Spokane Shock coach Billy Back has developed an Indoor Football League reputation for being forthright with players, assistants and reporters.
When the Shock dropped a 36-33 decision to the Frisco Fighters on Saturday at the Spokane Arena – the IFL’s return to Spokane after a nearly four-year hiatus – Back had trouble carving out the positives from the gut-punching loss.
He called out his defensive backs for playing “soft”. He chided himself , too, for making the wrong calls and also pointed to an disorganized offense that had its share of lulls.
“Sloppy game. Hard to watch. We had a lot of penalties. We were undisciplined, lost the turnover battle,” said Back, who appeared in back-to-back National Arena League championship games in 2018 and 2019 with the Carolina Cobras before coming to Spokane.
Back wasn’t done grousing.
“We were still looking at our wristbands, trying to figure out what play was called,” he said. “Not knowing our plays, so that’s on the coaching staff.”
Considering the 41-year-old’s gripes, the Shock were still seconds away from winning the season opener.
Frisco and former Texas Tech standout running back DeMarcus Felton’s 1-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left – his third rushing touchdown of the evening – doomed the Shock, making their long-anticipated return after a series of coronavirus derailments.
Instead of trying to send the game into overtime with a field goal on the short indoor field on their subsequent possession, Shock veteran quarterback Charles McCullum stayed on the field and threw an interception on a deep ball, effectively ending the game.
When Shock running back Davonte Sapp-Lynch scored his second touchdown of the fourth quarter at the 3:06 mark, the Shock were a defensive stand away from securing a win in the seesaw IFL contest.
But Frisco quarterback Jonathan Bane orchestrated a nearly 3-minute drive, boosted by 16-yard pass play to Lance Evans on third-and-8, to put the Fighters at the goal line.
Frisco dominated time of possession in the fourth quarter, too, with a 10:20 to 4:40 advantage
“When they hit Evans, that play kind of took it out of us,” said Shock defensive back Mike Green, who had a team-high 10 tackles. “We didn’t play too well in adversity. When our back was against the wall, we broke sometimes.”
The Shock were plagued with nine penalties for 82 yards, including two unsportsmanlike conduct flags.
Drops and miscommunication also hurt the Shock offense, which was outgained 212 yards to 189.
McCullum completed 18 of 31 passes for 141 yards, rushed for a touchdown, threw for another and had two interceptions.
For most of the Shock players, this was their first competitive football game since summer 2019. Others played in college in 2019 and are still adjusting to the IFL game.
Because the Spokane Arena is also a COVID-19 vaccination site, fans were not allowed into the venue, resulting in the feel of a “glorified scrimmage,” according to Back. Fans will be allowed to begin attending home games June 19.
“In a way, we looked at it as an exhibition,” Green said. “So many players are getting introduced to the IFL, there weren’t any fans. But, still, we’re not very happy about the loss at all.”
Sapp-Lynch, who had 48 yards on 11 carries and 22 yards on three receptions, wondered how he would play after the long layoff.
“After so long without playing, you wonder, ‘Did I get rusty? Do I still got it?’ ” said Sapp-Lynch, the brother of former Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch. “But as long as you stay in shape, the results will show.”
The Shock make the 2,730-mile trek to the Boston area to face the Massachusetts Pirates on Saturday for a 4:05 p.m. kickoff.
Key defender out: Shock defensive end Nick Woodman injured his Achilles in Saturday’s loss and will likely miss the rest of the season, according to Back.
Woodman came to the Shock after an All-NAL season with the Jacksonville Sharks in 2019. His 12½ sacks and 15 tackles for a loss helped the Sharks win the NAL title.
Woodman, who starred at the NCAA Division III level, was invited New York Giants rookie camp in 2016 before going the indoor football route.
Better than a touchdown? Sapp-Lynch threw a Frisco player over the wall on Saturday, a play he thought was legal until an unsportsmanlike penalty was called.
So what felt better, getting a player over the boards or scoring two touchdowns?
“Not going to lie, it felt pretty good to throw a guy over the wall,” said the 5-foot-8 bowling bowl-style running back. “Because every chance they get, they’re trying to throw me over that wall. But they threw a flag on me.
“But it felt better than scoring that touchdown.”
Late-game regret: The Shock started their final drive on their 23 with 10 seconds left, which would have been a 35-yard field-goal attempt for kicker Sawyer Petre in an attempt to send the game into overtime.
Petre, who already hit attempts from 26 and 25 yards in the game, may have had an even closer look up at the uprights if the Shock had run a play to help advance the football for their kicker.
Instead, McCullum threw the ball deep and it was intercepted by Joel Dullary.
In hindsight, Back wishes they played for overtime.
“We had a chance to kick the field goal,” Back said. “Instead, we made the wrong decision by throwing deep instead of just checking down (for a shorter pass) and getting the field-goal unit out there,”
Mr. Versatile: Shock receiver and former Florida International University standout Kamrin Solomon was a steady presence in a losing effort.
Solomon had a team-high six catches for 61 yards and touchdown and returned four kicks for 57 yards.
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