Emphasis on cutting down mistakes
Coaches spend hours watching video of opponents and formulating game plans accordingly.
It’s the same drill this week for the Spokane Shock and San Jose SaberCats. But to some degree, both teams know what’s coming when the Pacific Division rivals collide tonight at the SAP Center in San Jose.
“They’ve seen us 1,000 times and we’ve seen them,” Shock coach Andy Olson said. “It’s one of those deals where whoever is mentally stronger at the right moments is going to win this game.”
That was a sore spot in Spokane’s last outing. The Shock (1-1) broke down at critical moments and lost to top-ranked Arizona 68-49 nearly two weeks ago.
“We need to be more urgent in the way we do things and not think so much, just play ball,” linebacker Terence Moore said. “We have a very talented team.”
San Jose (2-1) had turnovers on its first three possessions and found itself in a 35-7 hole last week against Pittsburgh. The SaberCats held the Power to just 13 second-half points, but failed on a two-point conversion in the closing seconds and lost 48-47.
Starting quarterback Russ Michna has been sidelined with concussion-like symptoms since the first half of the season opener. Rookie Nathan Stanley started the last two games with mixed results. The 6-foot-5 product of Southeastern Louisiana passed for six touchdowns in a 70-33 rout over Philadelphia. He was picked off three times by Pittsburgh.
Olson isn’t sure who will be at quarterback for San Jose. Spokane has studied the 2½ games with Stanley at the helm and Olson is familiar with Michna from previous meetings. The SaberCats have four capable receivers in Reggie Gray, Jason Willis, Rod Harper and Huey Whittaker – the latter two ex-Shock players.
San Jose boasts one of the Arena Football League’s top defenses. The SaberCats have held opponents to 34, 33 and 48 points. In two blowout wins, the defense made 14 stops (11 on downs, three turnovers).
Defensive back Clevan Thomas, whose 66 interceptions rank second in league history, leads an aggressive defense.
“All three (defensive backs) are playmakers,” Shock receiver Adron Tennell said. “They man up so it’s, ‘Who can win?’ I feel like if I can’t beat the guy across from me I shouldn’t be playing.”