Gunslingers at Dawn
The first of two battles for the glory of Oklahoma took place on Sunday, 7th January with the Oklahoma City Renegades hosting the expansion team, Tulsa Desperados. Experience faced off against youth, new owner Dion Hawkins playing the role of young pretender, hoping his much talked about Desperados could start Season 10 off well against ‘old head’, Michael Irvine. Strangely enough, Tulsa came into this game as heavy favourites among the community, which is a testament to the perceived strength of their roster, considering hey are an expansion team away from home. On the flip side of this, the Oklahoma City build has come in for some criticism for carrying a ‘budget’ offense that may explain the lack of favour towards a Renegade victory. There was something Oklahoma City could hold on to though. They are notoriously fast starters, going 7-1, all time, in Week 1. Could the battle-hardened Renegades continue their streak, or would the upstart Desperados out duel them to victory? The time was 3pm, Sunday 7th. The venue: Robber’s Cave…
First Quarter: Opportunities missed for OKC
Both teams came out in cagey fashion to start the first. Two opening drives came and went, with inaccurate throws showing the nerves of the two rookie quarterbacks. However, with Deacon Nickens starting to find some rhythm, the Renegades trickled slowly into field goal range. Short, accurate throws from Nickens were punctuated by a couple of good outside runs by ‘scat back’, Donk Bonkers. Tulsa’s stiff defence managed to stem the drive, limiting Oklahoma City to a field goal by their non-star kicker.
Now it was Tulsa’s time to reply, with rookie, Sir Charles Robinson, at the helm, trying to steer his offense to some points. Alas, it was not to be. Attempting a deep pass down the middle, Robinson found the hands of strong safety, AL Clint, who snagged the ball out of the air for his first INT of the season.
The Renegades got back to their task, quickly making it back into the Tulsa half of the field, and eventually near the redzone. On third and a few, Nickens tried an ambitious lob to the corner of the endzone. It looked mustard, but the pigskin was athletically batted down by cornerback, Jeffrey Desir (one of four total pass defelections on the day). Once again, the quick starters had to settle for three.
The quarter sizzled down with OKC boasting a 6-0 lead, rueing the chances they had missed.
Second Quarter: It only takes one big play…
The second period couldn’t have started worse for the Renegades; Deacon Nickens throwing an interception to free safety, Nate Hezlep, on the very first play. Watching live, I thought this was Tulsa’s chance to kick on and make some plays, but all they could muster was a long range field goal by kicker, Joseph Carroll, which doinked off the upright and fell short. Carroll went 2 of 4 on the day.
The meat of the quarter saw the two teams locked in a punting war, both battling for position and some consistent play on offense. It seemed like this was how the rest of the 2nd would play out, but Tulsa suddenly found a spark. Capitalizing on a fumble by Donk Bonkers, Sir Charles Robinson finally showed what his arm can do, hitting Khoury Jones over the top, in stride for the longest play of the game so far. The Desperados showed no ‘redzone nerves’ with Dion Hawkins catching a swing pass for a touchdown, despite the best efforts of cornerback, Eric Sutton, who had been exemplary up until that point.
Oklahoma City had 2 minutes to respond, but an Espon Ry’ale sack stopped the drive and the half ended with a whimper.
Despite having nearly double the time of possession, the Renegades went into the half, 7-6 behind.
Third Quarter: The good and the bad of Sir Charles Robinson
The third quarter was all about the rookie quaterbacks loosening their arms and airing it out. Deacon Nickens looked good, spreading the ball evenly between his receivers and making some nice throws down the middle of the field. He appears to have struck up a particular rapport with tight ends, Tybeerious Bovine and Jalen Hurt. The issue for the Renegades was that they just couldnt sustain a drive long enough to score points, even after Bert Maclin’s interception. A large part of this was down to the solid play of Tulsa’s secondary who look like the real deal. At one point it looked as though Oklahoma City had the Desperados pinned with a beautiful punt to the 1 yard line, only for ‘main man’, Dion Hawkins, to break out his biggest run of the day up to the Tulsa 38 yard stick.
Sir Charles Robinson came out ballin’ on the first drive. He threw a couple of beautiful strikes deep down the middle which led to a 43 yarder by Joseph Carroll. Despite throwing some erratic balls and also a terrible interception, Robinson did manage to hook up with ‘big play’ Khoury Jones, who caught a tipped ball and took it to the house in an amazing show of hands and concentration. Tulsa powered into the 4th with a commanding 17-6 lead.
Fourth Quarter: 2 Minutes Of Madness
As most fourth quarters seem to go in the SFL, this one held nothing particularly special until the last two minutes came around, then points started to fall like rain.
The only things of note that occurred during the majority of the 4th was another Joseph Carroll field goal and an interception by star strong safety, Charles Ball. Ball had a strong game and really cemented himself as the defensive rookie to watch in the Central Conference; he ended the game with a huge sack on Deacon Nickens too.
As the game drew to a close, it seemed that Nickens and the Renegades offense woke up. They started to run a hurry up system and it worked the Tulsa defence to a point of cracking. With less than a minute left, Nickens found Deezer Powell in the back on the endzone for a well deserved touchdown. It was a shame that, from the ensuing onside kick, a Tulsa wide receiver picked up the ball and sprinted 50 yards to score 6 points…a real kick in the teeth for Oklahoma City and a painful end to the game.
The Tulsa Desperados should be ecstatic with this result. The secondary looked like the best unit I’ve seen during Week 1 and their outside receivers are nothing short of ‘big play’ boys. Espon Ry’ale was a beast and Sir Charles Robinson threw some nice balls. My main worry is that the offense seems very streaky. If they aren’t making those big plays, are they going to be able to grind out first downs on the regular? Against a tougher team, they may get found out.
For Oklahoma City, there are plenty of positives to take from Week 1. The defence – on the whole – looked solid, with Eric Sutton a particular stand out. The offense had flashes of effectiveness and the two tight ends could become unstoppable weapons later in the season. They just need to build some consistency. When Deacon Nickens was ballin’, he looked dangerous; it just didn’t happen enough. The Renegades need to show more consistency and to show that killer instinct that has been lacking over the past few years.
Well done Tulsa, keep on rollin!
Until next time…[event_details 8139] [event_results 8139] [event_performance 8139]