards receiving and four touchdowns this season.
Southern Oregon's defense kept the pressure on the Saints all night long with eleven tackles for a loss, including four quarterback sacks. Jon'Mae Wafford secured the win, sacking freshman quarterback Jack Prka with the final seconds ticking off the clock. Defense made this win possible.
"I believe in my defense 100%," senior defensive lineman Tre Holmes said. "We can get three and outs, whatever the offense needs, I believe we can go out there and do that."
The Raiders will get a test next week with 11th-ranked Eastern Oregon set to travel to Ashland for another 1 pm kickoff from Raider Stadium.