How far can Bryan Lee-Lauduski carry Southern Oregon? The Raiders are about to find out.

A week after Montana Tech vaporized Southern's running game, SOU will go to the air Saturday against Eastern Oregon, Raider head coach Steve Helminiak said Thursday.

The Orediggers held the Raiders to 19 yards on 31 carries en route to a 32-30 victory last Saturday. While the loss exposed Southern's shortcomings on the ground, it also proved to be a coming out party of sorts for the team's refurbished passing attack.

Looking calm and decisive, the 6-foot-5 Lee-Lauduski completed 30 of 46 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns. While the spectacular fourth-quarter comeback wasn't quite enough to catch Montana Tech, it was enough to convince Helminiak that the Raiders may be better off opening things up.

"We're going to come out throwing the ball a little bit this week," Helminiak said following Thursday's practice. "With (Kevin) Holtzman, (Tim) Greenidge, (Steve) Jorgensen and (Darryl) Price and Vance Beach, those receivers are pretty good at this level and I think Bryan's a guy who can give them the ball.

"We spent a lot more time this week on the running game to polish that up, but I really think our passing game is going to be a real positive point for us this year and it can compliment what we're doing in the run. Instead of being a run first, pass second team we can flip and be a pass first, run second team."

The Raiders will put that philosophy to the test for the first time at La Grande. It will be the 58th meeting between Southern Oregon and Eastern Oregon. SOU leads the all-time series 41-13-3, but Eastern has won the past three meetings, including an ugly 9-3 victory last year in Ashland.

While Lee-Lauduski is expected to play a major role, another key offensive piece will not be available for the Raiders. Tailback Derrell Hutsona, the much-hyped transfer from Washington State, suffered bruised ribs against Montana Tech and will sit out, Helminiak said. Hutsona rushed 12 times for 33 yards against the Orediggers before the injury stranded him on the bench for most of the second half.

Helminiak said Hutsona should be available for the Sept. 8 game against Idaho State.

The Mountaineers won their final three games last season to finish 6-5 overall and 5-5 in the Frontier Conference. According to the team's website, Eastern returns six players on offense and eight on defense.

Offensively, the Mounties will have a new-look backfield bolstered by a pair of key transfers: Jordyn Jackson from Western Washington and Gavin Smith from the University of Idaho. Led by second-year head coach Ian Shields, the Mounties run the option offense.

"They're disciplined and they're fundamentally sound," Helminiak said.

Defensively, Eastern will run its double-flex with many of the same players that held SOU to 250 total yards and a field goal last year. If Helminiak is worried, he's hiding it well.

"We felt last year before and after the game that we could handle them physically," he said, "it's just a matter of us being disciplined and executing because as you saw Saturday, if we execute, we're good. If we don't, we're not real good. So, I think that's what it comes down to this week, cleaning up a lot of stuff from last week, and if we do that we're going to be successful."

Helminiak was referring mostly to penalties and turnovers. The Raiders were penalized 17 times, costing them 167 yards against Montana Tech. They also lost two of four fumbles and botched two field goal attempts before Corey O'Neill was even able to get his foot on the ball.

Still, SOU nearly stunned the visitors, scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter before Lee-Lauduski's pass to Holtzman on a two-point conversion attempt with 37 seconds left was knocked away.

Holtzman finished with 13 catches (many of the finger-tip variety) for 159 yards and three TDs, while Greenidge had eight catches for 84 yards and one score. At the other end of those throws was Lee-Lauduski, who showed outstanding accuracy and arm strength, especially down the stretch.

"No. 1, he's extremely talented," Helminiak said. "He can read defenses, he's got a quick release and he's tough &

he took some hits and bounced back up and delivered the football when people were in his face."

Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.