Tyler Knight is one of the best players in the Indoor Football League.
The Sioux Falls Storm linebacker was all over the field Saturday night. And when it counted most, Knight made the play of the game.
With the Tri-Cities Fever offense marching toward a possible game-winning score, Knight covered the left flat area on a pass play. He reached up, tipped the pass to himself, intercepting it. Then he ran 35 yards the other way for the winning score with 7.4 seconds remaining in the game as the visiting Storm beat the Fever 47-40 in the Toyota Center.
”They have been running crossing routes all game,” said Knight. “Honestly, I just ran as hard as I could. I saw the sideline was open, but when I saw the (Fever quarterback Dante Warren) wasn’t there I cut across the field.”
Warren took the blame like a professional after the game.
“I brought their linebacker up in coverage,” said Warren. “I saw that (Fever receiver) Harry (Peoples) had gone underneath. I tried to lob it over (Knight) and I just didn’t get enough on it.”
Fever coach Adam Shackleford didn’t blame Warren.
“I’ll bet if Dante had it to do all over again, I’m sure he’d run the ball,” said Shackleford. “But you can’t do that. You limit his ability, you limit his progress.”
And he’s learned.
“You can believe if we get in that situation again, I’ll do it different,” Warren said.
Outside of that final play, the Fever looked like it had the Storm on the ropes. The lead changed hands five times and the game was tied another three times.
“We missed some kicks tonight,” said Shackleford. “We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half. But what I liked is that our guys fought hard the whole game. I expected us to perform well. I knew we could beat Sioux Falls.”
Storm quarterback Chris Dixon had given the Storm a 40-33 lead with 3:54 to play when he dived into the end zone from 1 yard out.
But Warren came back, hitting Jackie Chambers for a 9-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 40-40 with 3:01 left.
When the Fever defense stopped the Storm deep in its own end zone on the ensuing series, it forced Sioux Falls kicker Parker Douglass to try a 64-yard field goal attempt with 54.7 seconds left.
“We held Sioux Falls’ offense to 40 points tonight,” said Fever defensive back Lionell Singleton. “We came together as a defense. We did real well.”
Douglass’ kick was way short and way left, giving Tri-Cities the ball at its own 14 yard line.
Warren ran for 6 yards, then hit Dejuan Miller for 11 more. After an incompletion at the Storm 19, Warren made his ill-fated pass that Knight caught and returned.
“Our defense played big tonight,” said Dixon. “We’re off to a slow start this season. Were 3-0, but we’re just not playing good football.”
It was a game that reminded Fever fans of the overtime loss to Sioux Falls two seasons ago. And it was another loss.
“We’re not gonna let this affect our season,” said Shackleford, whose team falls to 1-1.