Omaha Beef looking to rough up 'Riders

04/03/03 NIFL Fan Article by Andrew Hoyle

Omaha Beef fans and players have had the date circled on their calendars since this season's schedule was announced: April 5th. That's when the defending Pacific Conference champions, the Bismarck Roughriders, make their first ever visit to the Omaha Civic Auditorium. Since last year's first-round playoff loss at Bismarck, which was instigated by a questionable seeding arrangement by the NIFL, Beef fans have wanted to see how the Roughriders would respond in a truly hostile environment like the Slaughterhouse. Nobody thought the circumstances would be this different, though: Bismarck's former head coach would now be calling the shots for the Beef, and Bismarck would come into the game with a record of 0-2 overall, 0-2 in their division, and 0-2 on the road. Just in case you missed it, here it is one more time: 0-2.

It's got to weigh heavily on the minds of the 'Riders faithful that their once powerful team has yet to win a game this year, having lost to the Billings Outlaws 18-61 and the Wyoming Cavalry 47-61. It's caused former offensive coordinator Chris Schwab to strap the helmet and pads back on, to serve as the team's quarterback. It's also caused head coach Luke Schafer to add new players like LB Danielle Rollins-Kendall and DB/WR Michael Huebner to his roster in the hopes of solving a plethora of problems on both sides of the ball. No matter what the Roughriders have in mind, the Beef are sure to have a game plan that's a winner. But is it the game plan that everyone expects?

The Beef have always relied on a run first, pass when necessary philosophy. It controls the clock, reduces the chances of turnovers, and tends to wear the opposing defenses out faster. With a proven running back like Clinton Childs, and a healthy dose of backups LeAndre Moore and Prescott Hill thrown in for good measure, it's a wise move. And the Roughriders look ripe for a running attack, allowing 3.5 yards/attempt on the ground, 88 yards/game rushing, and 6 rushing TDs allowed so far this season.

But the most interesting stat by far is the fact that the 'Riders are allowing 188.5 yards/game passing, with 10 TD passes in just two games. This stat has to have Beef head coach Collins Sanders and quarterback Troy Travis rethinking that running game first philosophy. Travis had a decent game against Show Me last week, going 11-22-1 for only 78 yards, but the important fact was he made four passing TDs. Travis is certainly capable of having an enormous amount of success against this Bismarck defense, especially with WRs Herman Gordon, Steve Lovell, and emerging star Jesse VonBehren going deep.

The reverse is also true for the Bismarck offense, but don't count on quarterback Schwab getting a whole lot of time to get the ball to WRs Harper, Cradle, Street, and Anderson. Beef DL Dwayne Harris and DL Richard "Big Sexy" Johnson are going to be blowing through a Roughrider o-line that has already allowed 6 sacks for -31 yards in two games, with their own version of shock and awe, making Bismarck use a lot of three-step drops, quick dump-offs, and screens. That too could prove costly, as Beef DB LaMar O'Neal will be looking to add to his interception total. Bismarck has been picked off three times in its first two games, but has yet to pick off the opposition. Also countering with the quick handoffs and sweeps to Cradle will not bode well for Bismarck; if Harris and Johnson don't get him, hard-hitting LB Cale Good is sure to be waiting at the line of scrimmage to make his acquaintance.

Look for Omaha to make a big improvement on the penalty front in this game also; last week's eight penalties for 127 yards did not sit well with Beef coach Sanders.
If it's a close game, count on Omaha winning it in the kicking game, with proven kicker Chase Long outperforming Bismarck's kicker Mettenburger, who is only 1 of 4 in the FG department for a 22-yarder.

The Roughriders will just have to come to the Slaughterhouse this Saturday night to see which Omaha Beef team shows up. Either way, it is sure to spell 0-3 for Bismarck on the road so far this season, and make Beef fans feels just a little bit better about last year's 69-40 playoff loss.

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