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No. 24 Montana Tech returns home, looks to maintain playoff hopes against Southern Oregon University

Posted at 6:59 PM, Oct 20, 2022

BUTTE — Kyle Samson knows that there will be little room for error as the No. 24 Montana Tech football team gears up for the final four-game stretch of the regular season.

Sitting at 4-2, the only way that the Orediggers, coming off a bye week and before that a tough 3-point loss to then No. 9 College of Idaho, can remain in contention for a playoff berth is straightforward — win their final four games.

"Everything we want is in front of us," said the Oredigger head coach at a Tuesday practice. "We've just got to come out now after a bye week and get back to playing how we know we can play. We got a big test this week."

Tech is gearing up for its first home game in three weeks. On deck, a 3-3 Southern Oregon University team coming off a 49-14 drubbing of preseason favorite Montana Western and looking to string to together its third-straight win. Kickoff is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Bob Green Field.

For the Orediggers, the past two weeks have been about learning and moving on from their down-to-the-wire loss against the now No. 7 Yotes. The Orediggers led 14-0 at the half in Caldwell before a frenzied second half saw C of I get the final say on a go-ahead 22-yard touchdown run from Hunter Gilbert.

"We played a really good team, played really well we just made a couple of mistakes at the end of the game and they capitalized on them," Samson said. "We did some really good things down there and our confidence definitely isn't shot. Gotta put that behind us and move forward."

Tech will have a decision to make at quarterback as Jet Campbell was cleared this week from a leg injury he suffered during the Orediggers home loss to Rocky Mountain College in Week 3. The Orediggers will have to choose between Campbell and Blake Thelen who went 2-1 in Campbell's absence.

"(Campbell's) finally getting back, feeling pretty good," Samson said. "Not 100 percent yet. I'd just say it's a day by day type of deal. Just kind of seeing how he practices this week and how he feels. We'll make a decision on game day."

Whoever is under center, their top receiving target is unlikely to change as Trevor Hoffman continues to lead Tech's wideouts with 557 yards and three touchdowns. Landers Smith and Kyle Torgerson each have over 300 yards and a touchdown reception and Whitehall product Wyatt Alexander has hauled in two scoring passes.

Junior running back Blake Counts has amassed 521 rushing yards and five touchdowns while also pulling in three scoring receptions.

"Since I've been here this is the most talented and most close-knit group I've been part of and we're playing like it," Counts said.

The Orediggers have won their last four matchups against the Red Raiders dating back to an October 2018 victory in Butte.

This time around, Tech will be looking to bottle up sophomore quarterback Blake Asciutto who has thrown for 1478 yards and 14 touchdowns against just three interceptions. Asciutto's primary target has been senior receiver Christian Graney who has hauled in four touchdown receptions and totaled 544 receiving yards.

Raiders' freshman running back Gunner Yates has been SOU's primary backfield weapon, piling up 288 yards and five touchdowns in five games.

"They're a good team that's got a lot of great athletes," Samson said of head coach Charlie Hall's squad. "Coached very well, got some good receivers that have made some plays. Their quarterback's playing really well. Defensively they've got some guys that can really make plays. Their overall team speed is very good, something we've got to be ready for."

Saturday's game will be Tech's second-to-last home game of the season. The Orediggers will head to Billings for a rematch against Rocky Mountain College on Oct. 29, return home to take on Montana Western on Nov. 5 and then close out the regular season on the road against MSU-Northern.