Defense’s late stop sends Shock back to ArenaCup
It took the better part of four quarters for Spokane’s much-heralded defense to find an answer for Tulsa’s high-rev offense at the Arena on Saturday night.
But with less than a minute remaining in their arenafootball2 National Conference Championship showdown against the Talons, the No. 1-ranked Shock (18-1) came up with their only true defensive stop of the game and made it stand up in a 51-44 victory that earned them a berth against American Conference champion Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (16-3) in Saturday’s ArenaCup in Las Vegas.
“I’ve never been to Vegas,” a relieved Shock coach Adam Shackleford said after watching his defense deny No. 2-ranked Tulsa (15-4) on its final possession of the game when Talons quarterback Justin Allgood – who had torched the Shock for 329 yards and four touchdowns up to that point – misfired on four consecutive passes from just outside Spokane’s 10-yard line.
The Talons saw their final hope to tie the game and force overtime snuffed out when Allgood’s fourth-down pass sailed just out of the reach of Jeff Hughley in the back of the end zone.
Prior to that, the only stop the Shock’s defense had made came right before intermission when Tulsa ran out of time and was forced to settle for a 32-yard field-goal try by Luke Phillips that sailed wide right.
“We didn’t play very well in the first half on either side of the ball,” Shackleford said. “But we were relentless throughout, and eventually wore them down.”
Unable to get nothing more that token pressure on Allgood throughout most of the game, the Shock’s defensive line harassed him unmercifully on the Talons’ final possession and was in his face when his last pass sailed long.
“Our line has been the heart and soul of our defense all year, and they came up big again tonight when we needed them,” Shackleford said.
“If you don’t get pressure on Allgood, he’s going to do exactly what he did to us, which is murder you. And he did that to us for 31/2 quarters.
“But our guys hung in there and played their best in the fourth quarter.”
The Shock’s offense did its part, with quarterback Nick Davila throwing for 287 and six touchdowns, including three to Markee White, who used his 6-foot-7 frame to outreach Tulsa’s smallish defensive backs on a couple of well-executed fade routes.
“We put that play in, the fade, and it kind of worked to our advantage, because nobody can stop it,” said White, who finished with six catches for 71 yards.
Davila, who connected with White from 20 yards out for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:28 remaining, said he was ready to mount another late drive if needed.
“You always prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” he said when asked what he was thinking during this team’s final goal-line stand. “The offense was ready, but I just felt inside that our defense was going to get a stop.
“When we needed them, they showed up – just like they have all year.
“That was a great Tulsa team we beat tonight. It just too bad one of us had to go home.”
Shock 51, Talons 44
TUL—Franklin 5 pass from Allgood (Phillips kick)
SPO— FG Jackson 25
TUL—Edwards 11 pass from Allgood (Phillips kick)
SPO—Dillon 9 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
TUL—Floyd 1 run (Phillips kick)
SPO—Davila 1 run (kick fail)
TUL—Franklin 6 pass from Allgood (kick fail)
SPO—White 6 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
SPO—Olson 22 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
TUL—Hughley 14 pass from Allgood (Phillips kick)
SPO—Olson 6 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
TUL—FG Phillips 22
SPO—White 2 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
TUL—Franklin 4 run (Phillips kick)
SPO—White 22 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
Rushing–Tulsa, Franklin 1-4, Floyd 1-1. Spokane, Nikolao 2-9, Davila 7-8, Vijil 1-2.
Passing–Tulsa, Allgood 28-41-0-329. Spokane, Davila 31-45-0-287.
Receiving–Tulsa, Hughley 10-169, Franklin 8-80, Edwards 8-65, Bolden 2-15. Spokane, Olson 12-105, Vijil 9-75, White 6-71, Dillon 4-36.