Omaha would hardly miss Ragsdale

07/15/02 Bismarck Tribune

The Omaha Beef know what its like to be missing a star quarterback, but that doesn't mean the Beef will be feeling any sympathy for the Bismarck Roughriders if Danny Ragsdale can't suit up for their NIFL Pacific Conference semifinal clash tonight (Bismarck Civic Center, 7:05 p.m.).

"My goodness, (Ragsdale) is a great player, but we lost our quarterback for eight games too you know," Omaha coach Sandy Buda said. "Your No. 2 guy is never going to be as good as your No. 1."

But the dropoff has been precipitous for the Riders when Ragsdale has not been in the lineup, so they're still hoping that his badly damaged right ankle is good enough to let him play against Omaha.

"We won't know until (Monday) morning," Bismarck coach Collins Sanders said. "As of right now I'd say it's about 50-50, but it's kind of doubtful.

"He's a little bit better than he was earlier this week, and hopefully he'll be able to step it up," Sanders added. "... We have to know if he plays if he'll risk doing any further damage. That's the biggest question."

The difference with Ragsdale in the lineup is obvious and well-documented. With Ragsdale the Roughriders are 7-1 against opponents that had a combined winning percentage of .598, and Bismarck has averaged 60.7 points and 230.4 passing yards per game. Without Bismarck is 4-2 against teams with a combined .405 winning percentage, and average 32.7 points and 77.0 passing yards per game.

If Ragsdale can't play -- and earlier in the week he seemed determined to try if he received any kind of good medical news -- the Riders will likely alternate between Jason Baliko and wide receiver Duane Monlux under center, much as they did in the season closing win over Casper.

Buda said the Beef is preparing for Bismarck as if Ragsdale will play and were at 100 percent.

"He's a competitor and some times in a big game, you know, adrenaline takes over," Buda said.

Omaha has one of the better defenses in the league, ranked third in total defense and fourth in fewest points allowed. When the Beef faced Billings, the most comparable offense to Bismarck's with Ragsdale, the Outlaws did score a 66-53 win.

Omaha's defense is led by Dwayne Harris. The Pacific North conference defensive MVP has had 41 tackles for loss, a dozen more than any other player in the league, and was second in the NIFL with 19 sacks. Harris, who spent a couple years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, would seem to be the obvious front runner for the league's defensive player of the year.

"We're going to have to scheme to find a way to protect the quarterback," Sanders said.

On the other side of the ball, the Beef runs a more balanced offense than the Riders are used to seeing in the pass-happy Pacific West.

Omaha has a top running back in Clinton Childs, a 235-pound bruiser from the University of Nebraska. Childs rushed for 725 yards this season, fourth best in the NIFL and one spot ahead of Bismarck's Quentin Cradle (677 yards). Cradle has more than five times as many yards receiving as Childs (556-101).

"He's a lot like Q," Sanders said. "When you hit him, you better wrap him up."

The man who makes the Beef offense go is quarterback Troy Travis. Travis was the MVP in the IPFL last year, but injured his elbow in the first quarter of Omaha's season-opener this year. Tory Veland did an able job as his backup, but the Beef are 6-1 with Travis as the starter, including the win in the opener.

For those wondering what type of quarterback Travis is, Buda offered a vivid description of the 245-pounder.

"He's a Daunte Culpepper-type player," Buda said. "... He's a big guy, but he fools you with his quickness."

Omaha is undoubtedly a better team with Travis, but it's hard to gauge exactly how much better. Overall the Beef played a softer schedule than the Roughriders -- Omaha's opponents were 90-106, Bismarck's 101-95. More significantly, While Ragsdale's eight games came against the teeth of Bismarck's schedule, Travis really hasn't faced much of a test.

Since his return, the Beef have beaten Casper, La Crosse and Enid, three teams that combined to go 5-37 this year, and split two tight games with Sioux City. In contrast, six of Ragsdale's eight games were against teams with winning records and a seventh against Rapid City (6-8).


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