ORLANDO, Fla. – Sure, Kyle Rowley threw eight touchdown passes and rushed for two more, and yes, the Spokane Shock offense put up 70 points on an Orlando Predators defense respected as one of the best in the Arena Football League.
But in reality, Saturday’s 70-58 get-the-team-back-on-track victory belonged to the Shock defense.
A pair of key second-half stops, frustrating coverage from the defensive backs and some red-zone play that made Orlando earn everything helped the Shock improve to 2-4 and topple the 4-2 Predators before an announced Amway Center crowd of 11,786.
“Our defense is playing incredible,” said Rowley, who finished 23 of 32 for 293 yards. “I have all the trust in the world in those guys. That’s what we’re working on – trusting each other and doing our jobs. It’s easier to play from ahead, because you can dictate the game.”
Two stops helps Spokane pull away from a tight 35-28 halftime game.
“The defense had to step up,” Shock coach Rob Keefe said. “Last week we didn’t get a stop against Utah and we took that very personal. We knew we needed to show up against Orlando.”
On the opening possession of the second half, Orlando had to settle for a 31-yard Mark Lewis field goal after Jon Williams – who also had a first-quarter fumble recovery – sacked Nick Hill for a loss on a third-and-goal.
“Williams was relentless,” Keefe said.
Spokane followed with a Rowley 8-yard touchdown pass to Raul Vijil on a drive kept alive by a Predator defensive holding call. The Shock then led 42-31, forcing Orlando into catch-up mode.
In the fourth quarter, Hill overthrew a fourth-down attempt to Josh Bush, and Spokane took a 56-38 advantage on a Rowley 1-yard keeper with 11:14 left.
Spokane almost pulled away in the first half using defense, stopping the Predators twice on possessions inside the Shock 5-yard line, while Rowley managed scores on the visitors’ first three possession for a 21-7 advantage.
Then it was Orlando’s turn to use defense.
Kenny McEntyre perfectly read a Rowley throw for an interception and 11-yard touchdown return, then Johnnie Balous recovered a Shock fumble on the Spokane 15. Six plays later, Hill connected with Bush for a 1-yard score that tied the game at 21.
Spokane took leads of 28-21 and 35-28 on Rowley passes of 3 and 41 yards to Vijil, who finished with seven catches for 88 yards and five touchdowns.
Hill finished with 299 yards and four TDs – three to Bush, who had 11 catches for 162 yards.