KENNEWICK -- Houston Lillard feels better, thank you.
How else can the Tri-Cities Fever starting quarterback feel after his team trounced the Arizona Adrenaline 76-28 in the teams' Indoor Football League opener Saturday night in front of 3,100 fans at Toyota Center?
But Lillard felt better knowing the Fever defense is on his side.
"I love it," Lillard said. "I really like it a lot because they beat us up in practice all the time. It takes the stress off too, knowing we've got one of the best defenses in the league."
That Fever defense set the tone early and often, forcing six turnovers -- including three interceptions by Dennis Rogan. It was Rogan's first competitive game since playing for the University of Tennessee in 2009.
"It felt great just to play with the team," Rogan said. "We're happy with the effort, especially with the defense coming out and getting as many key stops."
The Fever was never really threatened in this contest, jumping out to a 38-0 lead.
Tri-Cities linebacker Jason Beauchamp got the team on the board first when Arizona quarterback Jaime Cota, from his own 8, faded back, then stepped up to throw a pass. Only the ball didn't come with his hand.
It fell back into the end zone, where Beauchamp fell on it for a 7-0 lead just 1:42 into the contest.
But the biggest turnover came on the next series.
The Adrenaline moved the ball downfield to the Fever 5 for a first-and-five situation.
A holding penalty, followed by an illegal motion transgression moved the ball back to the 20. A Tri-Cities penalty moved it up to the 11, but then Cota made a mistake.
He fired a pass into the end zone hard, where Fever defensive back Dustin Bell snared the ball with one hand and ran it out of the end zone.
"I saw it coming," Bell admitted. "Our linebacker did what he was supposed to do, and the quarterback was very easy to read."
It was, said Arizona coach Drew Moore, a key play.
"Without the one penalty, it could have made the game 10-7," Moore said. "Could it have changed the outcome? Maybe. Maybe not. The bottom line is we have no discipline to get that many penalties."
The final toll? Arizona had 17 penalties for 115 yards.
In the second quarter, Lillard got into a rhythm with his offense as the Fever exploded for 35 points in the period. Lillard had four TD passes and didn't return for the third quarter, allowing backup QB Antwon Young to play.
The receiver's numbers were big.
Joey Hew Len had six catches for 102 yards. Tre Young had six catches for 65 yards. Both caught three TD passes, and Hew Len scored a fourth on a run.
"It's a great feeling with this being the first time in indoor football," said Young. "We pretty much were trying to exploit the hole (their secondary) had."
Hew Len had bigger things in mind.
"We saw that Sioux Falls scored 102 points (Friday) night against Kent, a team in our division," said Hew Len. "We wanted to come out and make a statement."
For Fever coach Adam Shackleford, he was just happy for a win.
"We were trying to get off to a quality start," said Shackleford. "It feels good to open up with a win."
There was a lot Shackleford liked.
"Our running backs (Dennis Kennedy and Mike McClendon) did a great job," he said. "McClendon is the best return guy I have ever had."
Indeed. McClendon returned three missed Adrenaline field goal attempts for 73 yards, nearly breaking two of the for touchdowns.
"And our defense is very athletic," Shackleford added. "They played well tonight. They gave up four big plays. But when you play as much man-to-man defense as we do that's gonna happen."
Lillard finished with 115 yards passing, while Kennedy rushed for 64 yards.
Arizona veteran quarterback Keith Poole came off the bench to pass for 170 yards and four TDs. James Mayfield, who hails from Eastern Oregon University, caught six of those passes for 119 yards.