Add one more to the list of unbelievable finishes to a Spokane Shock game. Only this time, Spokane wasn’t able to complete an improbable comeback.
With starting quarterback Erik Meyer knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter, Spokane made up a two-touchdown deficit, pulling even on Terrance Sanders’ 54-yard return of a missed field goal. In overtime, Iowa came up with an interception and J.J. Raterink tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Marco Thomas as the Barnstormers won 69-63 Monday in the Arena Football League opener for both teams.
“We showed a lot of guts and heart,” Shock first-year head coach Andy Olson said, “but we made so many mental mistakes. We have a lot of work to do.”
Spokane’s turnover in overtime was its fifth and proved too much to overcome in front of an announced crowd of 8,891 at the Arena. Meyer was intercepted twice and fumbled once. Spokane never led, but did dig out of a 63-49 hole in the closing minutes.
Meyer was drilled by John Mohring on a helmet-to-helmet hit with just under 2 minutes left. Meyer, who suffered a concussion last season, stayed on the turf for several minutes and had to be helped off the field by the training staff. Mohring was penalized and ejected and Spokane offensive lineman Palau ni Ma Sun was booted for retaliating.
“I hope (Mohring) is suspended for weeks,” Olson said. “To make a hit on a player helmet-to-helmet clearly after the play is just inexcusable.”
Olson said Meyer was “rattled and we’re going to have to take it slowly. Neck, back, ribs, he’s hurting.”
Backup quarterback Adam Froman tossed a touchdown pass to cut Iowa’s lead to 7, but it looked like the Barnstormers would hold on when they recovered the on-side kick. Iowa wasn’t able to run out the clock and Craig Camay’s 32-yard field goal was wide left. Sanders took the ball off the net, eluded a couple of tacklers and raced down the sideline for a touchdown.
“I knew they had big guys out there (for blocking purposes) and I felt like I had to make a play after I missed an interception earlier,” Sanders said. “Instincts just took over.”
The score was tied at 63, but Spokane had to weather one more threat. Camay’s 47-yard field goal on the final play of regulation was short.
Spokane, which has won games in the closing seconds with clutch touchdown passes, a blocked PAT and a Hail Mary, had the ball first in overtime, but Froman’s pass deflected off Adron Tennell’s hands and was intercepted by Jason Simpson.
“It’s a ball I catch 10 out of 10 times, just that one time …” Tennell said.
One play later, Raterink connected with Thomas in stride for the touchdown.
Spokane wasn’t sharp from the outset, but managed to tie it at 35 by scoring with 5.3 seconds left in the second quarter on Meyer’s 6-yard touchdown run.
The Shock lost two possessions in the first 6 minutes of the third quarter. Iowa’s kickoff got away from returner Daron Clark and the Barnstormers recovered. They scored one play later and were back in business after three straight Meyer incomplete passes and a botched center-quarterback exchange on fourth down.
“We shot ourselves in the foot so many times,” Sanders said. “We shot about 10 toes off.
“We have to learn from the mistakes.”
Meyer tossed six touchdown passes and Brandon Thompkins had four TD receptions.
Raterink passed for 284 yards and seven touchdowns. Jesse Schmidt finished with 12 catches for 157 yards and five touchdowns, four receiving.
Spokane, which has lost three straight season openers, visits San Antonio on Saturday.