Keep calm. Relax.
That’s what the Tri-City Fever football players had to tell themselves after a rough first half at the Toyota Center on Friday night.
There were too many missed tackles. Too many missed pass plays. Too many penalties in trailing the visiting Nebraska Danger 24-20 at intermission.
So at halftime, the Fever defensive unit concentrated on the little things, and Tri-Cities quarterback Kasey Peters listened to Jack Johnson.
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Jack’s mellow music relaxed him, and Peters connected with George Bell on three touchdown passes in the third quarter to turn the game, leading the Fever to a 44-31 Indoor Football League victory.
“I just needed to settle down,” said Peters, who finished with 160 yards passing and three TD passes as the Fever evened its record at 1-1. “I came out too amped up in front of the home crowd. I don’t normally do that. But I was overthrowing my receivers. So I went in at halftime, threw on some music to mellow me out. Just Jack Johnson and me with my headphones.”
Twice in the third quarter, Peters found a streaking Bell down the left sidelines untouched, the first for 31 yards and the second for 25.
“That was the same exact route concept we saw all week (in film),” said Peters. “The second time, I thought their safety would move over. But he didn’t.”
So while the offense finally started clicking, the defense also settled in.
In the first half, Nebraska running back Daniel Libre slashed through the Tri-City defense with big runs of 24 and 13 yards. Quarterback Jameel Sewell was finding his open receiver.
But in the second, said Fever linebacker Boris Lee, “we started doing the little things, like filling the gaps. We fixed it at halftime. It was just the slightest adjustments.”
Lee had five tackles and a fumble recovery.
Lionell Singleton also shined with nine tackles and an interception.
“We just had to regroup at halftime,” said Singleton. “We just settled down.”
For Fever coach Adam Shackleford, the victory was especially satisfying after all of the injuries his team suffered in a season-opening 42-38 loss at Colorado on March 1.
“For the second game in a row our offensive line played well,” he said. “(Running back) Keithon Flemming did a great job, especially after getting cut a few weeks ago. He came back strong and showed a lot of character.”
Flemming rushed for 40 yards, caught 26 more receiving yards, and scored a touchdown in the win.
But Shackleford saved his biggest praise for the Fever’s defensive backfield, which shut down Nebraska’s highly touted receiving corps.
“Our secondary is pretty good,” said Shackleford.
Nebraska receiver Andre Piper-Jordan wasn’t much of a factor in the game. The former All-IFL receiver didn’t get many balls thrown his way.
“That’s because Dennis Rogan made him a non-factor,” said Shackleford. “I like Andre a lot, and he’s a good kid. But Dennis made him a non-factor.”