AFL Playoffs, Rd. 1 - Shock at Rattlers, 8.15.15, 6 p.m. Aug 13, 2015 23:27:18 GMT -8
Post by David on Aug 13, 2015 23:27:18 GMT -8
Spokane Shock at Arizona Rattlers
What: Spokane looks to pull off a massive playoff upset of the defending ArenaBowl Champions
When: Saturday, August 15, 6 p.m. (PT).
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena; Phoenix, Arizona
Shock Media: Radio - 700/1080 AM ESPN.
National Media: Stream - ESPN3.
This Season: March 28 - Rattlers 60, Shock 43. May 30 - Rattlers 59, Shock 47. July 17 - Shock 52, Rattlers 45
Series History: Arizona leads regular season series 9-7; Arizona leads playoff series 2-1.
Note: The home team in this rivalry is 3-0 in the playoffs.
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Arena Football League Schedule and Results 2015
Spokane Shock Schedule 2015
The Shock are 7-11 overall, 3-6 on the road and 6-8 in conference play. Spokane is coming off a 51-34 road win over the Las Vegas Outlaws on August 8. They are averaging 47.1 points per game (8th in the AFL) and are allowing 53.9 points per game (11th). The Shock finished second in the Pacific Division and third in the National Conference.
The Rattlers are 14-4 overall, 8-1 at home and 10-4 in conference play. Arizona is coming off a 67-39 home win against the Portland Thunder on August 8. They are averaging 55.7 points per game (5th) and are allowing 45.9 points per game (3rd). The Rattlers finished first in the Western Division and second in the National Conference.
Yards per Game - Shock 281.1; Rattlers 272.8
3rd Down Conversion - Shock 44%; Rattlers 47%
4th Down Conversion - Shock 40%; Rattlers 54%
Total Tackles - Shock 543; Rattlers 494
Tackles for Loss - Shock 34; Rattlers 43
Total Sacks - Shock 29; Rattlers 34
Fumbles - Shock 19; Rattlers 18
Interceptions - Shock 15; Rattlers 25
Shock DE James Ruffin (#44) (image credit: Zach Edwards Photography)
# - name (pos)
1 - Braylon Bell (WR)
2 - Jabin Sambrano (WR)
3 - Ruschard Dodd-Masters (DB)
5 - Anthony Amos (WR)
6 - Taylor Rowan (K)
8 - Warren Smith (QB)
9 - Sergio Gilliam (DB)
11 - Micah King (MLB)
12 - Arvell Nelson (QB/JLB)
13 - Rashaad Carter (WR)
23 - Jeff Richards (DB)
26 - Mike McMillan (DB)
36 - Bryson Kelly (NG/FB)
42 - Rory Nixon (FB)
44 - James Ruffin (DE)
50 - Kevin McCullough (JLB)
51 - Sam Tupua (OL)
56 - Derrick Summers (DE)
66 - Deveric Gallington (FB/OL)
67 - Terrance Taylor (NG)
74 - Larry Banks (OL)
75 - Patrick Afif (OL)
81 - Nick Truesdell (WR)
?? - Josh Bush (WR)
Andy Olson - Head Coach
Travis Crusenberry - Defensive Coordinator
Will Mulder - Defensive Backs Coach
Passing Yards - Warren Smith 1,816
Passing TDs - Warren Smith 32
Rushing Yards - Warren Smith 119
Rushing TD's - Bryson Kelly/Arvell Nelson 7
Receptions - Anthony Amos 110
Receiving Yards - Anthony Amos 1,205
Receiving TDs - Nick Truesdell 23
Tackles - Ruschard Dodd-Masters 71.5
Sacks - James Ruffin 11.0
Interceptions - Mike McMillan 5
KO Return Ave - Ruschard Dodd-Masters 17.9
KO Return TDs - Sergio Gilliam 1
* not on active roster
Rattlers QB Nick Davila (image credit: azcentral.com)
# - name (pos)
1 - Rod Windsor (WR)
3 - Shane Boyd (QB)
5 - Quentin Sims (WR)
6 - Cliff Dukes (DE)
9 - Mykel Benson (FB)
10 - Nick Davila (QB)
11 - Arkeith Brown (DB)
12 - Dan Buckner (WR)
15 - Kerry Reed (WR)
17 - Fabrizio Scaccia (K)
19 - Marquis Floyd (DB)
20 - Jeremy Kellem (JLB)
21 - Markus Smith (DB)
25 - Ben Wells (DB)
55 - Brennen Carvalho (C)
60 - Sherman Carter (C)
63 - Derek Dennis (OL)
70 - Marcus Pittman (DE)
71 - Darius Morris (OL)
77 - Anttaj Hawthorne (NG)
90 - Mike McAdoo (DE)
92 - Anthony McCloud (NG)
94 - Tyre Glasper (MLB)
Kevin Guy - Head Coach
Kani Kauahi - Assistant Head Coach
Dave Ewart - Defensive Coordinator
Passing Yards - Nick Davila 3,519
Passing TDs - Nick Davila 87
Rushing Yards - Mykel Benson 286
Rushing TDs - Mykel Benson 17
Receptions - Rod Windsor 139
Receiving Yards - Rod Windsor 1,754
Receiving TDs - Rod Windsor 36
Tackles - Jeremy Kellem 95.5
Sacks - Tyre Gasper 11.5
Interceptions - Jeremy Kellem 14
KO Return Ave - *A.J. Cruz 23.9
KO Return TDs - *A.J. Cruz 6
* not on active roster
For the 9th time in 10 Seasons, the Shock find themselves participating in the playoffs. Overall, including their 4 years in the af2, Spokane has a 14-5 playoff record but they only have a 4-3 record in the AFL.
For the most part, this year's 7-11 record is the worst record in franchise history (the previous worst was 2011's 9-9 record). A constant revolving door at quarterback (6 total QBs lined up behind center), along with a rotating wide receiving core and defensive backfield didn't do the Shock any favors this season. Spokane struggled out of the gate, losing 4 of their first 5 games. They managed to grab a few wins, but a 3 game losing streak in the middle of the season had the team sitting at 3-8. Spokane would go on to finish the season on an 4-3 run, winning 3 of their last four going into the playoffs.
While Spokane has been labeled as "baby seals out to slaughter" by some members of ArenaFan, the team has played competitively this season against the Rattlers. In the season opener, Arizona led 50-27 halfway through the 3rd Quarter. Things looked glum when QB Carson Coffman went out with a knee injury in the third quarter, but backup Jarrett Brown helped guide the offense down the field, specifically in the running game, as two touchdowns and a safety by Derrick Summers put the Shock within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. However, Spokane's defense couldn't hold on and would fall 43-60 in a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate.
The second match-up started about the same as the first, with Arizona going up big. The Rattlers led 34-13 with 10 seconds left to go in the first half, but the Shock would answer as QB Warren Smith connected with Nick Truesdell on a 13 yard TD pass as time expired in the first half. Spokane would get the ball back to start the 3rd quarter, starting with a Marshawn Lynch like run from Smith for 25 yards to bring the Shock within 7. Then, Smith would connect with Truesdell again on a 31 yard pass to knot the game up 34-34 going into the 4th quarter. It was a back and forth affair as the Shock and Rattlers would trade touchdowns. Arizona led 53-47 with 55 seconds left in the 4th quarter, but a Warren Smith interception gave the ball right back and Arizona would go on to ice the game 59-47.
The third game saw Arizona jump out to a 20-7 lead nearly midway through the first half, but the combination of QB Arvell Nelson and FB/NG Bryson Kelly kept the Rattlers on their heels and the team capitalized on Arizona turnovers to go into halftime leading 31-26. From there, the Shock and Rattlers would go back and forth, getting key stops against the intimidating Rattler offense. Arizona would make it scary late in the 4th, but Spokane hung on to won 52-45.
