GRAND ISLAND -- This one goes to the defense.
The Tri-Cities Fever used a strong defensive effort when it needed it Sunday night to defeat the Nebraska Danger 38-23 in an Indoor Football League game in Grand Island, Neb.
The Fever defense intercepted Nebraska quarterback Terry Mayo three times -- two by defensive back Lionell Singleton and one by linebacker Joe Thornton -- and had a key goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.
"We did a good job coming together," said Singleton. "When you hold a team to 23 points, I think it's a good thing. One of the toughest things to do is play on the road and win, especially in front of a large crowd."
Definitely, as all three picks came in or near the end zone to stop touchdowns.
Singleton's first pick came at the 2, and his second stopped a potential game-tying score near the end of the first half in the end zone.
Thornton's came at the end of the game at the 1.
Last season, Tri-Cities won its home opener, but then got surprised in its first road game with a loss at Wenatchee Valley.
After the home-opener victory last Saturday -- a 70-44 rout of Everett -- the Fever was in a similar spot against Nebraska.
But not this time.
"It was a long trip that we had, with the driving and flying," said Singleton. "But it definitely brought us together. The team definitely came together, starting with the offensive and defensive lines."
Fever coach Adam Shackleford agreed.
"Our lines on both sides of the ball played hard tonight," said Shackleford. "But I think tonight we had some first-game mistakes that we didn't make last week."
That included fumbling the ball away near the goal line.
With the Fever holding a 31-23 lead early in the fourth quarter, Tri-Cities had a first-and-goal situation at the Nebraska 4 when Giovanni Stanley took a pitchout from quarterback Houston Lillard.
Stanley fumbled the football, and Nebraska's Kyle Thomas recovered back at the 10.
Mayo started moving the Danger downfield, going 32 yards in five plays down to the Fever 8 for a first-and-goal situation.
Mayo ran the ball to the 5, threw an incomplete pass, and hit receiver Chris Bell, where Fever defensive backs Rudell Crim and Marquise Liverpool stopped him at the 1.
That left the Danger with a fourth-and-1 situation. Mayo elected to try to sneak the ball in. But Crim and linebacker Boris Lee were there to meet him, stuffing him at the 1 with 8:40 to play.
"If he scores there, the momentum has completely shifted," Shackleford said.
Instead, Lillard marched the Fever back the other way, hitting Edward Berry on a 14-yard pass for a first down.
The Dennis Kennedy broke free for a 15-yard scamper.
"(Offensive lineman) Roddrell Stewart made a great block to get Dennis free," said Shackleford.
Two players later, Lillard found a streaking Kennedy down the right sideline, hitting him in stride with heavy coverage for a 20-yard TD pass and a 38-23 Fever lead with 4:22 to play.
"Coach wanted me to focus on Steven Whitehead," said Lillard. "But they were covering him. I saw that Dennis had a good move off the line. He did a good job on the play."
"We needed a drive there," he said. "We needed a touchdown. It was crunch time on the road and we needed to do that."
But a lot of the credit goes to the Tri-Cities defense.
"Nebraska only had one touchdown in the second half," said Shackleford. "It took the pressure off of us offensively. On the road it's tough to score, especially with the crowd noise."
NOTES: The Fever plays host to the Colorado Ice at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in the Toyota Center. Colorado (1-1) beat Wyoming 72-37 on Sunday. ... Lillard finished 14-for-27 passing for 208 yards and three TD passes. He also rushed for 66 yards and another score. ... All three Fever receivers who caught passes had over 50 yards in offense: Ed Berry was 5 for 96, Whitehead was 7 for 57, and Kennedy was 2 for 55. ... Fever kicker Michael Taylor connected on a 51-yard field goal in the first quarter. ... Crim was the leading tackler with nine, while Singleton had seven.