Game 13 - Wolves at Empire, 6.4.16, 7 p.m. Jun 2, 2016 11:58:52 GMT -8
Post by David on Jun 2, 2016 11:58:52 GMT -8
Billings Wolves at Spokane Empire
What: Spokane looks to clinch the Intense Conference title against the Wolves.
When: Saturday, June 4, 7 p.m. (PT).
Where: Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Washington
Empire Media: Radio - 700/1080 AM ESPN
National Media: Stream (paid subscription) - IFL Live TV
This Season: April 9 - Wolves 30, Empire 22; May 7 - Empire 75, Wolves 28
Series History: Series tied 1-1 (1-0 in Spokane).
Note: Since losing to Spokane on May 7, Billings has won 2 straight, scoring 49 points in each game.
Indoor Football League Rules
Indoor Football League Schedule and Results 2016
Spokane Empire Schedule 2016
IFL Franchises and Links
The Wolves are 6-6 overall, 3-3 on the road and 5-3 in conference play. Billings is coming off a 49-39 home win against the Colorado Crush on May 21. They are averaging 40.0 points per game (9th in IFL) and are allowing 43.7 points per game (2nd). The Wolves are second in the Intense Conference.
The Empire are 10-2 overall, 6-0 at home and 7-1 in conference play. Spokane is coming off a 55-44 road win against the Colorado Crush on May 27. They are averaging 56.9 points per game (3rd) and are allowing 45.9 points per game (4th). The Empire are first in the Intense Conference.
Total Yards per Game - Wolves 224.9; Empire 260.9
Pass Yards per Game - Wolves 155.2; Empire 168.2
Rush Yards per Game - Wolves 73.3; Empire 92.7
3rd Down Conversion - Wolves 46.8%; Empire 48.4%
4th Down Conversion - Wolves 50.0%; Empire 53.6%
Total Tackles - Wolves 387; Empire 484
Tackles for Loss - Wolves 44; Empire 57
Total Sacks - Wolves 11.0; Empire 22.0
Fumble Recoveries - Wolves 9; Empire 9
Interceptions - Wolves 16; Empire 20
Wolves QB Cory Murphy (image courtesy of Hannah Potes / Billings Gazette)
# - name (pos)
1 - Alexander McCray (WR)
2 - Davon Keys (DB)
3 - Norris Wrenn III (DB)
5 - Demetruce McNeal (DB)
6 - Cartel Brooks (RB)
7 - Chip Reeves (WR)
9 - Chris Frierson (DB)
10 - Cory Murphy (QB)
11 - Blake Erickson (K)
13 - Christopher Turner (DL)
15 - Mason Espinosa (QB)
17 - B.J. Butler (DL)
19 - Joe Morrow (WR)
24 - Vincent Taylor (DB)
22 - Max Davis (LB)
26 - Willie Downs (WR)
31 - Michael Green (DB)
42 - Chris Martin (DL)
44 - Jerome Lewis (LB)
51 - Nathaniel Ryan (OL)
53 - Kelvin King III (DL)
54 - Nick Chartain (OL)
55 - Kameron Neal (OL)
56 - Jarqua Jackson (DL)
99 - Jesse Dickson (DL)
?? - Mark Henderson (WR)
Chris Dixon - Head Coach
Adam Sanchez - QB Coach
Justin Walker - OL Coach
Mike Bazemore- DL Coach
Daron Brooker - DB/LB Coach
Passing Yards - Mason Espinosa 1,102
Passing TDs - Mason Espinosa 20
Passing INTs - *Dak Britt 7
Rushing Yards - Cory Murphy 223
Rushing TDs - Cory Murphy 8
Receptions - Willie Downs 52
Receiving Yards - Willie Downs 574
Receiving TDs - Willie Downs 10
Tackles - Michael Green 57.0
Sacks - *Mikell Mair 3.5
Interceptions - Michael Green 7
KO Return Ave - Norris Wrenn 19.5
KO Return TDs - Chip Reeves/Norris Wrenn 1
*Not on Active Roster
Empire DB Josh Ferguson (image courtesy of Dan Pelle / Spokesman-Review)
# - name (pos)
1 - Samuel Charles (WR)
2 - Lorenzo White Jr. (DB)
3 - Josh Ferguson (DB)
4 - Carl Sims (WR)
5 - Tyree Robinson (DB)
8 - Aaron Aiken (QB)
11 - Charles Dowdell (QB)
16 - Robert Brown (DB)
17 - Pasquale Vacchio (LB)
18 - Trevor Kennedy (RB/WR)
19 - Diondre Borel (WR/QB)
22 - Adrian James (DB)
27 - Pat Clarke (K)
44 - Brett Bowers (DL)
47 - Nick Haag (LB)
52 - D.J. Yendrey (LB)
56 - Dave Lefotu (OL)
62 - Dominique Duster (DL)
70 - Mike Trice (OL)
72 - Kyle Fischer (OL)
76 - Michael Boyefio (OL)
78 - Brandon Haskin (OL)
80 - Jefferson "JJ" Hayes (WR)
88 - Justin Helwege (WR)
93 - Benjamin Perry (DL)
95 - Bryon Bennett (DL)
Adam Shackleford - Head Coach
Cleveland Pratt - Assistant Head Coach
Ameer Ismail - Defensive Coordinator
Passing Yards - Charles Dowdell 2.031
Passing TDs - Charles Dowdell 52
Passing INTs - Charles Dowdell 12
