Dawgs ready to ‘get back on the horse’

It’s been a long two weeks for the Montana Western football team.

While the week off was beneficial for the team to overcome the typical “bumps and bruises” of a football season, the timing simply stunk because it came after a heartbreaking loss to Carroll College.

“It’s kind of like that old cowboy saying, you want to get back on the horse,” Bulldog coach B.J. Robertson said. “You don’t want two weeks two stew on it.”

The No. 16 Bulldogs will get back on that horse Saturday at 1 p.m. when they take on defending NAIA national champion Southern Oregon at Vigilante Field.

The game is a matchup of two of the four 3-1 Frontier Conference teams, and Robertson said his team is ready to go.

“I’ve been impressed with the way they responded,” Robertson said of his Bulldogs. “We always say you can only worry about the things you can control. Right now the only thing we can control is how play against Southern Oregon.”

The No. 2 Raiders no longer boast prolific quarterback Austin Dodge, the record setter who had a brief stay with the Atlanta Falcons after leading the Raiders to the 2014 title.

Southern Oregon, though, has won three straight after dropping a 26-20 decision at Carroll College. Their last game was an 82-9 win at home over MSU-Northern.

While Dodge was a straight drop-back passer, junior transfer Tanner Trosin brings the ability to pass and run the ball to the equation.

“He’s kind of adding the one thing Dodge didn’t,” Robertson said of Trosin, who averages 7.8 yards per rush. “They’re multi-dimensional at running quarterback, their running back is doing a great job, and they’ve still got one of the Retzlaff brothers.”

Running back Melvon Mason averages 6.2 yards per carry as he’s racked up 370 yards through four games. Matt Ratzlaff has 15 receptions for 262 yards and two TDs. Zach Davis leads the team with 16 receptions.

That powerful offense, which is ranked No. 6 in the nation with 45.5 points per game (thanks largely to the Northern win), will be facing the No. 1 scoring defense in the NAIA. The stingy Bulldogs surrender just 9.0 points per game, so something has to give.

Reno Ward, Dakota Wainwright, A.J. Wilson, Joe Coker and Taft Benson have all registered more than 20 tackles on the season to lead the Bulldogs.

Wilson has four interceptions and three touchdowns, with all of his scores coming in the season opener at Rocky Mountain College.

The Raiders also bring to town a formidable defense. Southern Oregon, which is located in a prime recruiting area, has always relied on having great athletes on defense. Robertson said the team is now also playing well within its scheme.

“They’re playing sound defense,” Robertson said. “Watching them on film, they are more schematically sound.”

Like they have all season, the Bulldogs are prepared to go with two true freshmen at quarterback. J.D. Ferris and Bradley Smith have been splitting practice reps.

Robertson said both could play, even though Ferris took all the snaps against Carroll.

The quarterback will also get a new weapon with the expected return of junior receiver Beau Brekke. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Brekke missed the first four games with an injury.

“He’ll stretch the defense a little more,” Robertson said.

That would be good news for any offense.

Matthew Fuhrman leads the Bulldogs with 16 receptions for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Lickfold has 11 grabs for 119 yards and two TDs, while Tyler Murry has caught 11 passes for 92 yard.

Junior running back Sam Rutherford is coming off his best game of the season, a 185-yard performance against Carroll.

For the Bulldogs, that seems like forever ago. Now they are ready to finally put that game behind them.

“I know our guys are excited,” Robertson said. “Their guys probably are, too.”

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