Dogs get paddled in Bismarck

04/22/02 Rapid City Journal
BISMARCK, N.D. -- If the Rapid City Red Dogs were any more self-destructive, they'd require an intervention.

On Sunday, the Red Dogs outgained the Bismarck Roughriders, just as they have every opponent they've faced this season. But the Roughriders were more than happy to take advantage as Rapid City was undone by the usual assortment of turnovers, penalties and lousy coverage in a 29-20 Bismarck victory.

"Our quarterback fumbled the snap, what four times?" Rapid City coach Dan Maciejczak fumed. "And we lead the league in (dumb) penalties."

For the record, Rapid City did fumble four times -- although they were credited with two -- and committed nine penalties for 49 yards. They also allowed A.J. Street to return two kickoffs for touchdowns, although one was called back on an illegal block. Street's was the sixth kick return for a TD Rapid City (2-4) has allowed this season.

The Roughriders (3-2) had a hand in causing some of Rapid City's misfortune, and had to overcome three turnovers and 10 penalties (for 78 yards) of its own.

"If it weren't for all our dumb penalties this could have been a blowout," Bismarck coach Collins Sanders said.

Instead, it was two mistake-prone teams trying to stay out of their own way, and for the second time in three weeks, Bismarck did a better job of that than the Red Dogs.

Bismarck's defensive line was awesome early, piling up three sacks in the first quarter alone, although one was wiped out by a facemask penalty.

One of those sacks, credited to Anthony Bonner and Ryan Slabaugh, led to a fumble recovery by Robert Gaines.

"We made their quarterback look a little nervous," Bonner said.

Bismarck took advantage of the turnover, scoring on a 5-yard swing pass from Jason Baliko to Quentin Cradle.

Rapid City adjusted to a shorter passing game that helped nullify Bismarck's rush the rest of the way. It also didn't hurt that Gaines, battling sickness and injury, missed much of the game. Most often his replacement was starting offensive tackle Jamie Grismer.

The teams traded field goals before Jesse Dymon Adams broke off a 35-yard touchdown run that brought the Red Dogs to within 13-10 with 6:44 left in the half.

Bonner avenged that score by swallowing up Dymon Adams for a safety on the next series, but Rapid City's Aaron Turner booted a field goal right before intermission that left Bismarck clinging to a precarious 15-13 lead.

Enter Street.

The former University of Mary wideout had a 40-yard touchdown return that sealed Bismarck's 48-38 win in Rapid City two weeks ago. Then in the first half of Sunday's game he took one kick all the way back, only to have it wiped out by a penalty. In the second half, we returned a kick 52 yards for a score.

With the passing game struggling again, Street felt the need to deliver another big play.

"Coach said he wanted me to get one back to the 15-yard line," Street said. "I thought I could do better than that."

Rapid City answered Street's score with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jason Murdock to Casey Veenhoff, cutting the gap to 22-20.

Bismarck's defense would not allow another point: Bonner recovered a fumble on the next series, then Turner missed a pair of field goals and Rapid City's final series ended with a fumble on a fourth-down play.

The Bismarck passing game, ineffective again (78 yards) due in no small part to several drops, came through when it was needed. Baliko connected on a 30-yard swing pass to Cradle, setting up a 12-yard touchdown pass to Verna Owens.

Neither team could afford a loss with division leaders Billings and Sioux Falls sporting 5-1 records. It wasn't pretty, but for the third time in the last four weeks, Bismarck found a way to get the job done.

"I wouldn't say it's a relief, but with our backs against the wall, the guys responded," Sanders said.

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