The Spokane Empire would love to be able to break into a big smile and happily announce that Saturday night’s Indoor Football League game in the Spokane Arena with the Nebraska Danger was just an April Fool’s Day prank.
Nebraska really did post a 42-36 victory to move into a first-place tie with the Empire atop the Intense Division standings at 4-2. But that score is deceiving – Spokane scored with 14 seconds left in the game to cut its deficit to six points. The Empire trailed by as many as 22 points in the third quarter.
Not that the Danger was all that dangerous. Most of the damage the Empire suffered was self-inflicted. Untimely penalties that kept Nebraska drives alive. A costly fumble and two interceptions.
“I’m disappointed in my football team,” coach Adam Shackleford said. “I haven’t said that in a long time.”
For a team sitting atop its division, it was a surprisingly flat game.
“We just didn’t play very well,” Shackleford said. “We didn’t execute. When you play a good team like this one (Nebraska) it all mounts.”
In this case, it snowballed.
Quarterback Charles Dowdell, who threw seven interceptions in his first three games, had thrown just one in his last two games coming into Saturday night. His two picks against the Danger came on ill-advised throws, giving him 10 interceptions in six games.
His first-quarter fumble gave Nebraska its go-ahead touchdown, losing his grip deep in his own territory.
It all started on a promising note.
On the first play from scrimmage Dowdell found Charles Samuel open down the middle and fired a strike that gave the Empire a first down at the Nebraska 1.
But Dowdell fumbled on the next play but recovered. A penalty for illegal contact pushed Spokane back to the 15, but three running plays later Dowdell scored from the 7 to take a 7-0 lead.
Nebraska started its first possession at the Spokane 21 and quarterback Patrick McCain lobbed 13-yard strike to Dello Davis to tie the game at 7.
The game went south from there.
Shackleford said he was particularly frustrated by his team’s lack of focus and was adamant that things would improve.
“It’s going to get fixed,” the coach promised. “We’ve got a week off now and we’re going to have some personnel changes. We’re going to bring in some guys who will do it my way.”
Following the bye week, Spokane will host winless Colorado at the Arena on April 14.
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