The Spokane Shock (6-4) have stumbled recently, dropping their last two games, including a double-overtime loss to the Massachusetts Pirates last week.
They’re still soundly in the playoff hunt but will look to get back in the win column on Saturday against the league-leading Frisco Fighters (8-2).
Kickoff is set for 5:05 p.m. at the Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas.
Spokane is hoping for a reverse result after losing the season-opener to the Fighters 36-33 on May 15.
The Fighters’ DeMarcus Felton scored from 1 yard out with 10 seconds left give Frisco the win.
Frisco beat the Sioux Falls Storm 37-33 last week on the road.
The Shock have been slammed by injuries this season, starting with the season opener when defensive end Nick Woodman was lost for the year.
The bad luck continued with injuries to starting quarterback Charles McCullum, backup quarterback Blake Sims and starting tailback Davonte Sapp-Lynch.
Spokane expects McCullum back during the bye week between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.
Sims will have a chance next week to get reps in before the season finale and possibly Sapp-Lynch as well.
If all goes to plan, the Shock could be almost to full strength for the start the playoffs for the first time in weeks.
McDade gaining momentum
Third-string quarterback-turned starter Marcus McDade had a brutal start to the game against the Pirates, guiding the Shock to a 17-3 deficit early after missing throws and reads early on.
Back responded by benching McDade for a couple drives before turning back to McDade.
He answered the call by helping lead the comeback, forcing overtime and keeping the Shock within striking distance.
Outside of the botched snap that gave the Pirates the ball to win the game, McDade was slinging passes all over the field, ending with 200 yards, most by a Shock quarterback this season.
Back thought McDade was surprised by the Pirates defense but settled in after a few choice words from the head coach.
“But as the game went on and I cussed at him, the more I cussed at him the better he got,” Back said after the Pirates game. “He is a great dude, he’s got a great smile, he’s a good quarterback.
“I feel like he’s progressed last week to this week.”
Receivers getting hot
The benefit of a quarterback slowing the game down and finding receivers is the uptick in production from the wideouts.
Last week, top-3 Shock receivers Kevyan Rudd, Troy Evans Jr. and Torrance Gibson each had either 5 catches or over 55-yards receiving.
Rudd had 82 yards, his best performance since Spokane picked him up midseason.
Evans led the scoring barrage with three touchdowns from McDade.
And Gibson was the trusty checkdown with six receptions for 55 yards.
With the receivers gaining confidence, it could benefit the Shock in the long run when Sapp-Lynch returns to form a solid one-two punch through the air and on the ground.
Frisco’s frisky defense
A week after facing the league’s top scoring defense, the Shock will have a go against the league’s second-ranked defense.
Frisco allows 37.2 points a game and has allowed the least touchdowns.
The Fighters rely on a ferocious defensive line who have generated the most sacks (19) and given up the fewest rushing yards (46.7).
Watch for Charles Williams to cause havoc as he leads the IFL with seven sacks.
They don’t have a weakness, but technically, their third-ranked pass defense would be something to target.
Spokane D-line woes
“I feel like we need to get better at defensive line,” Back said after the loss to Massachusetts. “The defensive line is our Achilles heel right now. We have to manufacture pressure and that’s not what it should be.
“We have to get better in that regard.”
One of the largest issues was the loss of Woodman against Frisco.
Woodman had 121/2 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss to help the Jacksonville Sharks win the National Arena League title.
The Shock are currently fourth in the league with 13 sacks in 10 games and sixth in rushing yards allowed per game.
Saturday could be a good opportunity for the pass rush to get going. Frisco has allowed the third-most sacks in the league.
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