Photo: Spokane Shock defensive back Ruschard Dodd-Masters (3) breaks up a pass intended for Las Vegas Outlaws wide receiver Clint Soloman in the third quarter of their Arena Football League game at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas Saturday May 23, 2015.(Josh Holmberg/Las Vegas Review Journal)
Las Vegas, NV – The Las Vegas Outlaws returned home on Saturday afternoon and welcomed in the Spokane Shock. Vegas is coming off of two very humbling road games against the best teams in the National Conference (San Jose, Arizona). In both of those road losses the same two problems plagued the Outlaws. They couldn’t convert in the red zone, and they couldn’t stop anyone on defense. After only one possession, it was clear that those problems had followed them back to the Thomas & Mack Center.
With less than 6 minutes left in the half, and the Outlaws trailing 21-7, Vegas suddenly found themselves without their starting QB. Raterink was hit and fumbled the ball backwards into his own end zone where the Shock recovered it for a TD. Raterink was very slow to get up, and would not return. The offense looked disjointed for most of the first half. Raterink completed only 6-14 passes for 64 yds, one TD, and one int.
Backup QB, Sean Brackett (13-23, 154 yds, 4 TD’s) took over and quickly got the offense rolling. A 2 yd run by Brackett closed the gap to 28-14, but once again the defense failed to get a stop. With only 9 seconds remaining, Smith found Rashaad Carter (9 rec, 96 yds, 2 TD’s) in the end zone for another Shock TD. Spokane went to the locker room leading 35-14.
On the first possession of the 3rd quarter, Las Vegas forced a Shock fumble just as they were about to get back in the end zone. It’s the first real stop they have had in 10 straight quarters of football. But they couldn’t capitalize. On 4th down, Brackett was stopped at the Shock 1 yd line. Spokane took a very comfortable 49-21 lead on another Smith touchdown pass with only 2:05 left in the 3rd.
Just 1:31 into the 4th, Smith again found pay dirt giving the Shock a 56-21 lead. Vegas looked all but done when Brackett hit Jomo Wilson for 42 yds and his only TD reception of the game. Then it got really fun. On the second play of the ensuing Shock drive, Outlaws DB, Ray Little jumped in front of a Smith pass and ran it back the short 5 yds for the Vegas touchdown. The kickoff came off of the net, hit the turf, and took a huge Las Vegas bounce. The outlaws recovered the ball inside the Shock 10 yard line, and Brackett found Willis again for a TD. Vegas scored 21 straight in just 4:04 of game time. Suddenly, it was a 14 point game.
Less than 3 minutes after the 21 point barrage, Spokane was back in the end zone with what looked like the dagger. Vegas wasn’t quite done yet, though. Tanner Varner took the kickoff off the net and down the sideline for the 56 yard touchdown. Spokane looked to ice the game as they lined up for a field goal try with only :53 remaining in the game. The kick went wide left, and Las Vegas recovered the ball at their own 3 yard line. Brackett found Willis again for the 11 yard TD pulling Vegas within 7, but only :12 remained.
Las Vegas was unable to recover the onside kick, and Spokane ran out the final :7 for the 63-56 win. The Outlaws lose their 3rd straight and fall to 3-5, while the Shock pick up their 1st road win of the season and improve to 3-5.
Sean Brackett was the difference on offense in the 2nd half.
“We gotta play like that from the start.” Bracket said. “Last couple of weeks we’ve been digging ourselves into a hole. We shouldn’t be getting stopped on offense at all.”
“Basically, we just need to do our jobs. It wasn’t really anything different it’s just do our job, we gotta score. As an offense you gotta go in and score every time, and that’s really all it was.”
Judging by the way JJ Raterink’s throwing hand was wrapped after the game, it’s a safe bet that Brackett will get plenty of snaps next week. The Outlaws are on the road once again next Saturday as they take on the top team in the American Conference, the Philadelphia Soul (8-1).