Rushing Yards - Trevor Kennedy 709
Rushing TDs - Trevor Kennedy 28
Receptions - Carl Sims 55
Receiving Yards - Carl Sims 620
Receiving TDs - Carl Sims 16
Tackles - Nick Haag 72.5
Sacks - Benjamin Perry 7.5
Interceptions - Robert Brown/Josh Ferguson 4
KO Return Ave - Trevor Kennedy 19.3
KO Return TDs - Trevor Kennedy/JJ Hayes 1
The best way to describe the 2016 Billings Wolves is that they're a team of changeable parts. The roster has been vastly overhauled since the beginning of the season. Last season's starting QB and RB, Dak Britt and Julian Laing, respectively, are no longer on the roster and the Wolves have seen four different individuals line up behind center this season. While most of the roster changes can be contributed to injury, a fair amount of roster moves were made by head coach Chris Dixon to improve the roster by bringing in guys that he knows will fit his system better and generate more success. Despite the roster turnover, the Wolves manage to find themselves at .500 (6-6) and look to not only lock up the second seed in the Intense Conference, but aspire to clinch the conference title.
This game has a lot on the line for both the Wolves and the Empire. If the Empire win, they lock up home field advantage in the Intense Conference playoffs. The Wolves come into Spokane facing an uphill battle, but can still force a tie at the top of the standings. Billings must defeat Spokane in their final two match-ups of the season and cross their fingers Spokane loses in the next two weeks to Nebraska and Sioux Falls. That would put both teams at 10-6 on the season, and the tie-breaker would go to Billings based on a head-to-head advantage, plus a better overall record in the Intense Conference.
Statistically, the Wolves rank 9th in the league in total offense (224.9 yards/game), 8th in rushing (69.7 yards/game) and are tied for 7th in passing (73.3). Billings is similar to Tri-Cities in the sense that both teams rely on their defense to keep them in games to give their offense the chances it needs to score just enough points to win. However, there's one big difference between the success of the Wolves and the Fever: quarterback play. Billings, despite 4-different QBs, has seen better performances as of late from Mason Espinosa and Cory Murphy, resulting in a 3-win difference for Billings over Tri-Cities (3-10).
For the third match-up against Spokane, Billings will start a new face at QB. Dak Britt and Mason Espinosa got the starts in the last two games, and have generated 30 and 28 points, respectively, against the Empire. This time, QB Cory Murphy will get the nod for the Wolves. Murphy has played in the past two games, but got his first start two weeks ago against the Colorado Crush, a 49-39 victory. He was in the lineup in the last game versus Spokane, but he played at running back. With Murphy under center, the Wolves turn to recently signed RB Cartel Brooks to carry the football. McCray has played in one game, carrying the ball 9 times for 31 total yards and no touchdowns. Look for WR Alexander McCray (29 receptions, 224 yds, 4 TD) to carry the football on some jet sweeps or end around plays, as he has run the ball 26 times for 76 yards and 3 TDs.
Murphy's primary targets will be leading receiver Willie Downs and Marcus Burnett. Downs leads all Wolves receivers with 52 receptions for 574 yards and 10 TDs, while Burnett doesn't rank that far behind (25 receptions, 289 yards, 8 TDs). So far, Downs and Burnett are the Wolves' only consistent force at catching the football; the Wolves have seen an astounding 13 players have lined up at WR in 3 or more games this season.
If the Wolves are going to pull off the upset over Spokane, it'll likely come from their top ranked defensive unit, which has given up 43.7 points/game this season (2nd in IFL). They rank in the Top 5 of the three major statistical categories, ranking 2nd in total defense (218.9 yards/game), 5th in rushing defense (73.3 yards/game) and 2nd in pass defense (145.6 yards/game).
