Spokane trailed by 21 points in the first quarter and quarterback Erik Meyer was uncharacteristically wild early.
Somehow, the Shock dug out of the hole behind a play-making defense and Meyer, who warmed up to throw six touchdown passes and run for two more in a wild 73-66 victory over the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday night at the Arena.
Spokane improved to 9-7, 8-2 in games with Meyer as the starting quarterback. Arizona dropped to 14-2.
My unedited game story is below.
By Jim Meehan
Spokane still hasn’t put together a complete game this season, but the Shock made up for their imperfections Saturday with an endless supply of want-to.
Trailing by 21 points after a dreadful first quarter, the Shock staged a stirring comeback to chase down rival Arizona for an entertaining 73-66 victory in front of 9,362 at the Arena.
Spokane (9-7) snapped a four-game losing streak – two of those earlier this season by a combined 51 points – against the two-time defending Arena Football League champion Rattlers (14-2).
The Shock have won three straight since quarterback Erik Meyer’s return to the starting lineup from a fractured collarbone. Spokane is 8-2 in games with Meyer as the starter.
“We needed the victory the way we won it more than the victory itself,” Spokane coach Andy Olson said. “For us to be down three possessions to the best team in the AFL at this point, to come back and fight the way we did and keep coming after them even as the rollercoaster continued in the fourth quarter, there was just heart everywhere.
“It was a great thing to witness.”
Spokane had three turnovers and failed to score on its first four possessions. Arizona took control, building a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
Meyer was intercepted on Spokane’s third and fourth series, both throws well off target.
Arizona counterpart Nick Davila wasn’t razor sharp either, fumbling a center-quarterback exchange and tossing an interception to Jimmy Williams at the Shock 1-yard line in the first quarter. But the former Shock quarterback had five first-half touchdown passes and threw a pair of perfect deep balls – a 45-yarder to Rod Windsor on the first play from scrimmage and a 40-yard strike to Maurice Purify to set up another Windsor TD catch – as Arizona led 38-23 at half.
Meyer threw another interception to open the third quarter, but it was erased by a Rattlers’ penalty. Spokane eventually converted on fourth down with Meyer finding Nichiren Flowers for a 13-yard touchdown and the Shock trailed 38-30.
Arizona led 52-37 late in the third quarter, but the Shock pulled closer on Terrance Sanders’ 57-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
James Ruffin sacked Davila in the end zone for a safety to cut Arizona’s lead to 52-46. Spokane took the lead on Meyer’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Mike Washington.
“We felt like we gave them a lot of the plays they made in the first half. We felt like we blew some coverages back there,” Sanders said. “We just talked about settling down and doing the job and we proved that we can.”
Spokane was back in business after recovering Taylor Rowan’s bar-ball kickoff. Meyer connected with Rashaad Carter and the Shock led 60-52.
Then it was Arizona’s turn to come back. The Rattlers pulled even at 66 with 29.9 seconds left on Kerry Reed’s 10-yard touchdown catch and a successful two-point conversion.
Spokane’s final series started ominously when Meyer tripped and fell as he dropped back to pass. He responded by floating a 21-yard pass to Washington and a perfectly thrown 27-yarder to Carter for the touchdown.
“The offensive line stepped up big-time and we were still aggressive from our own 2,” said Meyer, who finished with 292 yards passing and eight touchdowns, six through the air. “We ran a deep out to Mike and Carter ran a hell of a route and I put it in a spot where he could get it.”
Receiver Nick Truesdell, who plays on Spokane’s Hail Mary defense, intercepted Davila’s pass near the goal line to finish off Spokane’s wild victory.
“Just keep fighting and believing,” Meyer said of the rollercoaster contest. “There was never any doubt in our minds we were going to win, even when we were down 21-0.”
Carter finished with three touchdown catches and Washington had 11 receptions for 146 yards. Davila had nine touchdown passes, but was intercepted twice and had two fumbles on snaps from the center, including a costly turnover with less than 1 minute remaining.
Spokane closes out its home schedule against Tampa Bay on Monday, July 21.