After a big win with playoff implications last week in the first outdoor game in Arena Football League history, Spokane goes back inside tonight searching for another big win with playoff implications.
Along the way, the Shock wouldn’t mind avenging one of the most lopsided losses in franchise history. The Shock opened the season in March with a 76-48 loss to San Jose. Only Bakersfield (52-20) in 2006 defeated Spokane by more in the organization’s 110-game history.
The rematch is tonight at the Arena.
“We felt very disrespected,” Shock coach Rob Keefe said. “They are a good team, but I think it was the way they did it. The coaches were very brash and blatant, kind of in our face, the mentality of old AFL vs. new AFL and the only reason we won (the title) is because they weren’t in the league last year.
“We respect them totally. They beat us fair and square, but it’s definitely something in the forefront of our minds.”
So are the playoffs. Eighth-ranked Spokane (8-8) has the inside track over No. 9 San Jose (7-9), Utah (7-9) and Tulsa (7-9) for the final National Conference playoff spot. A Shock win and a Tulsa loss against Orlando would put Spokane in the postseason for the sixth straight year.
“They got us in the beginning of the year, but we’re a different team,” said quarterback Erik Meyer, who joined the Shock roughly six weeks ago. “There’s a different attitude in the locker room and on the field.”
Spokane has averaged 65 points, including 38.8 first-half points, in Meyer’s four starts. He’s departed in the third quarter of his last three starts (concussion vs. Chicago, cramping against Arizona and Utah). Spokane’s offense has produced its three highest point totals in its last five games.
In the first meeting, San Jose returned two Kyle Rowley interceptions for touchdowns and quarterback Mark Grieb was 21 of 25 with six touchdowns. San Jose scored on every possession before running out the remaining seconds of the fourth quarter.
It’s been a roller coaster season for the Shock and SaberCats, who started out 5-2. San Jose endured a seven-game losing streak, capped by an 82-21 loss to Cleveland, one point short of equaling the worst loss in league history. Grieb, with three AFL championships on his resume, leads the league in total offense and ranks third in completion percentage, but he’s tossed 23 interceptions.
San Jose’s defense has struggled, allowing a league-high 106 touchdown passes. The SaberCats are minus-14 in turnover margin. Spokane has taken better care of the ball of late, but still ranks 16th in pass efficiency defense.
Notes: Spokane signed receiver Brian Paysinger and placed receiver Shaun Kauleinamoku on injured reserve on Friday. Paysinger played at the University of Oregon and was with Tulsa earlier this season. … San Jose suspended receiver Rodney Wright, who had 36 receptions in the first three games of the season. He had 12 catches for 123 yards against Spokane.
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