Murdock fires 7 TD passes in Red Dog victory
04/26/02 Rapid City Journal
RAPID CITY -- The Rapid City Red Dogs broke their chain on Thursday night.
Rapid City piled 40 first-half points on the scoreboard as the Red Dogs held off the Wyoming Cavalry 71-51 in a vital Pacific West Division game before an announced 2,721 fans at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Plagued by turnovers and poor special teams play for much of the season, Rapid City stayed away from critical giveaways and only once did the Cavalry start a drive in Red Dog territory following a kickoff.
"We cut a lot of it down, but we've got a lot of room for improvement," said Rapid City head coach Dan Maciejczak. "It was a big deal for us. You could see our guys come together."
The Red Dogs turned the ball over only one time - a fumble near the Cavalry goal line - and the Rapid City defense registered a safety and two sacks, along with blocking a field goal and three point-after kicks.
The win improved the Red Dogs to 3-4 overall and 2-4 in division play at the season's midpoint as Rapid City tries to get back in position for a playoff spot. Wyoming dropped to 0-6 overall and 0-5 in the Pacific West.
Wyoming coach Tyrone Fittje drew a long breath as he contemplated his team's season thus far.
"A bit of frustration is an understatement," said Fittje, whose team held a total yardage edge (267-259) for the second straight week but lost. "This 0-6 stuff is very hard to swallow, but we've got to keep our heads up and keep working."
Wyoming led 7-3 in the early going when Cavalry running back Anthony Simmons bulled across the goal line to cap a 9-yard touchdown run.
That was as good as things would get for the Cavalry, as Wyoming allowed 30 unanswered points over the next 22 minutes.
Things started going against the Cavalry when the Red Dogs blocked a Jim Terry field goal. Two plays later, Brian Mills scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 5-yard run on the final play of the first quarter for a 10-7 lead.
On Wyoming's next possession, quarterback Matt Strand covered a bad snap in his own end zone for a safety. Following the Cavalry's free kick, Casey Veenhof made a fingertip catch along the left sideboard to run Rapid City's lead to 19-7.
"We had a blocked field goal and a safety and let them get up a little bit," said Fittje. "Our offense sputtered just enough to give them a gap and it was hard to make that up."
The Cavalry, which went 0 for 2 on first-half field goals and had an extra point blocked, gave the ball back to the Red Dogs when Terry's 46-yard attempt was wide left. Two plays later, Veenhof came open over the middle and weaved his way to paydirt to put Rapid City up 26-7.
After getting the ball back on downs near midfield, Red Dog quarterback Jason Murdock hit Mills with a 32-yard TD strike and the Red Dogs led 33-7 with 1:55 left in the half.
"It started after that second series," said Maciejczak. 'We started going and our guys started gaining confidence. You could tell it was going up and up and up."
The Cavalry finally broke their scoring drought when Strand scrambled in from four yards out to cap a patient 7-play, 34-yard drive that drew Wyoming back within 33-13.
But 40.1 seconds remained in the half and Rapid City took advantage as Murdock went back to Mills, who had a 19-yard catch the play before, for a 12-yard touchdown.
The two teams matched scores for much of the second half as both teams scored on six of seven possessions.
Rapid City's lone stop came when Cavalry defensive lineman Fou Mamea beat his block and hit Murdock before the Red Dog signal caller could hand the ball to running back Tom Skoog. The turnover negated Johnny Johnson's 41-yard kickoff return to the Wyoming 3.
"In a way, I think that was my fault," said Maciejczak. "That No. 9 (Mamea), he's quick, so I wanted to run away from him on a crack block. He came underneath and hit our quarterback before he got the handoff."
Strand, who completed 20 of 31 passes for 192 yards and three TDs, figured in four of Wyoming's six second-half touchdowns. He had scoring strikes of 11 yards to Norm Thomas, 27 yards to Patrick Horne and 10 yards to Joe Corley. He also rushed 14 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game.
Wyoming's Cory Brooks, who led the NIFL in receptions coming into Thursday's game, had seven catches for 51 yards but no scores.
Murdock finished 15 of 22 passing for 196 yards and seven touchdowns. Veenhof had six catches for 90 yards and three scores. Mills snared six passes for 64 yards and three TDs.
The Red Dogs play on the road and outside their division the next two weeks as Rapid City travels to Kearney, Neb., to take on the Tri-City Diesel on May 3 and plays at the Sioux City Bandits on May 11.
"We'll take a couple days off and give the guys a chance to relax," said Maciejczak. "Then we'll start preparing for Kearney. We're not going to cut them any slack because we scored 70 points. It's 0-0, we got a win and we'll see what happens."
Next home action for the Red Dogs falls on May 18 against Tri-City.
Wyoming Cavalry 7 6 12 26-51
Rapid City Red Dogs 10 30 7 24-71
Rapid City-Aaron Turner 27 FG
Wyoming-Anthony Simmons 9 run (Jim Terry kick)
Rapid City-Brian Mills 5 run (Turner kick)
Rapid City-Safety Al Everett
Rapid City-Mills 31 pass from Murdock (Turned kick)
Rapid City-Casey Veenhof 25 pass from Jason Murdock (Turner kick)
Rapid City-Veenhof 43 pass from Murdock (Turner kick)
Wyoming-Matt Strand 4 run (kick failed)
Rapid City-Mills 17 pass from Murdock ((Turner kick)
Wyoming-Aldwin Lance 5 run (kick failed)
Rapid City-Mills 1 pass from Murdock (Turner kick)
Wyoming-Norm Thomas 11 pass from Strand (run failed)
Rapid City-Veenhof 6 pass from Murdock (Turner kick)
Wyoming-Patrick Horne 27 pass from Strand (run failed)
Rapid City-Turner 36 FG
Wyoming-Lance 2 run (Strand run)
Rapid City-Jesse Adams 10 run (Turner kick)
Wyoming-Joe Corley 10 pass from Strand (pass failed)
Rapid City-Ryan Speed 11 pass from Murdock (Turner kick)
Wyoming-Strand 14 run (pass failed)
First downs 21 14
Rushes-yards 29-75 25-63
Passing yards 192 196
Comp-att 20-31-0 15-22-0
Return yards 10-182 6-114
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 5-26 8-39
Sacks 0-0 2-10
RUSHING-Wyoming: Lance 13-35, Simmons 9-29, Strand 7-11. Rapid City: Adams 11-38, Johnson 3-14, Mills 3-12, Tom Skoog 6-1.
PASSING-Wyoming: Strand 20-31-0-192. Rapid City: Murdock 15-22-0-196.
RECEIVING-Wyoming: Corey Brooks 7-51, Corley 5-48, Thomas 5-44, Lance 2-22. Rapid City: Veenhof 6-90, Mills 4-64, Speed 4-38, Adams 1-4.