A week after a heartbreaking setback to Humboldt State in its home opener, the Southern Oregon football team will attempt to rebound Saturday at NCAA Division IAA Sacramento State of the Big Sky Conference.
The Raiders lost 15-14 last week in a game in which they had ample opportunity to prevail.
"It was a disappointing loss and it will test our mettle," third-year head coach Steve Helminiak said. "We can't point fingers and need to come together as a unit and fight for each other. I think we all believe we are tough to beat when we execute."
The Raiders (1-1), who have already played a team from NAIA and a team from NCAA Division II, go now to NCAA Division IAA against a Sacramento State program that is quickly on the rise. This week's contest is at 2:05 p.m. Saturday.
The Hornets (1-1) posted a 45-13 victory over Humboldt State in their opener and then fell to NCAA Division I Colorado State 23-20 last week on a field goal as time expired.
As a team, the Hornets are averaging 353 yards per game, including 182 yards on the ground. The Sacramento State defense is holding teams to 294 yards per game.
"They are a much better team than they've been in the past," Helminiak said. "Defensively, they are very talented and fast and on offense, they've got two really good running backs and a very good offensive line."
In the two games so far in 2008, the Raiders have been putting up impressive numbers — led by a trio of seniors.
Senior wide receiver Darryl Price has 17 catches on the year and went for 129 yards against Humboldt State. Price ranks seventh in the NAIA in catches per game at 8.5 and 10th in yards per game at 110.5.
"He is a great receiver," Helminiak said. "Last year he was adjusting and learning our system. Once he got adjusted, he started to excel. He's deceptively fast and understands the windows and where the holes are in the defense."
Senior quarterback Bryan Lee-Lauduski leads the nation in passing yards with 583 yards. He also ranks eighth in both yards per game (291.5) and total offense per game (285).
Senior defensive end Anthony Scolamieri, the NAIA independent player of the week, ranks 10th in the nation with five tackles for loss.
As a unit, the Raiders are allowing just 285 yards per game, including just 138 through the air.
The matchup between the Raiders and Hornets will be the sixth between the two programs. Sacramento State leads the series 4-1, and the very first game between the two schools in 1955 resulted in Sacramento State's first-ever football victory.