There are a number of factors that seemingly make the Spokane Shock’s chore tonight tougher than it appears. They are still a banged-up team. They face a difficult travel schedule with a second consecutive venture halfway across the country. Their opponent, Iowa, desperately needs a win to keep its playoff hopes alive.
But one positive should outweigh all others.
“I think the NFL Network takes away from any of the negatives,” Shock coach Rob Keefe said.
Spokane makes its NFL Network debut against the Barnstormers tonight in Des Moines. It’s the first of at least three straight Shock games set for broadcast on NFL Network.
The second-ranked Shock (11-2) are riding a nine-game winning streak. Iowa (6-7) is two games behind Milwaukee and Arizona in the race for the National Conference’s fourth and final playoff spot. Spokane and Iowa met twice in arenafootball2, each winning at home. Twelve current Barnstormers played in the July, 2009, contest.
Spokane continues to roll despite constant roster churn. Last week, Jeremy Geathers stepped in for Ben McCombs (knee) and had two tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble in Spokane’s overtime win against Cleveland. Greg Orton had seven receptions for 70 yards and one touchdown in his debut. Mervin Brookins returned five kicks for 81 yards replacing the injured Raul Vijil and Quorey Payne. And reserve quarterback Brian Zbydniewski took over as the long-snapper from Rob McMackin, who was filling in for McCombs.
The major change this week is the return of Markee White, who missed nearly two months with a shoulder injury. He’s expected to be the fourth receiver behind Huey Whittaker, Shaun Kauleinamoku and Orton.
Iowa’s Ryan Vena was the starting quarterback last year for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which lost 74-27 to the Shock in the ArenaCup as Vena was intercepted four times and fumbled once. He has 60 touchdown passes and 20 TD runs this season, but he also leads the Arena Football League with 20 interceptions.
Iowa ranks 13th of 15 AFL teams in scoring (49.8 points per game) and 14th in pass efficiency (102.8). The Barnstormers are No. 2 in scoring defense (51.0) but last in sacks (7).
Spokane’s Kyle Rowley ranks fourth in pass efficiency (120.1) among full-time quarterbacks and he’s one of three with single-digit interceptions (9).
He hasn’t thrown an interception in his last 103 attempts, dating back to the fourth quarter of the Tulsa game a month ago.