A lack of second-half execution by Eastern Oregon, coupled with Southern Oregon getting hot after halftime, turned a close battle between Frontier Conference rivals into a decisive win by the visiting Raiders.
Fourth-ranked SOU used a 29-0 run to take control in its season opener and went on to earn a 32-13 victory over the Mountaineers Saturday at Community Stadium.
“We didn’t make enough plays,” EOU Head Coach Tim Camp said. “We didn’t convert offensively on some key plays, and we didn’t get them off the field on big third downs. Those things have to be corrected. We were able to do that last week, (but) we just consistently didn’t do it well enough today.”
Eastern Oregon had built a 10-0 second-quarter lead and still was up 10-7 at the break despite a two-yard touchdown run by SOU quarterback Wyatt Hutchinson on the final play of the half.
But the game turned quickly in the third quarter.
After forcing an EOU punt, the Raiders drove 60 yards and converted three straight third downs — that after going just 3-for-10 in such situations in the first half — to set up a 44-yard Marcus Montano field goal to even the score.
SOU, in fact, was 6-for-9 on third down in the second half.
Tyler Dean snagged an interception to end the ensuing EOU drive — one of three second-half turnovers by EOU — and on the next play, Rey Vega sprinted 53 yards for a score and a 16-10 Southern Oregon lead.
Later Hutchinson, who was making his first start for SOU, scrambled 18 yards for a touchdown to cap a 63-yard drive, and four plays later Devvon Gage recovered a Kai Quinn fumble and took it 55 yards for a score and a 29-10 Raiders’ lead late in the third.
“They’re good,” said EOU linebacker Eli Teuteu, who led the team with 15 tackles. “I think they just stepped it up a notch. We started off slow in the second half.”
Two big plays in the fourth quarter appeared to give EOU life as it attempted a comeback. On third and long early in the final period, Quinn tossed up a deep ball that was hauled in by Brenden Kelly for a 47-yard completion, which eventually led to a Nathan Harden field goal and trimmed the deficit to 29-13. Chase Van Wyck then blocked a Montano field goal attempt on the ensuing possession and EOU drove to the SOU 32.
But a pass by Quinn off the hands of Victor Dias was intercepted by SOU’s A.J. Cooper to set up an SOU field goal for the final margin.
Eastern had taken a 10-0 lead in the second quarter on a two-yard touchdown pass from Quinn to Kelly, who led EOU in receiving with 175 yards, and the 34-yard Harden field goal.
“(We were) sticking to what were good at, running it up the middle, throwing the quick game and taking what they gave us,” Kelly said of what worked in the first half.
But Camp said EOU got away from those avenues of success and wasn’t taking what the SOU defense was giving them after halftime.
“We didn’t take the shots that were there initially. That’s what I was concerned about,” Camp said. “They lined up exactly how we thought they were, (but) we just weren’t pulling the trigger. That’s something we have to continue to develop in this offense. They’re giving you things that you need to take advantage of. We didn’t do that very well today.”
EOU also struggled in the red zone, scoring just three times on five trips inside the 20-yard line. Twice the Mountaineers drove inside the five-yard line — to the two and later the one — and came away empty-handed on a missed field goal and a blocked field goal.
Quinn finished 21-for-41 passing for 346 yards — aided by the 47-yard strike to Kelly and an 83-yard completion to Kelly late in the game — with a touchdown and two interceptions. But the Mountaineers were held to 39 rushing yards — including minus-2 yards after halftime — for their lowest output since rushing for only 32 yards in a 2016 home loss to Montana Tech.
Hutchinson was 14-for-27 for 163 yards, and added 82 yards rushing and the two touchdowns.
“He did a good job,” Camp said of the SOU quarterback. “He made people miss. We got to him a few times, and he showed some durability.”
Vega rushed for 104 yards for the Raiders.
“We have to go back to work. That’s all it is. Plain and simple,” Teuteu said.
EOU (1-1 overall, 1-1 Frontier) visits Montana Tech Saturday. The Orediggers (1-0, 1-0) enter that contest coming off a 36-16 win at College of Idaho and have won three straight against the Mountaineers.
“We’ll get on the film to figure out what went wrong, wash it away and then get ready for Tech,” Kelly said.