Riders-Cavalry expected to be another shootout

05/24/02 Bismarck Tribune
The good news is that since the arrival of Danny Ragsdale three games ago, the Bismarck Roughriders have been able to score almost at will. The bad news is that they've needed to.

The Riders have allowed a whopping 111 points the past two weeks and for the season are surrendering 44.9 points per game, fourth worst in the NIFL.

The reason nobody in the Roughrider camp sees particularly alarmed by that is a simple one: The teams that trail Bismarck in that category -- La Crosse, River City and Wyoming -- have a combined 2-21 record while Bismarck is 6-2.

"This game is set up for offense," Bismarck cornerback Stacey Edwards said. "We've got experienced quarterbacks in this league, and they're going to hurt you.

"No matter what your defense can do, you can be beat if the quarterback is smart enough, and there are a lot of smart quarterbacks in this division," he added. "But we want to tighten up because of the pride thing."

Tonight's game with the Wyoming Cavalry (7:35 p.m., Civic Center) is certainly shaping up to be another shootout. That's OK with the Roughriders, because right now Ragsdale is not only the fastest gun in the Pacific West, but the entire NIFL.

Ragsdale per-game average of 242 yards per game is best in the league, he has completed 75.3 percent of his passes and thrown 15 touchdowns and just one interception. He has also guided Bismarck to an average of 60 points per game in three straight wins, which can take a lot of pressure off a secondary.

After a seemingly never-ending stretch of games against teams that are fighting for one of the Pacific Conference's four playoff berths, it would be easy to think that the Riders finally have a breather against Wyoming (1-8).

But it likely won't be an easy night for the defense. Most of Wyoming's shortcomings have come when their opponents' have the ball. The offense, led by quarterback Matt Strand and running back Anthony Simmons, has had no trouble racking up points and yardage.

The Cavalry has also had its share of hard luck: Half of Wyoming's losses have been by a touchdown or less.

"The Wyoming team that we're going to see here tonight isn't the same Wyoming team that was losing big earlier this season," Edwards said. "... They've improved. They've started to click."

Besides, overconfidence can be lethal for a football team, and it's something the Roughriders are consciously trying to avoid.

"I haven't felt a letdown in practice," he said. "There's so much competition between our offense and defense that you don't get that lull."

* NOTES: Defensive back Kyle Sires and running back Verna Owens both have ankle injuries, but are likely to play tonight. ... Defensive back Jerry Jones has been suspended for breaking team rules.

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