Knight Hawks grounded by Sugar Skulls, 41-39
After a stifling franchise debut a week ago, the Vegas Knight Hawks experienced their first hiccup of the young season.
Vegas fell short against the Tucson Sugar Skulls, 41-39, Sunday, March 27 from the Dollar Loan Center Arena in Henderson, Nevada.
This comes a week after holding Northern Arizona to an IFL season-low nine points.
“If you look at what happened from last week to this week, we made monumental strides,” head coach Mike Davis said. “We’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other and like I said, we’ll be fine.
“I told people in the beginning of the year through four games, if we were 2-2, that’s a huge success for us being an expansion team. That’s still obtainable, I mean, we dropped one tonight that we shouldn’t have lost but that’s the game.”
With their first loss of the season, the Knight Hawks are now 1-1 on the season with the team’s first road trip on the horizon.
“Just getting the win,” wide receiver KD Cannon said. “It’s going to bring us a lot closer together just getting the win.”
Vegas will travel to San Jose, California to take on the Bay Area Panthers Sunday, April 3.
Prior to a late touchdown from Tucson, two missed point-after attempts were the difference in scoring.
“We’re going to need to be a lot better,” Davis said. “To miss seven points – what was it? A field goal and four extra points? That’s just – not acceptable.”
In addition to the two missed PATs, kicker Nathan Criswell also went 0-for-2 on field goal attempts.
Through two games this season, Criswell is 3-for-6 on PATs and 3-for-8 on field goals, leaving 18 points on the board.
After leading all last week, Vegas faced its first deficit of the year in the first quarter falling behind 7-6.
It was a back-and-forth affair that featured eight lead changes and two ties.
The one glaring difference was the Knight Hawk defense was not able to force any turnovers after coming up with three last week.
“We’re getting better, we’re learning,” Davis said. “That’s part of it, it’s a maturation process and like I told the guys before autographs, ‘We’re getting better, we’re not close to where we want to be but we’re getting better.”
Despite the lack of turnovers, Vegas turned in five tackles for loss while Tucson tallied one.
Quarterback Jaylon Henderson got his first full start after entering the team’s first contest in the second quarter.
“He did a lot of good things,” Davis said. “But he missed a lot of things too. As much as I love how composed he was and things like that but we lined up wrong a couple of times and made the wrong reads – there’s a lot of stuff we can clean up.”
Henderson found early success with Cannon, striking for two touchdowns in the first eight-plus minutes of the game.
“It was very special today,” Cannon said. “[Unfortunately], we didn’t get the win but our connection is really good so far.”
The pair connected for a third touchdown of the first half to tie the game at 20 apiece.
Cannon finished the night with 71 yards on five receptions and three touchdowns.
For a brief moment in the second half, he appeared to tweak one of his lower legs on a wall collision before limping off the field.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” Cannon said. “Hopefully, a good night’s rest will do the job. That’s all I’m hoping for.”
Fellow wide receiver Frank Brown had an injury scare but not before making some head-turning plays.
Henderson found Brown on a 39-yard touchdown in the first half to go up 26-20 on the Sugar Skulls.
Early in the second half, Brown had his lower half rolled upon. