A season that appeared to be on its way to newfound success, took a turn for the worse a month ago. So, instead of scheming to feel the joy of an undefeated season, the Shock are now experiencing a new motivation.
Spokane snapped a three-game losing streak on Friday with a 65-54 win over the New Orleans Voodoo at the Spokane Arena. It's the first win for the Shock (6-3) since they started the season with five straight victories.
"It's like a gorilla is off our back," defensive back Terrance Sanders said.
"Feels great," added head coach Andy Olson. "I really felt this whole time we needed to get the monkey off our back. I really felt that way."
It was the ultimate team effort that finally got the Shock their sixth win of the season. Touchdowns were scored in every facet of the game -- offense, defense and special teams. But it was the defense that made the necessary plays down the stretch.
A week ago, the Shock walked off the field disappointed after a heartbreaking loss. In that game, they let a 13-point lead dissipate in the final seven minutes. On Friday, the Shock found themselves in a similar situation -- with an 11-point lead with about six minutes to play.
This time, though, the Shock were able to close out the game. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Sanders picked off a pass and easily galloped the ball 15 yards into the end zone to give the Shock a 59-47 lead.
After the Voodoo responded with a touchdown drive of their own to close the gap to 59-54 with 8:38 to play, Erik Meyer found Adron Tennell for a 37-yard score. The failed PAT attempt left the score at 65-54 and it appeared the teams would continue to trade touchdowns.
That's when the defense stepped up and effectively ended the game. On third down with less than three minutes to play, defensive lineman James Ruffin broke through the line and knocked Voodoo quarterback Kurt Rocco backwards. The sack forced the ball loose and the Shock came away from the pile with possession, and, the game.
"We just played with intensity the whole game. We kind of let go of that the past three games, letting the fourth quarter get away from us. We knew we had to step up in the fourth and do it for [the] offense.
"We made sure we stepped up in practice, guys running to the football. A lot of competition in practice. Coach Andy Olson and [defensive] coach [Travis Crusenberry] made sure we were ready for this game."
The Shock almost gave their first possession of the game away as Erik Meyer threw an interception. Offensive lineman Chris Pino came to the rescue, though, laying a big hit on Voodoo defensive back Leslie Majors to pry the ball loose. Lineman Ryan Cave fell on the ball, the Shock retained possession and eventually found the end zone to take an early 7-0 lead.
Defensive back Paul Stephens left the game in the third quarter with a pulled left hamstring. Stephens had two interceptions, including a crucial fourth-down pick at the goal line.
Receiver Adron Tennell was also shaken up, requiring medical attention on the field at the end of the third quarter. Tennell re-entered the game early in the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown. After the game, he said he caught a helmet underneath his rib that temporarily knocked the wind out of him.
Meyer threw for 353 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Tennell had 174 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while Brandon Thompkins pulled in three touchdowns through the air.
Sanders found the end zone after an interception and on a kickoff.
The Shock play at San Antonio next Friday at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time.