Head coach Andy Olson has gone on record as wanting to play Arizona, as he believes his team has the best chance to beat them and move on to the National Conference Championship. If they wish to accomplish this, their defense must contain Nick Davila, as they did in the win back in July, and the offense must score points. Otherwise, this will be a quick playoff exit.
END OF AN ERA?
A report from the Spokesman-Review revealed that Shock ownership has expressed concern over the state of the AFL, specifically due to the folding of the New Orleans VooDoo and the Las Vegas Outlaws. The team has reportedly been looking at other leagues to possibly join, such as the new Arena Football Federation and the Indoor Football League.
Since returning from the dead, the new AFL has seen countless franchises either fold or move into a different leagued. The list of the teams include the Alabama Vipers/Georgia Force, Tulsa/San Antonio Talons, Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, Dallas Vigilantes, Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings/New Orleans VooDoo, Milwaukee Iron/Mustangs (which became reincarnated as the Portland Thunder), Chicago Rush, Iowa Barnstormers (IFL), Utah Blaze, Pittsburgh Power, Kansas City Command, and the Las Vegas Outlaws.
Shock Owner Nader Naini has expressed three objectives the AFL had to meet: generating mass sponsorships, generating revenue through media and digital rights, and that all teams follow player salary rules (San Jose, Arizona, Jacksonville, Philadelphia). Naini said in the report that there has been little or no progress towards these objectives, specifically in cheating (aka paying players under the table) and that the league makes no money by paying to have games televised on CBS Sports Network and ESPN family of networks.
While the ownership hasn't made a decision, Naini stated the league must demonstrate "tangible progress" for the Shock to stay in the AFL. Ryan Eucker, Shock director of operations, stated the IFL business operations model was "definitely interesting" but didn't go into further context.
A tempting factor in the Shock dropping to the IFL is the lower operating expenses and player salaries. AFL players get paid (supposedly) $875/game while IFL players make $250/game. The IFL reportedly pays $500,000 less in league fees compared to the AFL, making the financial aspect very tempting. The Iowa Barnstormers dropped to the IFL due to financial problems.
There's no reason to assume this is the end of the Shock in the AFL, but it's something to keep an eye on this off season. Members here on Sports Coast to Coast believe the Shock will return in 2016, but if the business model of the AFL doesn't improve, it could be the last season for the Shock before switching to another league.
Player to Watch: James Ruffin (DE)
The last time Spokane and Arizona met, Ruffin got pressure on Nick Davila, forcing the best QB in the AFL to make bad throws and sacking him twice. He also forced and recovered a fumble. The Shock need their sack leader (11.0 sacks, 5th in the AFL) to get into Davila's face and force him to make mistakes that the Shock can capitalize on.
Ruffin can be a difference maker if he causes havoc behind the line of scrimmage, as he demonstrated last week in the regular season finale against the Outlaws. He came up with a huge sack on QB Sean Brackett, forcing a safety and sparking the Shock to score 16 unanswered points to go into halftime 30-14. He'll have a tough test going against Arizona's offensive line, which as only given up 15 sacks on the season. However, the Rattlers o-line has struggled the last four games, looking vulnerable as opposing defenses have managed to get hits on QB Nick Davila. If Ruffin can take advantage and disrupt Davila's rhythm, it'll be a long night for the Arizona QB.
For a team that has won 3 consecutive ArenaBowls, a 14-4 record and a Western Division Championship, Arizona hasn't been the dominant team that the league has become accustomed to since the 2011 season. They overcame a lot of adversity this year, including the loss of QB Nick Davila for several weeks. With less-than-stellar play by backups B.J. Coleman and Shane Boyd, the Rattlers still managed to keep themselves in the hunt for the #1 seed in the playoffs due to stellar play on defense. While the Rattlers may be the favored team in this game, they're much more vulnerable than they have been in the past.
