When playing against a team with the predictability of a 10-year-old playing video-game football, the Spokane Empire expected the unexpected against Salt Lake.
The Screaming Eagles (1-3) – whose play calls are based on a fan vote on the team’s mobile application – and their virtual coaches could not stump the Empire (4-1), as Spokane thumped Salt Lake 53-36 in a Week 6 Indoor Football League matchup on Friday at the Arena.
“Literally, the whole second half they didn’t run. They passed the whole time,” Empire defensive lineman JD Griggs said. “We had to make some adjustments during the game to try and stop the pass.”
Griggs isn’t completely correct. The Screaming Eagles’ stable of virtual coaches dialed up one run play in the second half, which was stuffed for a negative gain.
Even with no tendencies to study in game preparations, the Empire’s lead was never less than seven points and Spokane defeated the Screaming Eagles for the second time this season, adding to a 41-36 win in Salt Lake City in Week 4.
Charles Dowdell’s heroics opened up a 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter, as the second-year Spokane quarterback alluded three sacks while scrambling around the backfield and tossed it to Samuel Charles in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard score on the final play of the third quarter.
Dowdell finished the game with five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) and completed 8 of 18 passes for 102 yards.
The Screaming Eagles were resilient, responding with a 9-yard touchdown catch by Cy Stram to cut the lead to 10. After a failed two-point conversion, Salt Lake’s couch coaches elected to go for an onside kick and Spokane recovered on the Screaming Eagles’ 13-yard line.
It was the second-consecutive attempted onside kick – the fans didn’t learn their lesson the first time, apparently – that Spokane recovered, giving the Empire a short field. And each time, the Empire easily scored.
The Empire jumped out to a quick start with two touchdown catches from Devonn Brown. He led the Empire in receiving with four catches for 55 yards and two scores. Running back Mulku Kalokoh finished with 62 yards on 12 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
The Empire’s defense also forced three turnovers, two of which were on Salt Lake’s first two possessions.
Salt Lake quarterback Verlon Reed was 22 of 34 for 237 yards. He also had five touchdowns and two interceptions.
Spokane starting center Kyle Fischer hurt his right knee in the third quarter and the early reports aren’t promising.
“My understanding is it’s not good,” head coach Adam Shackleford said. “I’d be surprised if he’s back with us this season.”
The Empire are also without last season’s offensive rookie of the year Trevor Kennedy, who is out with a high-ankle sprain. Defensive back Adrian James, defensive lineman Toby Jackson and Harold Love were among the injured players.
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