by Steve Vetack, Indianapolis CB
Desperados Win in a Wild Shootout Against Indy
Week 3 brought the SFL the first big premiere matchup in what may be the newest rivalry and the top contenders for the Central title. Both Tulsa and Indianapolis touted excellent pass defenses and had stifled their opponents through two weeks. The offenses contrasted with Tulsa being led by HB Dion Hawkins in this last season on the field and the Red Devils being headlined by the quick strike, big play duo of WR Dan Daly and Eli McCormick. Most fans anticipated a defensive slugfest, but what they got was a game where points were not in short supply.
If you didn’t know him before, you know him now. The strong safety came into Week 3 with an impressive 3 INTs and was able to show all game why. After a field goal off a Paul Blake interception, Charles Ball took the ensuing kickoff to the house which would prove to be critical. On the next two Indy possessions, WR Dan Daly burned the Tulsa D for two deep TD catches, which has become a common sight no matter the opponent (5 TDs on the season). With the Tulsa offense sputtering against the upstart Indy D, the kickoff return was able to keep them in the game early.
On defense, Ball put the team on his back as well. Three interceptions, with 2 coming in the pivotal 2nd quarter, was able to give the struggling Tulsa offense short fields to will themselves back into the game. Cornerback Kyler Murray was able to pick off an ill-advised out route for a pick six inside the Indy 10 yard line and Ball’s ability to consistently get good field position with long kickoff returns was able to overcome a lot of drives that were stifled (28% 3rd down conversion), but were able to be salvaged with field goals.
Indy was able to come back to within 3 through a great TD run by the backup running back and another long touchdown catch by WR Eli McCormick (over Ball, hey we are all still human), but the damage had been done. Five interceptions by the Tulsa defense, including Ball’s final INT to end Indy’s last real threatening drive, the pick six, and Ball’s kick return TD proved too much. Ball picked a great time to break out and announce himself to the league as one of the defensive players to watch this year with a little extra special sauce on special teams.
Notable Stat: The Tulsa offense failed to score a single touchdown in the first half via the offensive unit but was able to go into the half leading 20-17.
Hawkins Plays Setup Man
Dion Hawkins will retire at the end of the season and bring his talents to the boardroom full-time, but not before he displays the fact he still has the ability to lead a team on the field. While he would be scoreless on the day, his big outside runs, particularly in the second half, would be key to setting up Robinson’s two touchdown passes (144 yds rushing). Robinson struggled, though not as meaningfully as Nathan Lee, with only 107 yards but was able to ride the running prowess of Hawkins to the win.
In an extremely close game with big game players making big game plays on both teams, you need an experienced vet like Hawkins to calm the young rookies in a game this chaotic and emotional.
Notable Stat: Hawkins two biggest runs on the day lead to the only 2 TDs by the Tulsa offense
34 Points Hides an Impressive Indy D
The boxscore will read 34 points given up by this dynamic expansion defense, but the SFL shouldn’t be fooled. Remove 14 points from that tally stemming from a kickoff return for a touchdown and a pick six and you have Indy holding Tulsa to 20 points with Hawkins shut out of the endzone. A very different game would have been presented. The Indy offense put the defensive unit in some tough binds with Lee’s 5 interceptions with 3 coming in a blitz during the second quarter.
“It’s frustrating. You know Coach had the backups in, then McElroy brought us back into it. We just couldn’t do enough. Not enough, the whole game. It sucks to lose like that,” lamented a visibly frustrated QB Nathan Lee.
On 3 of the 5 INTs (one a pick six) the Red Devils held Tulsa to a punt, field goal in the redzone and a 3 and out. It is an incredibly difficult task for a defense to contend with 5 turnovers by the offense. Add on 14 points outside of their control and you wouldn’t blame the defense for being frustrated with their counterparts.
“We can only control what we can control as a defensive group. Lee had a tough game, but we have confidence in him and the rest of the offensive guys. It’s a team game and that’s how we will approach each and every week” commented defensive captain CB Steve Vetack.
Notable Stat: Indianapolis has at least one interception every game so far this year which started with a 5 interception game of their own in Week 1
Game MVP: Charles Ball SS – 3 INTs – 5 tackles – 236 kick return yards – 1 kick return touchdown
Highlight of the Game: Tulsa CB Kyle Murray makes a one handed interception on an out route to score six going the other way
Looking Forward to Week 4
Indianapolis will look to rebound from an uncharacteristically sloppy loss against a reeling Oklahoma City who are still searching for their first win of the season
Tulsa takes on another undefeated team in the Sioux Falls Sparrows in another early test of Central dominance