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Spokane Empire

Shock offense faces big challenge vs. Gladiators

Sat., April 19, 2014

The Spokane Shock sports a 3-1 record. Broken down by units, the offense is probably in the 2-2 range, the defense closer to 3-1 and special teams roughly 3-1.

Spokane’s offense, one of the Arena Football League’s best in 2013, has yet to find its stride and faces a serious challenge against unbeaten Cleveland tonight at the Arena.

The Gladiators, 4-14 last season, are 4-0 on the strength of a stingy defense and a limit-mistakes offense. Cleveland averages just 48 points per game but ranks second in scoring defense at 39.5.

Spokane struggled offensively for long stretches in a ragged 55-27 win over Portland last week. The Shock relied on two defensive touchdowns and another on special teams. Spokane used the same formula in a season-opening 64-35 win over Iowa.

Spokane is dealing with injuries at wide receiver. Mike Washington (hamstring) didn’t play last week, missing his first game due to injury since high school. Adron Tennell is banged up and Brandon Thompkins has filled in at defensive back the last two games.

Spokane has allowed 12 sacks in four games. The Shock ranks 13th out of 14 teams in total offense, though the statistic can be misleading in the indoor game. They are 10th out of 14 in red zone offense.

“We were in a fog (against Portland),” Shock coach Andy Olson said, “and as offensive coaches we need to wake up sooner than that.”

Turnover margin is probably the most important stat and Spokane ranks second at plus-5. Pittsburgh (3-1) leads the league. Arizona and Cleveland, the AFL’s only unbeatens, are fourth and fifth, respectively.

Quarterback Shane Austin has started just one game but he’s been a key figure in the Gladiators’ last three wins. He’s tossed 14 touchdown passes with no interceptions in 87 attempts. His 128.1 passer rating is tops in the league.

“They really take care of the ball,” said Shock defensive back Terrance Sanders, who has three interceptions.

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