by Steve Vetack, Indianapolis CB
Oklahoma Grinds Out First Win of the Season
What do you get when a team trying to keep pace with the division leaders plays a team searching for its first breakthrough on the year? A game decided by the smallest of margins and the sting of missed opportunities. Welcome to the stress fest that was the Indianapolis and Oklahoma City game.
After a heart breaking loss at Tulsa in Week 3, where Indy played both a sloppy mistake riddled, but somehow at the same time impressive game, they saw themselves looking up at both Sioux Falls and Tulsa. Indy needed to push to take advantage of a guaranteed loss by one of the division leaders.
On the other side, Oklahoma City was staring at a big fat 0 in the win column. OKC already played both Tulsa and Sioux Falls which can now be seen as a grueling schedule to start the season but then came the shellacking by a St Louis team that had struggled on offense in the early season. The Gladiators put up 38 points in Week 3 leaving OKC with little to hang their literal ten gallon hats on. Limping into the season they were desperate for a win.
The desperation of OKC seemed to win the day against the urgency of Indy as the Renegades pulled out a razor thin win defined by almosts and the unexpected.
All your Possession Belong to Us
Methodical, strangling, and frustrating is what an Indy fan would describe the OKC offensive performance. With the Indy defense playing its typical high level all night it must have been maddening to see drive after drive with multiple 3rd down conversions. Not only was Indy unable to force crucial punts but the conversions came on mostly 3rd and long situations set up by dominating defensive play. The frustrations were not only felt on the field but also off from the Indy fanbase.
A fear for OKC in this game was the powerful and explosive offense of Indy. Last week the Red Devils went down big at Tulsa off of a bunch of early turnovers but were able to come back in quick fashion because of their ability to cover large portions of the field through the air. The absolute best recipe for defending against a great offense is to not let them have the ball.
OKC was able to dominate time of possession to the tune of 25:20 to 18:40. The first half Indy only had the ball for 8:23. A conversion rate of 60% on 3rd down and a suffocating 16 first downs was achieved by a consistent output of medium gains that kept the chains moving. Oklahoma was able to show a balanced enough attack to slow the game down and dictate the tempo the whole night. Great execution and excellent discipline was proven the equalizer for an underdog Renegade team.
This road to victory was epitomized by the winning drive in the 4th quarter that was capped by HB Bonkers 3rd TD run. The drive ate up 4:19 off the clock and left Indy with a measly :55 in which to try to get into field goal range for at least an attempt at the game. This dictated an aggressive desperate drive by Indy that ultimately ended with a desperation INT by Nathan Lee.
Notable Stat: OKC’s first 3 and out came on their second drive in the 3rd quarter
Big Plays Allude Indy D
The Red Devils defense played well. In fact, you could say they played well enough to win. In fact, if your one of the many that hail from the Circle City and count yourself as one of the Indy faithful known as the Red Reapers you might still be trying to figure out how this game didn’t quickly turn into a replica of the Week 1 turnover feast that was the San Francisco game.
Four sure interceptions with 2 early in the game were dropped by the great pass D of Indy with one being tipped twice before being caught by the TE Jalen Hurt who had been double if not triple covered down the middle for a big gain. This missed opportunity would prove to be symbolic of the game for the Indy D and prove to be a huge moment in the result of the game. On the next play HB Donk Bonkers (we believe he named himself as a small child) would break a 57 yard TD run.
What should have been a punt with great field position for Indy turned into a big time score that got OKC right back in the game with plenty of momentum.
“I gotta head to the masonry shop to get my brick hands replaced with some real ones. Those two dropped picks were brutal. We played well and just got unlucky unfortunately” commented SS Paul Connolly.
Indy would go without a turnover when at times OKC was begging for them to pick a pass. Neither team during the 1st half went 3 and out and OKC was able to shutout Indy on 3rd downs. Despite great games form WR Dan Daly (8 for 180yds) and especially WR Eli McCormack (7 for 115 2 TDs) it was defined by a dropped TD fro Daly in the 2nd quarter and ironically a dropped tipped TD for Eli in the 3rd.
“It’s hard to point to much we did wrong on D today. We feel like we played our game and executed well. We just need to make those big plays. That’s what the best do each week and we need to get to that level of consistency” remarked CB Mike Vetack.
Notable Stat: The turnover-less Indy D snapped a 3 game streak of at least one turnover which proved critical
Matching QB Performances Impress
Both Nathan Lee (IND) and Deacon Nickens (OKC) put on an impressive display of poise, precision and effectiveness the entire game. Take away the what ifs and almost and what you are left with is near perfection. Through the first half neither QB had more than a couple incompletions. The interception by Nathan Lee was during the last Indy drive and was in forced desperation to get within field goal range with very little time.
Lee finished 19 of 26 for 321 yards and 2 TDs while displaying his continuous ability to beat teams deep. This quick strike prowess has punished teams who aren’t constantly vigilant. All season he has been able to turn what looks like a pedestrian looking drive into a sudden 6 points with a strike to either Daly or Eli.
Deacon Nickens performance lacked the big play fireworks of his counterpart but made up for it in clutch moments. The majority of OKCs 3rd down conversions came by the way of the pass. While it was HB Donk Bonkers with the big numbers (130 yards 3 TDs) the performance under pressure by Nickens separated the two teams. Coming off of a 6 interception game at St Louis Nickens stepped up with a confident and composed 25 of 31 for 240 yards with an exceedingly important 0 interceptions.
Notable Stat: OKC had 5 players with 3+ receptions with WR Steve Bush leading the way with 7 recs for 80 yards
Game MVP: HB Donk Bonkers 29 att – 130 yds – 3 TDs – 4.5 yds per carry
Highlight of the Game: HB Bonkers makes Indy D pay after a missed interception by busting out for a 57 yard TD
Looking Forward to Week 5
Indy will feel the pressure to keep up with the division leaders Tulsa and Sioux Falls as they take on a surprisingly struggling 0-4 Chicago club
Oklahoma City looks to build on their momentum when they take on the Sioux Falls Sparrows in a rematch from Week 2