Riders getting ball to Street
05/19/02 Bismarck Tribune
The passing game has officially arrived for the Bismarck Roughriders, and receiver A.J. Street may be leading the charge.
In last Saturday's 61-53 victory over division-leading Billings, Street hauled in seven passes for 134 and three touchdowns, virtually doubling his season output.
"Things just opened up and they were just getting me the ball," Street said. "A game like that does a lot for my confidence, that's for sure."
Street and the Roughriders head to Sioux Falls today to take on the Storm in a clash of division heavyweights. Sioux Falls sits at 6-2, while the Roughriders are 5-2 after winning three in a row.
After the big game against Billings, Street leads the Roughriders with 244 yards receiving and six touchdown catches. He's averaging 16.3 yards per catch.
Bismarck coach Collins Sanders said it was just a matter of time before Street put together a break-out game like the receiver did against Billings.
"We knew a game like that was bound to happen for A.J. just because we knew what he was capable of," Sanders said. "He's one guy that went out there, got open and did his job."
Along with his six touchdown catches, Street has also returned four kicks this season for scores. The main reason for his big play ability is quite simple -- Street can run like a deer.
"Speed is a tremendous asset for me and it's just something I've always had," Street said. "God gave me the ability to run, jive, and juke, so I have to use it."
Sanders said Street's already impressive stats could be even more staggering, if it weren't for a few mistakes on special teams. Thanks to penalties, the receiver has had a trio of kick-return scores called back.
"Yeah, he's taken back four for touchdowns, but he's also had three called back because of something stupid we did behind the play on a return," Sanders said. "We've got some guys with some speed, and A.J.'s definitely shown that he can get up and go. He's always a breakaway threat.
"But he's not just all speed," Sanders added. "His routes have constantly gotten better and better."
The improvement of the receiving corps has been connected to the arrival of quarterback Danny Ragsdale. The success of the receiving corps after the former Blaze star arrived are more than a mere coincidence,.
"I think a lot of it is having a good trigger man back there making good decisions," Sanders said. "I think Danny lifts up this whole group to another level. Putting a guy with as much experience back there as Danny has is going to help everybody out."
Street also said that having two capable running backs in Quentin Cradle and Verna Owens in the backfield also helps stretch things out for the quarterback and receivers.
"We probably have the best two running backs in the league in Quentin and Verna," Street said. "Teams can't ignore those two, and with Danny back there now, we can open things up a little more. I think that's really helped."
The last time Bismarck took on Sioux Falls was in the season opener, where the Storm stomped the Roughriders 48-20.
Street said that the Riders remember that loss, but know they're a better team now.
"We know that they blew us out the last time we played and that gives us a lot of motivation," Street said. "The thing about this league is that anybody can beat anybody. It's just a matter of who goes out and makes the least mistakes."