Riders, Red Dogs have potential, but will make mistakes

At times the Rapid City Red Dogs have looked like a very good football team. And at other times ...

"We look like the Bad News Bears," Rapid City coach Dan Maciejczak said.

Bismarck Roughriders coach Collins Sanders can probably relate.

That makes today's matchup between the Riders and Red Dogs -- two teams that have potential, but have been too prone to mistakes -- in Rapid City (3 p.m. MDT) an interesting one to watch.

"If we don't make some silly mistakes, it's going to be a fight," Maciejczak said.

The biggest improvement the Roughriders made between their opening-day loss to Sioux Falls and last week's win over River City was cutting down on the turnovers, dropping from six giveaways to none.

But penalties continue to be a problem.

Bismarck took seven in each of its first two games, but the yardage assessed jumped from 30 to 54, largely due to a rash of personal fouls.

"We've got to be more disciplined and cut down on the personal fouls," Sanders said. "We've got to play mistake free."

The other obvious shortcoming for Bismarck has been the passing game.

Throwing for 37.5 yards per game isn't going to win you many ball games. The lack of an effective passing game was the main reason the Roughriders narrowly escaped with a 39-37 win over the inexperienced Renegades despite dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Sanders' assessment of the situation was blunt: "We just have to throw the ball better."

Kirk Anderson will get the start against Rapid City.

And though Sanders wouldn't rule out using newly acquired quarterback Jason Baliko, he added that there are no plans to rotate quarterbacks like the Riders did in their season opener.

The Red Dogs have had a problem of their own with the passing game, but it hasn't been moving the ball -- just holding onto it.

Rapid City is averaging 236.7 yards per game through the air, but their quarterbacks have been picked off seven times. Three of those picks came in a season-opening three-point loss to Billings.

Who the Rapid City quarterback will be was still open for debate on Friday afternoon. Casey Veenhoff has piled up the bulk of that yardage, but when top wideout Ryan Speed when down to injury in last week's game against Sioux Falls, the Red Dogs moved Veenhoff to receiver.

Backup John Carnevali picked up where Veenhoff left off and was very effective, throwing for 86 yards in just seven attempts.

But the Red Dogs have a third option at QB, or they're hoping they will. Terrance Bryant, who has been the team's starter for the past several years in both the NIFL and the IFL, is allegedly set to return.

"Well, he's supposed to be here -- but he was supposed to be here the last couple of weeks," Maciejczak said. "If he does show up, he'll probably be the starter. He knows the system."

Aside from the uncertainty at quarterback, the other offensive problem the Red Dogs are facing involves injuries, as Maciejczak likens his teams to a MASH unit.

The most devastating loss would be Speed.

In the first two games Speed had 13 catches for 183 yards and four TDs, but hurt his knee against the Storm. The early diagnosis was a blown ACL, which would have meant the end of his season.

Now doctors are thinking it may be a lesser injury that he could come back from. Speed's availability for today's game is doubtful.

"We're not sure," Maciejczak said. "But I'd rather lose him for a game than the season."

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