DL Mikell Mair, the team's leader in sacks, is not on the roster, which puts pressure on the Wolves of getting in the face of QB Charles Dowdell. However, they have DB Michael Green, the 2015 IFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, leading the charge in the backfield. So far this season, Green has 7 interceptions, 57.0 total tackles, 10 pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. His partner-in-crime, Chris Freirson, has 4 interceptions and 8 pass breakups, but has not participated in the last two contests for the Wolves. Stepping in Freirson's place will be a familiar face to the Empire: DB Demetruce McNeal. Released by the Empire on May 10th, McNeal was picked up by Billings and has recorded 9.5 tackles and a fumble recovery in 2 games.
Billings has to get the Empire to turn the ball over if they want a chance to win the game. In their 30-22 victory back in March, the Wolves limited Spokane to a season-low 22 points, largely in part due to 2 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries. In the rematch earlier this month, the Wolves couldn't force a turnover and ended up losing 75-28.
Player to Watch: Cory Murphy (QB)
It's been an eventful year for QB Cory Murphy, to say the least. At the beginning of the year, Murphy was originally a starting QB prospect for the expansion Minnesota Havok. Unfortunately, the Havok folded weeks before the regular season. It put Murphy in a bind, as he uprooted his family over 2,000 miles only to arrive in Mankato to find out the team was disbanded. After the Havok folded, he was part of the failed Major League Football spring league, but found himself out of a job as the team folded. He would eventually find his way to Billings.
Now, the QB reigns fall into the hands of Murphy, who gets his second consecutive start in place of the injured Mason Espinosa, who has been out with a high ankle sprain. He got his first start two weeks ago against the Colorado Crush, completing 14-of-22 passes for 132 yards and 2 interceptions. Despite the lack of passing touchdowns, Murphy was a beast in the running game, scoring 6 rushing touchdowns in the game.
He'll be more than a 1-dimensional factor for the Wolves and a key player for the Empire defense to try and contain. Unlike Espinosa, Murphy has the ability to run. He has spent time at RB this season, which means he can not only throw the football, but can run efficiently as well, giving Billings a dual-threat weapon they haven't had since Dak Britt was the starter. The success of Murphy, in addition to Billings being able to stop Spokane's offense, will be a big factor into the Wolves pulling off an upset.
The Empire have already assured themselves in a playoff spot in the Intense Conference with a 55-44 victory over the Colorado Crush; now they need to take the next step by clinching the Intense Conference title.
By clinching the Intense Conference title, Spokane will guarantee them the #1 seed in the Intense Conference, meaning that they host the Intense Conference Championship game and earn some much needed rest. But first they have to fend off the Billings Wolves, who are still alive to take a share of the Intense Conference title. It's a game that the Empire need, especially if they wish to keep pace with the Sioux Falls Storm for the right to host the United Bowl.
The Empire's biggest test will be against the Wolves' top ranked defense. Spokane matches up fairly evenly with the Wolves defense, ranking 3rd in scoring offense (56.9 points/game), 5th in total offense (260.9 yards/game), 3rd in rushing offense (92.7 yards/game) and 4th in passing offense (168.2 yards/game). Spokane's offense struggled badly in the first game against Billings, a 30-22 loss that saw the Empire commit 5 costly turnovers. The second game was the complete opposite, a 75-28 demolishing of the Wolves with zero turnovers. QB Charles Dowdell, who leads the IFL with 52 touchdown passes, has to be careful with the football against a Billings defense that knows how to defend the pass. However, Billings is going to have to be weary of the Empire's wide receivers. Former Empire DB Demetruce McNeal will likely start for the Empire, and could bring an advantage to Dowdell, who had to face off against McNeal several times during practice. The wide receiving core of Carl Sims (55 receptions, 620 yards, 16 TDs), JJ Hayes (51 receptions, 600 yards, 14 TDs) and Samuel Charles (26 receptions, 323 yards, 10 TDs) will be enough to keep the Wolves busy. It could even open up holes for WR Diondre Borel, who has been active the last few weeks and caught his first touchdown pass last week against the Crush.
Should the Billings defenders bite on covering Spokane's WRs, expect them to get a healthy dose of RB Trevor Kennedy, the rookie sensation that has rushed for over 700 yards and 28 rushing touchdowns this season. The last time these two teams met, Kennedy rushed for 85 yards and scored 4 rushing touchdowns. He didn't appear to break a sweat against Billings' tough rushing defense, and could be due for another multi-rushing touchdown game. Kennedy has scored a rushing touchdown in every game this season, but has been limited to 1 TD per game since the last game against Billings. This could be the game where he scores multiple rush TDs and inch closer to the IFL single season record.
