The Spokane Shock could do no wrong against San Jose a week ago, scoring a franchise-best 90 points behind quarterback Kyle Rowley’s Arena Football League-record 12 touchdown passes.
They did little right Friday and needed a fourth-quarter rally to prevent the most lopsided defeat in team history. Top-ranked Arizona picked off five Rowley passes and cruised to a 61-35 victory in front of 8,946 at the Arena, which began emptying in the third quarter.
Spokane (8-7), already facing an uphill climb in the playoff race, needs three wins and all sorts of help elsewhere to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
It doesn’t get any easier. The Shock visit No. 2 Philadelphia (13-3), which owns the AFL’s best record, on July 8.
“It comes around full circle,” defensive back Josh Ferguson said. “We played the exact same way as San Jose did (last week). The one thing I’m proud of is the way our guys fought to the end. We didn’t give up.”
This one went from competitive to rout early in the second quarter. Trailing 14-7, Spokane appeared to tie the score when Steven Black went airborne to pull in Rowley’s pass in the end zone. But defensive back Arkeith Brown wrestled the ball away from Black as the receiver went over the dasherboards and ran 56 yards for a touchdown to increase Arizona’s lead to 13.
Shock coach Andy Olson challenged the call, hoping for a Spokane touchdown or a touchback on the interception.
“They didn’t see it my way,” Olson said. “That was a huge momentum killer for us.”
Two more Rowley interceptions, one by former Shock linebacker Kevin McCullough, opened the floodgates as Arizona (12-3) quickly capitalized on Spokane’s mistakes. After McCullough’s interception, ex-Spokane quarterback Nick Davila connected with Kerry Reed for a 29-yard touchdown on the ensuing play.
“We turned it over right away and we were playing from behind from there,” Rowley said. “It’s tough to play a solid team like that from behind. I forced some issues because we got down quick.”
Spokane committed seven first-half penalties, one erasing a Rattlers turnover. Arizona took advantage with another touchdown to boost its lead to 33-7. After an exchange of touchdowns, Spokane, operating with no timeouts and just 17.8 seconds, failed to score on the last series of the half and trailed 40-14.
The Rattlers’ defense made two more stops in the third quarter, including another McCullough interception, as their lead grew to 54-14.
“We couldn’t see the field on offense, couldn’t read it,” Olson said. “We’re obviously not a consistent team. I take personal blame. I have to somehow get this team to play, practice to practice and week to week. That was an unacceptable performance.”
Spokane closed within 54-35 with 8:41 remaining and then recovered an onside kick. The momentum didn’t last as Brown snagged his third interception. Davila fired a 9-yard touchdown pass to former Spokane receiver Markee White and the Rattlers led by 26.
The Shock lost offensive lineman Palauni Ma Sun to injury in the first quarter. Receiver Adron Tennell, despite limping noticeably for much of the game, finished with 12 catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Ex-Washington State Cougar Jeffrey Solomon had 12 receptions for 122 yards for the Shock.
Davila finished with five touchdown passes, two to White and one to former Cougar Trandon Harvey.