Eastern Oregon had another nearly flawless start Saturday night with two early scores, then struggled the rest of the first half thanks in large part to untimely penalties. EOU went into the break with a mere 14-5 lead over MSU-Northern and all the momentum in the Lights’ favor.

The first play of the third quarter, though, swung the momentum back to the Mountaineers.

Kye Yraguen had a strip-sack of Tommy Wilson to open the third, Alonso Mendoza scored on the next play and Eastern rode the momentum to a strong second half and a 41-12 win over the Lights in Frontier Conference play at Community Stadium.

Yraguen’s play was one of many big plays for the EOU defense, which forced three turnovers as the Mountaineers won the turnover battle for the first time this season.

But his might have been the biggest. The 305-pound redshirt freshman took down Wilson who coughed the ball up, and Colin Deyarmin recovered the fumble at the one-yard line. The next play, Mendoza scored for a 20-5 lead.

EOU then forced a stop, and the offense found its form from early in the game. John Lesser, who rushed for 59 yards, scored the first of his two touchdowns for a 27-5 lead.

Fotois Jordanoglou’s 21-yard reception late in the third cut the Lights’ deficit to 15, but Lesser and Josh Finley added rushing scores in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

Eastern scored on its first two possessions. Victor Dias found paydirt from 13 yards out for a quick 7-0 lead, and Kai Quinn went 70 yards on a keeper — shaking off two would-be tacklers at the line of scrimmage — for a 14-point lead just 6:05 into the game.

But the Mountaineers shot themselves in the foot the rest of the half. Penalties negated big plays. A high snap on a punt gave the Lights possession deep in EOU territory and led to a field goal. And another high snap — well over the head of punter Nathan Harden — went out of the end zone late in the first half for a safety. The Lights went into the half down just nine and with the momentum until Yraguen’s play turned the tide.

The EOU offense got back on track with 450 yards — 235 rushing, 215 passing — and that despite a second quarter to forget that saw Eastern lose 36 yards. Quinn was 19-for-31 passing and led the team with 83 yards rushing. Dias added 81 yards, including 65 on one play in the fourth quarter.

The defense held the Lights to 290 yards and added interceptions by Isaiah Richie and Tanner Zenke. Zackary Jacobs, Deyarmin and Michal Arenas all had 11 tackles, and Chase Van Wyck had two sacks.

The Mountaineers, though did finish with 13 penalties for 135 yards, both season highs.

EOU (2-3 overall, 2-3 Frontier) is back on the field next Saturday against No. 8 and undefeated Southern Oregon at Community Stadium. The Raiders won the first matchup, 31-21.

See more in the Oct. 9 edition of The Observer.