Spokane first-year head coach Rob Keefe is often a man of many words, but he needed only one to describe what happened in the Shock’s 74-62 season-opening Arena Football League loss to Milwaukee.
“Trust,” Keefe said. “There were too many guys not trusting the man next to them, therefore, they were doing too much. People were in places they shouldn’t have been because they were worried about somebody else – a defensive end being in a place where a defensive end shouldn’t be, a quarterback rolling out when he didn’t have to roll. So trust your guys. Don’t worry about the guy next to you, just do your responsibility.”
The Shock, who visit the Utah Blaze on Friday, sputtered on both sides of the ball. On offense, as Keefe suggested after the game, Spokane didn’t stretch the field enough. There were some protection issues, but that wasn’t totally unexpected with two linemen on injured-reserve (Chris Pino, right wrist; Ed Ta’amu, back).
Kyle Rowley passed for seven touchdowns. He connected with Huey Whittaker 12 times for 104 yards and four touchdowns. Rowley was intercepted once, not three times as the official stats indicated after the game, and he passed for 294 yards, corrected from 259.
Still, there were opportunities for more plays in the passing game.
“He was making the right checks, technically the guy is covered and they’re playing the right leverage inside, therefore I shouldn’t pass the ball,” Keefe said. “But the receiver is 6-5, 6-6, throw the ball up to him and let him make a play.”
Milwaukee’s offense didn’t give Spokane much chance to generate a pass rush.
“They were doing a three-step drop, so it was almost impossible to get to the quarterback on time,” Shock defensive end Ben McCombs said. “One of their coaches (defensive coordinator Cedric Walker) coached me and (Spokane DE) Jerry Turner (in Bakersfield in 2006) and he told us before the game there was no way we were going to see a five-step.”
Iron quarterback Chris Greisen, the AFL offensive player of the year in 2007, tossed nine touchdown passes and no interceptions. Tiger Jones, a teammate of Greisen’s with AFL Georgia in 2008, had nine catches, four for touchdowns. Damian Harrell, who ranks among the best receivers in AFL history, had 10 receptions for 103 yards and Nate Forse, All-arenafootball2 last season with Green Bay, had 11 catches, three for TDs.
“Literally the pass was away before our ‘Mack’ (linebacker) touched their fullback,” defensive coordinator Alex Sirianni said. “We lost inside leverage a lot, which is very fixable.”
Keefe said he doesn’t anticipate extensive personnel or lineup changes.
“If we panic now and make changes, you don’t know what you have,” Keefe said.
Spokane’s special teams were solid. Kicker Taylor Rowan, who signed with the Shock a week ago, was 8 of 8 on PATs. Quorey Payne returned a kickoff for a touchdown. … Spokane’s four players on injured-reserve (DB Alex Teems, WR Shaun Kauleinamoku, Pino and Ta’amu) will miss at least the first three games. Spokane has a bye in Week 4 before facing Cleveland on May 1.