Spokane did many of the same things Friday its been doing the last three games -- and that's proven to be an unsuccessful formula.
Spokane dropped its third straight game, the latest a 52-34 loss to visiting San Jose. The Shock cut down their turnovers but the two were costly as new quarterback Brian Zbydniewski was intercepted twice in the red zone. Spokane finished with 10 penalties and allowed a Hail Mary touchdown pass for the second time this season. The other was a last-play loss to Cleveland.
My unedited game story is below.
By Jim Meehan
Spokane’s slide continued.
And so did the Shock’s costly turnovers, ill-timed penalties, struggles on offense and knack for momentum-draining mistakes.
Spokane was thumped by Pacific Division rival San Jose 52-34 on Friday in front of an announced crowd of 8,579 at the Arena, sending the Shock to their third straight Arena Football League setback since losing quarterback Erik Meyer to injury.
All three have been by double digits. The last two have been by a combined 50 points.
Spokane, which has lost three in a row at home, slipped to 5-5, two games behind San Jose (7-3).
Quarterback Brian Zbydniewski, signed earlier this week, produced five touchdowns but was intercepted twice – once in the end zone and the other at the goal line.
“Give credit to San Jose,” Zbydniewski said. “They mixed up coverages a little bit. We were in the ball game, though. Two big red-zone picks, I shouldn’t have pulled the trigger on those but I’ll get back in the swing of things.”
Zbydniewski made his share of mistakes, but he didn’t get much help from his teammates. Brandon Thompkins dropped three passes in the first half, including one on Spokane’s first series that ended with Taylor Rowan intentionally kicking the ball out of bounds.
The Shock trailed just 21-13 after Zbydniewski scrambled for a 4-yard touchdown run with seven seconds remaining in the first half. San Jose took over at its 19 and quarterback Russ Michna hit Dominique Curry in the back of the end zone as time expired.
“We had five dropped balls,” Shock coach Andy Olson said. “You can’t drop a ball when you’ve got a quarterback who’s only been with us for a couple of days. The first half was just so poorly played with dropped balls and off-sides and of course giving up the Hail Mary. We were in it until then. That was by far the biggest play of the game.
“The receivers have to play better. The offensive line has to be better. “Zeb” did enough. We didn’t support him. But the people who’ve been here all year, those were the ones making the mistakes to make us lose that game.”
The Shock struggled from the opening play, which was blown dead by a false-start penalty. After a Thompkins’ drop, Zbydniewski was sacked at Spokane’s 1-yard line.
San Jose scored on its first play from scrimmage when Michna found Jason Willis uncovered for a 32-yard touchdown. The SaberCats scored on four of their five first-half possessions.
Spokane, trailing by 22 points, had first-and-goal at San Jose’s 1 but ended up losing five yards and turning the ball over on downs. The defense responded with a stop and a Zbydniewski touchdown pass closed the deficit to 42-27.
Spokane missed on an opportunity to recover the ensuing on-side kick. Michna made the Shock pay with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Gray, bumping the SaberCats’ lead to 49-27 midway through the fourth quarter.
San Jose didn’t commit a turnover. Michna was efficient, completing 17 of 29 for 218 yards and four touchdowns. Curry had two touchdown catches. Gray finished with eight receptions for 83 yards.
“Our DBs have got to be more physical,” Olson said. “We have to play better back there. That’s a major concern right now. Giving up a Hail Mary is just embarrassing. It should never happen.”
Zbydniewski had 303 yards passing, divided almost evenly among Mike Washington (7 catches, 100 yards), Thompkins (6-98) and Rashaad Carter (9-86).