Third down struggles cost Beef season's first lossMarch 26, 2011 - Indoor Football League (IFL) Omaha Beef
Early in the first quarter, it looked like the Beef would match points with Tri-Cities. On the opening drive, Beef quarterback James McNear used a 3rd-and-long 17-yard scramble to gain a first down. Two plays later he found Maurice Avery in the corner for a touchdown. It was Avery's third catch of the seven-play drive.
"It's all about practice," Avery said. "If you execute in practice, you execute in the game."
The Fever answered with their own four-play scoring drive aided by a facemask penalty on the kickoff and a one-yard touchdown run from Dennis Kennedy. On the next Beef possession, a holding penalty in the end zone negated another 17-yard third down McNear scramble and gave the Fever a safety and the ball.
On the following possession, Tri-Cities gave up a first down sack to Jervonte Jackson but used a couple long passes to get inside the 10-yard-line. Matt Hewitt recorded a sack, but Fever running back Dennis Kennedy caught a 6-yard touchdown pass out of the flat to go up 15-7. Devonte Peterson blocked the point after attempt, which looked like it might keep the fire going for the home team.
"Our defense is what we're most known for," said Hewitt, who led the team with 13 total tackles, including 2.5 for a loss. "We're known for playing hard. Now we've got to get back to work, get back to the drawing board and get better."
After the Fever scored on the second play of the second quarter to go up 22-10, both offenses cooled.
McNear, who led the Beef to nearly 400 yards of total offense in their last game, struggled in the second quarter going 4-of-14 with two interceptions.
"In the second quarter, we were trying to play catch up," Avery said. "We abandoned the run." Avery had seven catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
While the Beef struggled offensively in the second quarter, the Fever didn't fair any better with Lillard taking two sacks and throwing an interception in the end zone to Beef LB/DB Pig Brown. The two sacks came on back-to-back snaps, and both saw Chris Bradford moving the Fever signal caller seven yards backward. Jervonte Jackson assisted on one of those sacks that forced a 4th-and-24 situation.
"They run a Texas Tech style offense so we know they're going to pass a lot," Bradford said. "So we knew we had to pin our ears back and go."
That game plan saw the Beef record 11 tackles for loss, including five sacks. Bradford was a part of three of those sacks and took a Hewitt-forced fumble 21 yards for a touchdown.
"Everyone knows I have that Dwight Freeney spin move," Bradford said. "Their offense allowed for a lot of that."
Going into the locker room at halftime, Omaha was down 22-10. It was a lead they were never able to overcome despite scoring two touchdowns in each of the final two quarters.
The second half saw the Beef defense pick up right where they left off. On the first play of the second half, Jackson again found himself in the Fever backfield, recovering a fumble inside the Tri-Cities 15. Omaha went back to the ground. They went directly to Rollins on three-consecutive rushes, resulting in a touchdown to pull within five.
That third quarter was a lot like the first. Following the Rollins touchdown, Lillard's QB sneak put the Fever back up 29-17. McNear's first pass of the second half came in his second series and was a perfectly placed 32-yard touchdown to Burrell, just missing the fingertips of a Tri-Cities defensive back.
Later in the third quarter, Byron Wilson came up with a big sack on Lillard. Bradford followed up with yet another sack, forcing a 3rd-and-20 situation. However, Lillard was once again able to convert a third down opportunity and then scored on an 8-yard draw play. The two-point conversion gave Tri-Cities a 37-24 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Matt Hewitt was able to record another sack for the Beef, forcing a 3rd and 17 for the Fever at the Beef 20, but Lillard found E'Lon Paige in the end zone for the touchdown. That gave Tri-Cities a 44-24 lead.
"The positive was that we were able to get a lot of pressure on them," first year Beef Head Coach Andy Yost said. "But then they convert those 3rd-and-17s. Those are backbreakers."
Tri-Cities converted 8 times on 10 third down opportunities. The Beef were 4-for-9.
Bradford's fumble recovery, and a late touchdown pass from Avery finished the scoring for the Beef who lost 51-37.
While Avery said the final touchdown didn't heal any wounds, he did say it's something positive they can use moving forward. "That will show up on the film," he said of the play. "We need to stick with what we know and know we can do it."
Avery also hopes plays like that can give the offense a spark when the team has struggles. "Just throw it up there, and #1 is gonna go get it."
The Beef next play Sunday April 3 going on the road to take on the Sioux Falls Storm. The Storm are 3-0 and play the Wichita Wild Saturday. The next home game is Saturday April 9 against Wichita who is currently 0-2.
Indoor Football League Stories from March 26, 2011
- Revolution Comeback Falls Short, lose 39-33 - Richmond Revolution
- Third down struggles cost Beef season's first loss - Omaha Beef
- Roughnecks Hold On For 37-34 Win Over Amarillo - West Texas Roughnecks
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