The Rattlers struggled mightily down the stretch, going 2-2 after Spokane upset the Rattlers in Week 17. They'd rebound to squeak out a victory over the Los Angeles KISS but were demolished by San Jose, losing their chance at home field advantage.
Historically, Arizona's been dominant at home against the Shock. The Snake Pit is one of the toughest places to play in the AFL, and the Rattlers are hoping their high caliber talent and the 9th Man will be enough to set up a potential rematch with the San Jose SaberCats, a team they went 0-2 against during the regular season.
Player to Watch: Nick Davila (QB)
The best QB in the AFL has struggled over the past four weeks, and how he plays on Saturday will determine if the Rattlers move on or find themselves ending the season earlier than expected. Things haven't been easy the past four weeks, as he's seen more pressure in his face than he did early on in the season. In the last four games, Davila was sacked 7 times after only being sacked 6 times prior. He's also had trouble keeping the ball out of the opposing defense's hands, throwing 4 picks (after only having 6 during the season) and fumbling four times (losing two). He's also seen numerous hits, including one that left him hobbled in a blowout loss to the SaberCats.
There's no reason to expect Davila won't be his normal self during the game, but a suspect offensive line hasn't helped him out. Davila has also been vulnerable to injury this season, and if the Shock get pressure on him, Arizona fans might want to hold their collective breath.
However, Davila isn't without weapons to bail him out. He has one of the best wide receivers in the game in Rod Windsor, who caught 139 passes for 1,754 yards and 39 touchdowns this season. If this connection can get hot, Spokane's defense will melt in in the Arizona heat.
Shock owner Nader Naini's assessment of Commissioner Scott Butera.
"I would say the league had been left with so many hidden landmines that he’s been basically firefighting most of his tenure. But you have to make progress. I’ve told him unless I see light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a failed proposition in the long term, and even in the shorter term as we’ve seen this season (with Las Vegas and New Orleans)."
Naini's opinion on the state of the AFL.
“I don’t think anything has been done relative to cheating (paying players beyond AFL rules)"
Shock OL/TE Patrick Afif on retiring after the season.
“Everybody says they’re going to retire at the end of the season because your body is all banged up, then you get six months off and get that itch again. I’m pretty sure this is it. I’ve had more family than usual showing up for games.”
JLB Kevin McCullough addressing retirement rumors.
“I’m pretty sure. It’s a lot different for me this time around. I had an injury that kept me out in 2014 and I thought maybe I was done. Now that I’ve had a chance to come back and finish it where it all started, I want to ride this as long as possible.”
Nick Davila and Kevin McCullough have played for both the Rattlers and the Shock (image credit: David Kadlubowsk)
"You're the Best Friend
That I Ever Had"
- Queen, "You're My Best Friend"
That I Ever Had"
- Queen, "You're My Best Friend"
Spokane and Arizona's rivalry runs deep, especially with the numerous defections of players that have played for Spokane going to Arizona. However, two players have ties not only to both franchises, but going back as far as college.
The players in question are QB Nick Davila (aka "The Latin Laser") and JLB Kevin McCullough (aka "The Chainsaw"), who have been best friends since college. Both Davila and McCullough played college football together at the University of Cincinnati from 2005-2006. They re-united as members of the Spokane Shock in 2008 and continued to play on the same team until 2010 when Davila went to Arizona, where he has continued to play since.
McCullough played with the Shock in 2010 before he was traded mid-season to the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz. In 2011, he was re-united with Davila, playing with the Rattlers from 2011-2013. McCullough sat out 2014 with an injury and went unsigned in 2015 before the Shock gave him a call to play Jack Linebacker in late May. Now with McCullough leaning towards retirement, this might be the last time both players are on the field together.
It goes to show that regardless of what happens on the field, even wearing the uniform colors of your opponent, a true friendship triumphs over all.
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