HELENA — Carroll College football coach Troy Purcell is focused on one thing.
He doesn’t look at the preseason polls and he doesn’t obsess over the standings.
He only worries about what his team is doing.
And that includes this Saturday’s game.
Carroll just finished the longest bus trip of the season as it traveled 880 miles to Ashland, Oregon.
The Saints have a date with Southern Oregon University, a team that started the season ranked and was picked to finished third in the Frontier Conference preseason by coaches and media polls.
But the Raiders haven’t been playing up to that billing.
Southern Oregon has started the season 0-4 for the first time under coach Charlie Hall and sits all alone at the bottom of the standings.
Both teams are looking for a win for different reasons. Carroll looks to continue gaining momentum while Southern Oregon is simply looking for a win.
Let’s look at a few interesting storylines that could play out.
Burgess running home
Carroll freshman running back Matthew Burgess has been running toward the Freshman of the Year award.
Burgess just posted his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game this past Saturday when the Saints defeated Montana State Northern 54-26 at Nelson Stadium.
He is currently on pace for just over 1,200 rushing yards this season.
Will Burgess get his fourth straight game of 100 rushing yards?
The Junction City, Oregon native is playing his first college football game in his home state and with the Raiders ranked seventh in the conference in rushing yards allowed, there could be a good chance he will have a happy homecoming.
Lack of success in Ashland
Ashland, Oregon, is known for plenty of things.
It is, of course, the home of Southern Oregon, and it hosts the Oregon Shakespeare Festival every year.
But it isn’t known as a place where Carroll has had success.
The Saints haven’t won at Raider Stadium since 2002.
In those four games, Southern Oregon has won by an average of seven points, including a 35-14 loss in 2017.
The Raiders lost their first game at home this season, so look for them to come out strong in the first quarter.
New Raider Leadership
Southern Oregon sophomore quarterback Wyatt Hutchinson has been leading the offense for the last two seasons.
That changed this week after he was carted off the field last Saturday at Montana Tech following a sack.
Hutchinson was not on the Raiders’ two-deep this week and it looks like Hall is going to give redshirt sophomore Chase Knutz an opportunity.
While he hasn’t had much game experience since transferring to Southern Oregon from Portland State following the 2017 season, he did well while attending Hermiston High School, being named the OSAA Class 5A Player of the Year after totaling 2,797 passing yards and 31 touchdowns.
Can he lead the Raiders to a 5-0 record against Carroll in Ashland?
Let’s find out on Saturday.