by Steve Vetack, Indianapolis CB
Red Devils Fry Sharks in Dual Debut
It was a historic night on Monday Night for two of the newest entries to the SFL. The San Francisco Sharks made their debut as well as introduced the league to their brand new stadium, “The Shark Tank”, against the Indianapolis Red Devils.
The excitement in the stands was just as intense as the nerves and tension felt down on the field as SFL rookies en masse were about to make their debuts. To add to an already memorable night the San Fran skies opened up appropriately soaking the aptly named Shark Tank.
Indy D Punishes Mistakes
The Red Devil defense made a statement in their first game and showed a ferocious hunger for the ball with a veteran like ability to keep calm under pressure.
An early stop after an opening kickoff fumble held San Fran to a field goal and that was just the first tough situation they were faced with in the first quarter. After an interception on the third possession by QB Nathan Lee, Indy’s D held again and limited potential early damage. What could have been a very big early lead remained at 10 with the only big play to WR Gabriel Manning to setup TE Calderon. After the TD, Indy’s young, untested secondary threw their collective weight into the early marketing campaign by ownership #SpeakoftheDevils and speaking fans did.
Free Safety Paul Blake had a monster game with two early picks that turned the game early and quickly. Both throws targeted Manning down the middle on consecutive possessions. CB Mike Vetack picked off QB Luyindula on the third consecutive possession with Abe Washington adding the fourth and mercifully final pick of the evening on the first possession of the second half.
To put it bluntly, QB Jacques Luyindula found himself in a red nightmare early and often as the Indy defense confused and forced him into what honestly could have been more than the 4 interceptions he did give up. An incredibly impressive debut for this unit that delivered for Indianapolis’s first franchise win.
Notable Stat: 24 unanswered points off of 4 turnovers with only one sack
Nathan Lee Spreads the Wealth
After an early interception, rookie QB Nathan Lee was able to settle down and had a very impressive debut. Even with the early short fields given to him by the D, he was able to put up 389 yards with 5 TDs on 27 of 37 throws.
He was noticeably calm and collected on 3rd and longs which allowed Indy to control the tempo and wear down the Sharks secondary. Lee did an excellent job taking what the defense gave him along with big throws to Dan Daly (7rec 119yds 2 TDs) and Eli McCormick (7rec 180yds 1 TD). The two receivers were able to grab catch after catch in traffic when Indy needed to keep the chains moving.
When San Fran was able to bottle up Daly and McCormick, Lee’s patience was rewarded by checking down to an often unaccounted Matthew Mitchell who had trouble running the ball all game, but found success catching out of the backfield (8rec 39yds 1 TD).
“I was pretty frustrated about that, to be honest. But y’know, I trusted James to utilize me in a way that would help the team by injecting me into the passing game and I’m glad it worked out”, commented HB Mitchell.
At least for this game, Nathan Lee didn’t look like a rookie. You could have certainly mistaken him for an SFL veteran.
Notable Stat: At the end of the 3rd quarter Lee had as many TDs as he had incompletions – 4
Sharks left with Unanswered Questions
The San Francisco game plan fell apart very quickly which will make it difficult to truly assess where the team stands after their debut.
The obvious change that needs to be made is the need to limit turnovers. QB Luyindula’s confidence most certainly took a shot with a very rude introduction to the SFL. They weren’t able to really put into practice FB Moats as a key part of their offense and featuring WR Gabriel Manning, while a good idea on most days, proved to be a reason for at least three interceptions on the day.
The same thing can be said of the defense, who were repeatedly forced to defend a short field which will be a very atypical situation for most defenses this year. A vulnerability in the air down the middle was exposed throughout the game and they did look gassed on multiple occasions.
A positive note did come in the form of little known WR Brown Jr. He proved to be a viable threat opposite of Manning in the second half with two TDs and multiple long yardage catches.
Notable Stat: One 1st down in almost 11 minutes which saw 3 turnovers in that time span
Game MVP: QB Nathan Lee – Indianapolis Red Devils
27/37 389yds 5 TDs – 143.9 QB rating
Highlight of the Game: Dan Daly snags a one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone from Lee
Looking forward Week 2
Indianapolis takes on owner James Richard’s old team St Louis at the home debut of their new stadium “The 9th Circle”
San Francisco travels to San Antonio to take on the Vaqueros who won a hard-fought battle against rivals Dallas[event_details 7736] [event_results 7736] [event_performance 7736]