Indoor, outdoor, 8-man, junior tackle, prep, college, pro. At every level of football, committing turnovers and penalties usually equates to losses.
That’s been the story so far of the 2011 Spokane Shock. They’ve committed 33 penalties – only New Orleans has more (34) – for a league-high 248 yards. They’ve turned the ball over nine times – only Philadelphia has more (10). Those are the primary reasons they’re 0-3 entering Friday night’s home date with Kansas City (0-2) in a matchup of two of the five winless Arena Football League teams.
“We know we’re close,” head coach Rob Keefe said. “The guys understand when we look at the film. We believe we’re 0-3 because of our mistakes. If we take care of the football, we can win from here on out.”
Veteran quarterback Kyle Rowley has tossed seven interceptions. He was picked off just 11 times last season when Spokane won the ArenaBowl.
“I just made a bad throw at the end of (Iowa) game,” he said. “I didn’t necessarily get the snap clean, but I probably should have just thrown it away. There’s been some miscommunication, but overall I need to play and take responsibility for keeping the ball in our hands. That’s the whole game, just don’t turn the ball over.”
Rowley is technically working with his fourth offensive coordinator in the last four games, dating back to the ArenaBowl. Matt Sauk directed the offense last season before leaving for Utah. Fred Biletnikoff Jr. coordinated the offense for the first two games this season before being fired. Keefe and recently hired Andy Olson collaborated on the offense last week. It’ll be Olson’s duty tonight.
“It’s just a different terminology,” Rowley said. “One thing people don’t realize is a lot of teams run a lot of the same schemes, so what we had to do was come up with the terminology that would make it easy for our coaches now to get that play out of their mouth into the huddle.”
The other side of the turnover issue is the fact that Spokane is the only AFL team without an interception. Opponents are completing 70.5 percent of their passes against the Shock.
“We have to have less penalties, focus up and polish our game,” defensive lineman Mike Alston said. “Just go out and do what we know we can do.”
Spokane will be without linebacker Antwan Marsh (concussion). He’ll be replaced by Chris Hemphill, who signed earlier this week. Emery Sammons, who suffered a concussion on the same play as Marsh last Friday, passed the concussion tests and he will play.
Jon Williams replaces defensive lineman Terrance Taylor, who was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Fullback Clay Harrell also might see time on the defensive front. Palauni Ma Sun, who was with the 2008 Shock and rejoined the team last week, will be the fourth offensive linemen.
Kansas City has lost two games by a combined 10 points. Quarterback J.J. Raterink, who was in Shock training camp in 2006, leads the AFL in total offense (355 yards per game) and is fourth in pass efficiency (122.4). He has 15 touchdown passes and one interception.