Defensively, Spokane is going to have to be weary of Wolves QB Cory Murphy's dual-threat capabilities. Fortunately for the Empire, their stout defensive line of Benjamin Perry, Bryon Bennett, Brett Bowers, and the emerging D.J. Yendrey have been key to the Empire's 3rd ranked rush defense which has given up an average of 67.6 yards per game. LBs Nick Haag (72.5 total tackles, 3.0 sacks) and Pasquale Vacchio (67.5 total tackles, 3 INT) were key contributors to the Empire's defensive stuffing of the Crush last week, and look to keep that up against Billings' 8th ranked rush offense. With an unproven running back, the Empire should expect the majority of the rushes to come from Murphy. Spokane's defensive backs have been playing well over the past several weeks, with the stellar play of DBs Robert Brown, Josh Ferguson, and Lorenzo White Jr. managing to shut down the opposition. The Empire have allowed 67 points the last two games, its lowest output in a 2-game span this season. This defense knows how to generate turnovers, and if they get the Wolves to turn the ball over, they'll be celebrating as the #1 seed in the Intense Conference.
Player to Watch: Josh Ferguson (DB)
Ferguson is considered the "old guy" on the roster, but if you were to watch him, you'd think he's been playing in the IFL for years. In actuality, Ferguson has more experience in the Arena League (this is his first year in the indoor game) and has spent the last 2 seasons out of football.
So far this year, Ferguson is reaping the success, ranking 5th on the team with 44.5 total tackles. He also seems to be around whenever there's a turnover, as he's tied for the team lead in interceptions (4; Robert Brown) and fumble recoveries (2; Tyree Robinson & Benjamin Perry). In the previous game against Billings, Ferguson had a huge 37 yard fumble return for a touchdown. He's a versatile player that can line up as linebacker or on the offense at wide receiver or tailback.
With Murphy making his second start, his first on the road, there could be some errant passes that Ferguson could sniff out. Murphy also is the team's top rusher, so be on the lookout for possible fumbles; Ferguson will likely be nearby ready to recover the ball.
Empire HC Adam Shackleford on the team's revolving door at kicker.
"It wasn't even always the lack of success, it was availability. We liked Russolino, but he couldn't be here. Brotzman was a one-day thing - he works full-time - and we knew that. Wakefield wasn't doing the job. Beeson got hurt again."
Shackleford on K Pat Clarke converting the Empire's first 3-point field goal of the season against Colorado.
"I can get some sleep at night now."
K Pat Clarke on the team using 5 kickers before he could finally return.
"I was following the games and I was getting frustrated just because I wanted to be out here."
LB Nick Haag on his friendship with teammate Pasquale Vacchio.
"You couldn't have us separated, that's asking for jail time or something. We have to keep each other grounded. A lot of the same temperament in the head. A lot of the same screws missing."
LB Pasquale Vacchio on why he and Haag joining the Empire.
"Our goals at the beginning were to win a championship. Now we're 10-2 and it's right in front of us."
IFL SCHEDULE THIS WEEK
June 4 - Green Bay Blizzard (4-9) at Wichita Falls Nighthawks (8-4), 5 p.m.
June 4 - Cedar Rapids Titans (9-4) at Iowa Barnstormers (4-8), 5 p.m.
June 4 - Colorado Crush (2-11) at Sioux Falls Storm (12-1), 5 p.m.
June 4 - Billings Wolves (6-6) at Spokane Empire (10-2), 7 p.m.
Byes - Nebraska Danger (5-8), Tri-Cities Fever (3-10)
With 4 games left remaining in the regular season, rookie Empire RB Trevor Kennedy has an opportunity to break, or at least tie, the single season IFL rushing record.
Green Bay Blizzard RB LaRon Council (image courtesy of Green Bay Blizzard / Faceboook)
Kennedy was on course to set both the rushing yardage and touchdown mark, but some statistical tweaks on the IFL's stat page reduced his total yardage to 709, putting Green Bay RB LaRon Council's rushing record out as a long shot with 4 games left to play. With a rushing touchdown last week against Colorado, Kennedy is 4 rushing TDs away from tying Council's rushing TD mark.
Council set the record in 2012, breaking the record held by Wichita Wild RB Darius Fudge in 2009, the IFL's inaugural season. QB Chris Dixon came close to tying the mark in 2011 with the Sioux Falls Storm.
It should be noted that from 2009-2015, the IFL had a 14 game regular season schedule. The league moved to 16 games starting with the 2016 regular season. Regardless of the difference in 2 games, Kennedy has a great shot at tying or breaking Council's record.
Statistics courtesy of GOIFL.com, The Stats Guys, and the IFL's Record & Fact Book.