SAP CENTER — After last week’s narrow one-point defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Power, the San Jose SaberCats returned home looking to bounce back from a sloppy game.
Unfortunately for the SaberCats, Friday night against the Spokane Shock was like watching a bad rerun.
Reigning AFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year Erik Meyer led the Shock on an offensive clinic as they handed the SaberCats their second-straight loss, 73-62.
After rookie QB Nathan Stanley started last week’s game against the Power with three straight turnovers, the SaberCats elected to go with Russ Michna to start Friday’s game.
Michna began his first drive by going 0-for-4, capping it off by being picked on fourth down by Spokane DB Terence Moore.
Michna regrouped on the next drive, and was able to stop the SaberCats from going consecutive games with a scoreless first quarter by connecting with WR Reggie Gray on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 1:33 left in the first.
The first quarter ended with San Jose down just 14-7, but it took the Shock less than three minutes in the second to open up a 21-point lead after Spokane scored on a one-yard QB keep from Meyer, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
All were ominous reminders of what went wrong in last week’s loss.
Michna did his best to keep the SaberCats within striking distance, but San Jose’s usual stifling defense allowed 49 points in the first half, getting their first turnover with just 33 seconds left in the second quarter after DL Jason Stewart forced a fumble on a sack.
While the defense certainly didn’t help his cause, Michna later accepted the blame for the loss, claiming his play wasn’t up to his usual standard:
“I keep saying I was disappointed with my performance tonight, I thought everyone else played well. [But] I don’t expect to sit in this room and say that again this year.”
Michna finished the game completing 28-for-43 passes for 352 yards, 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
WR Reggie Gray had 8 receptions for 75 yards and five touchdowns, while Rod Harper led all receivers with 12 receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
Coach Darren Arbet offered neither praise nor criticize Michna, instead offering a diplomatic take on the team’s struggles:
“We need to get back to practice. Theres a lot of different things we need to fix. We got a lot of moving parts on this football team. That’s no excuse though. We just can’t make mistakes.”
After coming into the game as just one of three AFL teams who hold their opponents to under 40 points each game (38.3), the SaberCats allowed the Shock to score a season-high 73 points.
Though it seemed Spokane had their way with the SaberCats defense at times, Arbet was not disappointed with the effort put forth by the team:
“The guys played hard. Spokane is a good football team. They have three good receivers, they have the MVP of the league, we understand that. We took away what they did best, and Meyer stepped up and made some plays, and thats gonna happen.”
The defensive line provided a silver lining in an otherwise ugly affair, notching six total sacks, with Francis Maka and Jason Stewart both having a pair of their own.
While Michna went to work through the air, with 49 of San Jose’s points coming on touchdown passes, Spokane’s Meyer picked apart the SaberCats defense with both his arm and his feet.
Meyer finished the game with an MVP caliber line, completing 19-for-28 passes for 258-yards and four touchdowns, while adding 37 yards rushing with four touchdowns.
Meyer’s play helped Spokane keep a comfortable lead throughout most of the game. It also kept the crowd subdued anytime they seemed poised to cheer their team back in the game.
On multiple occasions, Meyer responded to sacks with either long completions or touchdowns, silencing the crowd and halting any momentum the SaberCats tried to muster.
With another tough matchup in Arizona coming up next week, Arbet realizes that there is no time to dwell on tough consecutive defeats:
“We gotta close the book on this game. We’ll meet tomorrow, watch the film, talk about it and fix those mistakes, and then move on from there.”
The SaberCats take on the Arizona Rattlers at home on Saturday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m.