Dee Maggitt Jr. couldn’t believe he had given up the go-ahead touchdown Saturday night.
The Tri-Cities Fever defensive back had let Austin Coleman get behind him, and Maggitt watched in desperation as Billings quarterback Dak Britt connected with Coleman for a touchdown and a 41-40 lead with just 19 seconds left in Saturday’s Indoor Football League game in the Toyota Center.
“I gave up the touchdown for their go-ahead touchdown,” said Maggitt, a rookie defensive back from the University of Hawaii. “I was trying not to keep my head down. The fans behind me were great. They told me to keep my head up.”
What happened next had the estimated 3,500 Fever fans on their feet.
Maggitt gathered in the ensuing kickoff at his own 10, found a lane and returned the football down to the Wolves’ 9 yard line.
“I told myself to just get the ball and run straight,” Maggitt said.
With two personal-foul penalties in the bank, both on Billings, that left the ball at the 3.
That’s where Fever quarterback Pat McCain took over.
“Once Maggitt returned the kickoff, I knew I’d get the call,” said McCain, who bulled his way into the end zone from the 3 to score with 8.3 seconds left for the 47-41 win.
5Turnovers forced by the Fever defense, including 18-yard INT return for TD by Bradley Njoku
20Unanswered points scored by Billings in fourth quarter before Fever rallied in closing seconds
36Penalties whistled by the officials on both teams for 275 yards
Near-disaster in the fourth quarter
The TD helped stop a 20-0 Billings run in the fourth quarter that saw the Fever’s lead of 40-21 dissipate until the Wolves took the lead.
“I was disappointed in the run they had,” said Ryan Lingenfelder, who earned his first victory as the Fever’s head coach. “I felt it was self-inflicted on our part.”
“They changed up their defense a bit,” said McCain. “They moved to a Cover 1 scheme. But our defense played well too. They helped us stay in the game.”
The Fever defense forced five turnovers — two interceptions each from Maggitt and Bradley Njoku, and kicker Steven Wakefield recovered a fumble on a kickoff.
“We disguised our coverages a lot,” said Maggitt. “When it looked like we were in zone, we were in man coverage. And when it looked like we were in man coverage, we were in zone.”
Bradley Njoku, who returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown, said the secondary’s film study all week paid off.
“We were able to understand their tendencies,” said Njoku. “I was watching the quarterback’s eyes, and on that touchdown I knew I had to dive over the trip to get into the end zone.”
Offense struggled in fourth quarter
It looked as if the Fever tried to run down the clock in the fourth quarter, said Tri-Cities wide receiver Dejuan Miller.
“I think the game plan changed a bit as far as trying to milk the clock,” said Miller.
Lingenfelder said his team lost its focus.
At one point, instead of trying a field goal, Tri-Cities went for it on 4th-and-1 deep in its own territory and failed to get the first down.
On the next play, Britt connected with Marcus Barnett for a 13-yard TD pass for Billings.
“That would have put the game away (had we gotten the first down),” said Lingenfelder. “I was doing the math in my head.”
QB platoon is working
McCain’s start happened because Hunter Wanket got banged up last week in the 47-46 loss to Nebraska.
Wanket, who started the first two games, was scheduled to play Saturday night.
“But McCain was lighting it up out there,” said Lingenfelder.
It’s a good problem to have: two quarterbacks who can move the offense when needed.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Lingenfelder. “They both deal with it like professionals.”
“Me and Hunter are team players,” he said. “If he is in there, I have his back. If I’m in there, he has mine.”
“Normally a two quarterback system doesn’t work,” said Miller. “But in our system, it works. And they’re not turning the ball over. Pat had an interception tonight. I think it was his first. I think Hunter has just one too.”
Billings coach Chris Dixon could only shake his head after the loss. “We blew it,” he said. “We squandered every opportunity we had. Great teams don’t panic when they’re down.” … Billings didn’t have the services of standout running back Julian Laing, who didn’t make the trip because he was banged up. … The best-performing players through the first three Fever games? Might just be the offensive line, which has done a great job of protecting both McCain and Wanket. … Ugh. The officials called 36 penalties for 275 yards — 21 penalties for 162 alone on Billings. … Big difference in ball control. The Fever had the ball for 38 minutes, while the Wolves had it for 22. … Fever stars of the game: McCain, for his four TD passes and two rushing touchdowns; Njoku, for his two interceptions and nine tackles; and Maggitt, for his two interceptions and key kickoff return late in the game. … Tri-Cities next plays host to Cedar Rapids on Friday.
FEVER 47, WOLVES 41
TC — Dejuan Miller 7 pass from Pat McCain (Steve Wakefield kick)
Bil — Josh Lailson 2 pass from Dak Britt (Spencer Groner kick)
TC — Akeem Foster 6 pass from McCain (kick failed)
Bil — Marcus Barnett 7 pass from Britt (Groner kick)
TC — Larry Cobb 18 pass from McCain (kick failed)
TC — McCain 2 run (Foster pass from McCain)
Bil — Barnett 21 pass from Britt (kick failed)
Bil — Rouge, Willie Downs
TC — Bradley Njoku 18 interception return (Wakefield kick)
TC — Foster 31 pass from McCain (kick failed)
Bil — Britt 6 run (Groner kick)
Bil — Barnett 13 pass from Britt (Groner kick)
Bil — Austin Coleman 26 pass from Britt (pass failed)
TC — McCain 3 run (Wakefield kick)
RUSHING — Bil, Britt 10-89, Barnett 1-0, Coleman 2-minus 3. TC, McCain 10-46, Jojo Snell 8-20.
PASSING — Bil, Britt 18-28-4-152. TC, McCain 12-30-1-119.
RECEIVING — Bil, Coleman 6-74, Barnett 4-36, Downs 3-28, Lailson 5-14. TC, Miller 6-47, Foster 3-43, Cobb 1-18, Snell 2-11.
FIRST DOWNS — Bil 18, TC 20. FUMBLES-LOST — Bil 1-1, TC 0-0.. PENALTIES-YARDS — Bil 21-162, TC 15-113.