It was another frustrating night for the Spokane Shock, who continue to turn the ball over and fail to deliver in crunch time.
The Shock were six yards from the end zone and an important win in the playoff picture, but they failed to score in the closing seconds and suffered a bitter 62-56 AFL loss to Las Vegas.
Read on for my unedited game story.
By Jim Meehan
Spokane was thoroughly outplayed for 2½ quarters. The Shock turned the ball over, missed tackles, committed costly penalties and gave up numerous big plays.
The team mascot got run over by a Shock receiver on one play and the referee chased the dance team off the field prior to another.
The Shock still had a chance in the final minute, trailing by six and Las Vegas powerless to stop the clock. Spokane took a knee twice to drain time off the clock but a third-down pass fell incomplete and quarterback Warren Smith was drilled short of the goal line on a fourth-down scramble, giving the Outlaws a 62-56 victory in front of 7,497 Friday at the Arena.
In some respects, it was a microcosm of Spokane’s season: too many turnovers, not enough plays made in crunch time.
“This was a tough one,” receiver Nick Truesdell said. “We just haven’t come through in the clutch lately. We just have to keep pushing and fighting. It’s not going our way right now.”
Spokane (3-8) dropped its third straight. Las Vegas (4-7) owns the third best record in the National Conference. The top four make the playoffs.
Momentum was completely in Spokane’s huddle after a fortunate bounce off an Outlaws’ receiver resulted in a Ruschard Dodd-Masters interception. The Shock had cut a 20-point deficit to five and they had possession.
They gave it right back. Smith fumbled on the next play and Las Vegas scored on Gerald Young’s 3-yard run. The Shock closed within 55-49 on Smith’s 26-yard scoring run but once again couldn’t keep their grip on momentum.
Young returned the ensuing kickoff 57 yards for a touchdown. Truesdell’s third touchdown catch closed the deficit to six. Young fumbled on the kick return and Spokane recovered. The Outlaws had burned their three timeouts. Spokane milked the clock but failed to get into the end zone as time expired.
“We came out flat, obviously you can’t start a game like that and get down by as many points as we did against anybody,” coach Andy Olson said. “We threw too many interceptions and didn’t execute in clutch moments again.”
Spokane trailed 41-21 at half against an opponent it led by 35 points after three quarters three weeks ago. The defense was picked apart by quarterback Sean Brackett, who entered the game with a modest completion percentage of 53.6.
Las Vegas faced just one third down in scoring on its first five possessions. Brackett tossed three touchdown passes as receivers found open space in the Shock secondary. He added one rushing touchdown.
Meanwhile, Smith, who finished with six touchdown passes, was intercepted twice, one returned 16 yards by Eddie Moten for a touchdown. Spokane was 0 of 3 on third-down conversions, 0 of 2 on fourth downs and 1 of 3 in red-zone scoring opportunities.
Still, the Shock had a chance to cut into the Outlaws’ lead but they couldn’t convert in the closing seconds of the half. After taking possession at the Outlaws’ 6, Spokane was called for two penalties and Smith tossed his second interception.
“Those are questions in our locker room as well: How do we fix the mistakes?” defensive end James Ruffin said. “We’ve put ourselves against the wall and we’re going to have to find a way to get those wins.”