An ankle injury swiftly turned a shootout into a shoo-in for the Arizona Rattlers.
When Spokane Shock quarterback Charles McCullum hopped to the sideline in pain late in the second half Friday at Phoenix Suns Arena, it changed the complexion of a wild, seesaw Indoor League Football game.
McCullum, who is 185 yards shy of breaking the IFL’s all-time career passing mark (12,963 yards), already had four touchdowns when the Shock neared the end zone trailing 30-28, looking to regain the lead in a marquee IFL contest.
McCullum was sacked in the closing seconds of the half and injured, forcing kicker Sawyer Petre into an ill-fated field-goal attempt just before the halftime horn.
Shock (4-2) coach Billy Back didn’t have a true backup quarterback in his arsenal.
Blake Sims, who set passing records for the Alabama Crimson Tide in his college days, was in Spokane on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury.
Lamar Jordan, a newly acquired receiver and kick returner, was formerly the starting quarterback at the University of New Mexico, but he was still learning the Shock’s system. He wasn’t ready to take snaps.
With no other options, Back went with veteran receiver Jordan Jolly to man the Shock’s offense in an eventual 56-35 loss to the second-ranked Rattlers (5-1).
“That was the risk we took by not (suiting up) Sims,” Back said. “In that situation, you hold your breath and hope for the best.”
The versatile Jolly, aided by an interception that put the Shock’s offense in solid field position, had a touchdown on his first second-half drive to give Spokane a 35-30 lead.
Spokane didn’t score again.
As the Shock’s offense struggled without a true quarterback, it gave more opportunities for Arizona, the IFL’s top-ranked offense, to reach the end zone.
It was too much for the Shock, who boasted the league’s top-ranked defense (31 points per game) going into Friday’s game.
Quarterback Drew Powell paced the run-heavy Rattlers (188 rushing yards) with five touchdowns.
Back said he believes things would have been much different if McCullum stayed in the lineup.
“They’re not a better team than us. Maybe equal,” Back said. “They won the execution battle, stayed healthy. We didn’t.”
The Shock are on a bye this week, giving their quarterbacks ample time to heal .
Back expects McCullum back by July 10 when the Shock host IFL power Sioux Falls at the Spokane Arena. If not, he believes Sims will likely be available.
Shock remain No. 3: Despite Friday’s loss, the Shock didn’t drop a spot in IFL weekly coaches poll, staying put at No. 3.
The Frisco Fighters (6-0), who edged the Shock 36-33 in Week 1, are still at the top of the 11-team poll. The Rattlers (5-1) are still No. 2.
“When the regular season is over (in late August), the best team will have two or three losses,” Back said. “I think it’s a three-team race right now, but other teams will improve as the season goes on and be in the mix.”
Big additions: The Northern Arizona Wranglers recently released the league’s second-ranked receiver, Keyvan Rudd, who had two nice outings against the Shock this season.
The Shock took the opportunity to sign the University of Minnesota-Mankato product, adding to an already loaded receiving corps.
Rudd has 26 catches for 377 yards and six touchdowns in six games.
“He didn’t fit their offensive scheme, so they released him,” Back said. “He fits our system much better.”
The Shock also recently signed former Army receiver Edgar Poe – his middle name is Allan, like the famous writer – who appeared in Friday’s loss at Arizona.
Back said he expects a pair of new defensive lineman to join the team in the coming days in Kamilo Tongamoa (Iowa State) and Adam Shuler (Florida).
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