SOU posts fifth win in final six games, deny Yotes conference title with 31-16 drubbing
If it wasn’t clear before Saturday, it is now: The Southern Oregon University football team is rejuvenated under first-year coach Berk Brown and his new staff, and the biggest building block yet, an upset of the No. 5-ranked team in the NAIA, is in place.
In the season finale at Raider Stadium, SOU denied College of Idaho a Frontier Conference title by a score of 31-16 that marked the Raiders’ fifth win in their final six games. After being picked seventh in the FC preseason poll, they ended the fall at 6-4 overall for their first winning season in five years and in a tie for fourth place at 5-3 in the circuit.
The Raiders hadn’t knocked off a top-five team since 2017, and hadn’t done so against a Frontier opponent since 2014. They’d lost eight straight matchups with C of I.
“I’m so proud to be able to send our 17 seniors out with a win,” Brown said. “Our team learned what it feels like to win a big game, and they’ve set the tone for years of Raider football.”
The Yotes (8-2, 6-2) dropped their last game of the regular season with an automatic bid in the NAIA Championship Series on the line for the fourth year in a row. A win would have given them a share of their fifth consecutive FC title, but they finished one game back of champion Montana Western and will learn Sunday if they get an at-large bid for their first postseason appearance since 20
They provided a perfect measuring stick for the Raiders, who opened 2023 with a 42-16 loss on C of I’s home field. Prior to Saturday, the Yotes hadn’t scored fewer than 35 points all year. Their quarterback, Andy Peters, had only been intercepted four times in nine games before Cente Borja, Spencer Kuffel and Seth Miller all picked him off in another stout performance by the SOU defense.
Miller got him on the Yotes’ first drive of the game, and Kuffel got him for a 42-yard touchdown return, his second of the season, on their first drive of the second half to put SOU up 21-7.
The Yotes trimmed the lead to five by turning an errant long-snap into a safety and scoring a 28-yard TD from Peters to Jase Applebee midway through the third quarter.
They’d get no closer. After SOU running back Avery McCuaig broke loose for a 37-yard TD run to make it a two-score game again near the end of the third, Borja’s interception ended their ensuing drive and they turned the ball over on downs each of their next two possessions.
McCuaig ended his career with his third triple-digit rushing performance, totaling 107 yards on 24 carries. He finished as the Frontier leader in rushing touchdowns with 14.
He and the Raider offense took advantage of the defense’s early success. Working a short field after the first-quarter interception by Miller – who also registered a career-high 12 tackles – Blake Asciutto threw a 22-yard pass over the top to Jackson Clemmer in the end zone.
The score remained 7-0 into the second when Clemmer struck again. From the Raiders’ own 30-yard line, Asciutto found Clemmer open in the middle of the field and he traveled 50 yards after the catch for his eighth TD of the season. The junior tight end totaled 100 yards on three catches, and Sawyer Cleveland added 47 yards on six receptions as Asciutto completed 19-of-28 attempts for 187.
Brian Batres accounted for SOU’s final score with a 29-yard field goal at 1:42 mark of the fourth. On the year, he converted 9-of-10 field-goal tries.
But the story again was the Raider defense, which held opponents to an average of 14.3 points over its last six outings. Freshman defensive end Adonis Jackson continued his ascent with a sack, a second tackle for a loss and two pass break-ups. Iona Purcell and Josiah Purchase broke up two passes each. Gabe Thomas added a sack, and Noah Turnbull, who finished as the FC’s leader in sacks with 9 ½, was in on another TFL.
Kuffel capped his sophomore season as the FC’s interceptions leader with six, and he became the first Raider with two pick-sixes in a season since 2012. Miller’s interception was his third of the year, landing him at No. 2 on the FC leaderboard.
Brown is just the third of 17 head coaches in program history to debut with six wins or more in a season.
“This will propel our program for years to follow,” he said. “I’m proud of our coaches, staff, administration and community.”