The last time the Tri-Cities Fever played the Nebraska Danger, it wasn’t much of a game.
The Fever turned the ball over five times, spotted the Danger a 35-17 lead, and never led once on the road in a 77-46 loss to Nebraska on March 14.
But much has changed since then, and the two teams get together again today with a 7:05 p.m. kickoff at the Toyota Center.
Since that game, Fever coach Adam Shackleford has re-signed veteran quarterback Houston Lillard, moved orginial starting QB Dante Warren to wide receiver and made numerous personnel moves as the team battles injuries.
The Fever has won consecutive games for a 3-5 record, while Intense Conference rival Nebraska sits atop the standings with a 6-2 mark.
Neither Shackleford nor Danger coach Mike Davis are expecting a blowout like last time.
“We’re playing a good team,” said Shackleford. “But I’d be surprised if we weren’t in the game and have a chance to win.”
The addition of Lillard has been a key move, said Davis.
“Houston is a veteran,” said Davis. “He kind of righted the ship offensively for them. Obviously, them winning the last few games, you can tell they’re a better team. The Fever is a different team with Houston and guys like (defensive lineman) Pablo Garcia.”
Davis said he saw the Fever got a lot of confidence after its 73-62 road win at Green Bay on April 19, snapping a five-game losing streak.
“I think our swagger has picked up,” said the Fever quarterback who has 13 TD passes against five interceptions. “But against Nebraska, we have to do what we’ve been doing: minimize mistakes. That’s a big problem for any team.”
The Danger’s biggest strength this season has been its defense, which is ranked No. 1 in the Indoor Football League.
“They’re physical,” said Lillard. “They scramble around the field. They’re like Colorado with their speed and flying around. But we should be fine as long as we don’t turn the ball over.”
Davis says the Danger defense has had to play so well to compensate for all of the injuries Nebraska’s offense has suffered this season.
Quarterback Jameel Sewell, last year’s IFL MVP, has been banged up a lot this season and has missed a few games.
And the Fever will have to contend with running back Troy Evans — the Danger standout who can also line up at the receiver spot and who has been sidelined with injuries.
“We have to contain their running game, whether it’s Evans or Sewell. We need to make Sewell to stay in the pocket,” said Shackleford. “When he scrambles and runs he can be trouble.”
The Fever will need to create some turnovers to get some extra offensive possessions.
By the numbers
Nebraska is ranked third in scoring offense at 48.9 points a game. Tri-Cities is fourth at 48.5. ... The Danger has the top-ranked scoring defense, surrendering just 34 points a game. The Fever is seventh at 52.9 a game. ... The Fever offense averages 249.9 yards a game — third-best in the IFL. The Danger is seventh at 224.8. ... The Danger has the top-ranked defense, surrendering just 207 yards a game. The Fever is eighth at 259.5. ... The Danger is tied with Colorado for first in turnover margin at plus-10. The Fever is seventh at minus-6. ... Fever running back Keithon Flemming is tied for third in scoring touchdowns with 12. ... Nebraska kicker Joe Houston is third in field-goal percentage at 88 percent (43 for 49). ... Fever kicker Brady Beeson is third in the league in field goals made with 10. ... Danger DB Jamar Love and Fever DB Donyae Coleman are tied for second in interceptions with four each. Love has two that he has returned for touchdowns — both against the Fever. ... Nebraska DB Pig Brown is the Danger’s leading tackler with 59. Fever DB Lionell Singleton is Tri-Cities’ leader with 61. Brown is also averaging one quarterback sack a game. Teammate Claude Wroten is also over one sack a game.
The Fever (2011-12) and Danger (2013) have been in the last three United Bowls — the IFL championship — representing the Intense Conference. Each time, United Conference champion Sioux Falls has won the game. ... Fever receiver Dejuan Miller (broken foot) is out for 6-8 weeks. ... Tri-Cities LB Boris Lee (knee) has been cleared to play, but will likely rest another week. ... Shackleford said newly acquired DB Ashante Williams has had a good week of practice and should see more playing time.