AZUSA, Calif. – Sophomore RB Brandon Baldwin rushed for a career-high 278 yards and 1 TD to lead Southern Oregon University to a come-from-behind 20-13 victory over Azusa Pacific Saturday evening at Cougar Stadium.
The victory, which wasn’t so sure at the outset of the game, snaps the Raiders’ 4-game losing skid and hands Azusa Pacific a knee-buckling setback.
The Cougars manhandled Southern Oregon on their first 3 drives, moving out to what appeared to be a 17-0 lead following John van den Raadt’s 41-yard TD strike to Matt Davis, but a holding penalty negated the score and seemingly snuffed all momentum Azusa Pacific had sustained up to that moment.
Baldwin took over from there, allowing the Raider defense to collect its sense while he ran wild. He handled the pigskin on 34 of the Raiders’ next 52 plays, collecting 222 yards on the ground, including a go-ahead touchdown on a 14-yard sprint up the middle that capped a Raider 14-point outburst in a matter of 23 seconds late in the third quarter. The score, which came following a Cougar fumble on a kickoff and a subsequent pass interference penalty, put SOU up 17-10 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter.
By that time, the Raider defense had a stranglehold on Azusa Pacific. Following the holding call that wiped out the Davis TD, SOU l Azusa Pacific to just 108 yards over its final 39 plays and 10 drives of the game. With the Cougar offense now in check Baldwin had an ample opportunity to lead the Raider comeback, which was aided by a few Cougar mistakes along the way.
Baldwin kept the Raider offense on the field by collecting 13 of Southern Oregon’s 21 first downs. His sneaky runs through the middle combined with his sprints to the perimeter continually frustrated a Cougar defense that oftentimes hit Baldwin at the line of scrimmage yet was unable to bring him down.
Behind the running of Chris Brown, Azusa Pacific marched out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. Brown capped the Cougars’ 65-yard opening drive of the game with a 17-yard sprint to pay dirt.
On the Cougars’ next series, Brown collected 23 more yards and put Azusa Pacific on the SOU 20-yard line with a third-and-1 situation. As he set for the snap on the play, van den Raadt checked a call to Brown and instead attempted an unsuccessful fade pass to Davis in the end zone. As a result, Azusa Pacific had to settle for a 34-yard Ben Hansen field goal, but nonetheless was in control of the game and up 10-0 as the first quarter closed.
On their third possession, the Cougars again motored down field, leaning on Brown all the way with carries of 12 and 6 yards and a 35-yard pass reception. On first-and-10 at the Raider 41-yard line, van den Raadt went for the home run ball and appeared to have got it when he connected with Davis in the end zone. But the play was for naught because of a holding call. Three plays later the drive stalled and Azusa Pacific wouldn’t get another first down until less than 4 minutes were left in the game.
Southern Oregon got on the scoreboard with a Tyler Crowley 24-yard field goal as the half closed to cut into Azusa Pacific’s lead at 10-3 at the intermission.
Crowley and Hansen each missed field goals, 44 and 47 yards respectively, to open the third quarter, but following the Hansen miss, Baldwin fashioned rushes of 18, 7 and 25 yards to put Southern Oregon inside the Cougar 20-yard line. Raider QB Paul Sweeney then connected with Cole McKenzie in the end zone for 19-yard TD strike to tie the game at 10-10.
The Cougars’ RashadEmery fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and SOU’s Nick Cook recovered at the Cougar 29-yard line. Baldwin followed with his go-ahead TD run.
Crowley added a 26-yard field goal with 4:15 left in the game to give the Raiders some breathing room, and when SOU recovered a pooch kick following a Hansen 37-yard boot with 1:37 remaining, the Raiders had secured their fourth consecutive win over Azusa Pacific.
Southern Oregon finished with 424 yards of total offense while holding Azusa Pacific to 262. Van den Raadt was 14-for-27 passing for 129 yards. Brown tallied 90 rushing yards on 19 carries but 61 of those yards came on his first 8 carries.
Junior LB Jay York led Azusa Pacific with 14 tackles.
With the victory, Southern Oregon improves to 2-4, while Azusa Pacific falls to 1-6.