Red Dogs suffer against Bismarck

04/08/02 Rapid City Journal
The Rapid City Red Dogs, like a flu victim who keeps getting infected with the same virus, can't seem to shake a break as evidenced by their 48-38 loss to the Bismarck Roughriders at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Sunday afternoon.

A 40-yard kickoff return by A.J. Street with 1:51 to play pushed the Roughriders edge back to 10, 48-38, and kept the Red Dogs at bay - who had just closed within three points only to see Bismarck ice the win.

At times, the Red Dogs, who were sporting a new starting quarterback in Jason Murdock, seemed on the verge of coming up with a winning remedy, but turnovers, inopportune penalties and just plain bad luck kept the Rapid City squad from victory.

"We basically made four mistakes that resulted in 21 points," Red Dogs quarterback Jason Murdock said. "We managed to gel together in the second half. We've only been together for a couple of days for practice."

Three of those four mistakes happened within minutes of each other. Bismarck's Quentin Cradle's 3-yard run tied the game at 7-7 with 12:56 to play in the second quarter. That drive that was kept alive with a personal foul penalty against the Red Dogs on a fourth-and-10 play.

Murdock let the Dogs out with a seven-play drive that ended with Aaron Turner's 34-yard field goal for the brief 10-7 Rapid City lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Roughriders rumbled to their own 20-yard line. A face mask penalty called on the play moved the ball to the Rapid City 21-yard line. Randy Hogan hauled in a touchdown pass on the very next play and Bismarck took possession of the lead for good at 14-10.

The next mistake came when Murdock was chased into his own end zone and unleashed a desperation pass that was picked off and returned seven yards by Kyle Sires for a score and a 21-10 lead and 11:54 remaining.

The Red Dogs culminated a 9-play drive at the end of the second quarter on a quarterback keeper by Murdock up the middle to cut the lead to 21-16. A pass from Murdock found Casey Veenhof in the back of the end zone to complete the 2-point conversion and pull the Red Dogs to within three, 21-18. Johnny Johnson figured prominently during that series with six rushes for 25 of his 37 first-half yards.

Rapid City opened the contest with a failed field goal attempt that gave Bismarck its first opportunity on offense. The Roughriders, known primarily for their vaunted rushing attack, started at their own five yard line and were unable to mount a first down as three straight runs yielded just one-yard. A 54-yard field goal attempt fell just short.

Murdock responded with a touchdown pass of 29 yards to a stretched out Brian Mills who hauled in the pass with one hand for the Red Dogs first score and a 7-0 lead with 8:41 to play.

"I think he's going to work out well for us," Red Dogs coach Dan Maciejczak said. "He's only had two days of practice with us. He played a good game. He made a couple of bad reads. But once we get that worked out we'll be alright."

Murdock arrived in town Wednesday.

Street's 7-yard TD catch and Reggie Shulte's 11-yard scoring catch pushed the Roughriders back on top, 34-18, with 6:42 left in the third.

Johnny Johnson's 32-yard run cut the lead back to ten, 34-24, for Rapid City, but Street snared another scoring pass, this one from four yards out.

Casey Veenhof rallied Rapid City with scoring catches from 11 and one yard out, 41-38, before Street struck again with his kickoff return.

"It's not like we're getting outplayed or being outmanned," Maciejczak said. "It's just been mentally where we've been breaking down."

Maciejczak's point might be well taken. His Red Dogs held advantages over their counterparts in rushing (94 yards to 46) and passing (117 to 55) to double up on their opponents in total offense (211 to 101).

"We have a quality team," insisted Maciejczak. "These guys have big hearts and don't give up. Right now, we're not getting blown out of our games. ... We're just not catching the breaks that we need to get us over the hump."

And the stat sheet, while verifying Maciejczak's remarks, likewise showed some glaring weaknesses. In kickoff return yardage, the Red Dogs had a respectable 95 yards on seven returns. But the Roughriders rode roughshod over the Red Dogs gaining 120 yards on six returns, including Street's 40-yard score that sealed the win.

The timing of Street's return was similar to what was played out in last week's game against the Sioux Falls Storm where a kickoff return denied Rapid City a win over its cross-state rival. In fact, the Red Dogs have now allowed five kickoff returns for TDs in its four games.

"Our kickoff team has killed us," Maciejczak said. "We're practicing it and it's gonna get better, I'll guarantee that."

The Red Dogs host the Oklahoma Crude on Friday and Maciejczak isn't hanging his head. He's defiant in his expectations for that game against the Crude.

"We've been better than every team that we've played this year. ... We're looking forward to the game. We'll get a great game plan put together and our players will work hard to execute that game plan. Right now it's the turnovers that are killing us."

And so another opportunity awaits for the patient to once again heal thyself.


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