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Getting defensive, but not offensive

Andrew Pekarek
Sunday July 20, 2008

It seems like it has been the same story for the Green Bay Blizzard all season long, the offense struggles, but the defense dominates.

That held true again on Friday night as the Blizzard (10-5) defeated the Louisville Fire 33-20 in front of 7,110 fans at the Resch Center.

Green Bay is now 10-0 when it holds an opponent to 40 points or less, but the Blizzard defense did more than just hold the Fire offense to only 20 points, it provided more statistics than the offense, something that doesn’t happen a lot in arena football.

The Blizzard defense recorded eight sacks, three interceptions, two fumbles, two safeties and one fumble return for a touchdown.

Defensive end Odell Willis was responsible for most of the havoc the defense caused. After being picked up off waivers from the Peoria Pirates two weeks ago, Willis made his presence felt with his new team by getting three sacks—two for safeties.

Willis’ success came as a result of his speed and game planning by Blizzard defensive coordinator Doug Lytle. 

Lytle switched Willis with defensive tackle Quartez Vickerson in the second quarter to allow Willis, who is 245 pounds, to be matched up against Fire center Joe Washington, who is 340 pounds, and the results speak for themselves.

Willis enjoyed the most success, but Vickerson recorded two sacks of his own, and defensive end Joe Sykes also got two, which puts his season total at 18.5 and first in arenafootball2. 

Mac linebacker Gus Tyson was credited with one sack, but his one sack helped make arena football history.

Tyson came into the game with 9.5 sacks and 10 touchdowns. The one sack allowed him to become the first player in AFL or af2 history to record at least 10 sacks and 10 touchdowns in a season, or as this writer calls it, arena football’s version of a double-double.

In attendance to see this dominating defensive performance were former Blizzard linemen Jason Hardee and Robert Boss. Each is playing in the AFL now, Hardee with the New York Dragons and Boss with the Chicago Rush, but Blizzard head coach Bob Landsee felt the two should be worried about their jobs after watching the Blizzard defensive line apply pressure all night.

The pressure up front helped defensive back Rusty Midlam, who played with the Fire last year, get three interceptions against his old team.

“We had a blast,” Midlam said. “We were just running around making plays and we had fun tonight, and that’s the biggest thing, when we don’t have fun we don’t play well, and we had fun tonight and it showed.”

While the Blizzard defense was having fun, the quarterbacks for both teams were having trouble completing passes.

Fire quarterbacks Danny Southwick and Nick Roberts combined to throw for only 165 yards and two touchdowns, but the Blizzard quarterbacks didn’t fair well either.

Brian Villanueva got his first start with the team, and was the fifth starting quarterback the Blizzard has used this season.

Villanueva’s first four passes were incompletions that he overthrew to open receivers, and he finished 7-of-15 for 75 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Collin Drafts took over in the second half. He started the last seven games, and has been the team’s most effective quarterback this season because he usually doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.

That’s what Drafts did in this game because he was 8-of-14 for 83 yards and his only touchdown came on the ground, but he didn’t fumble or throw an interception, which was enough to win.

“Everybody’s offense struggles from time to time,” Willis said. “The more chances you give them, the better.”

The Blizzard are running out of chances, however, and another offensive performance like the one against the Fire could get the Blizzard knocked out of the playoffs.

The statistic mentioned earlier about how the Blizzard is 10-0 when it holds an opponent to 40 points or less, also has a flip side to it. The Blizzard is 0-5 when it allows an opponent to score 41 points or more.

Regardless of where and who the Blizzard end up playing in the playoffs, it’s likely the offense will have to come through.

“It’s a new energy, a new life,” Willis said after the game when he talked about getting the chance to come to Green Bay after being in Peoria, but his words also can be used for what the playoffs could mean for the Blizzard.

It’s a new energy, new life and a chance to write a new story. 

A story that could talk about a dominating defense, potent offense and a championship team.

Andrew is a senior at UW-Green Bay and has written for the student newspaper. He began following arena football in 1998 as a fan of the Green Bay Bombers (IFL). Was a programming intern for Sports Radio 107.5 & 1400 The Fan and is currently pursuing a career in radio broadcasting.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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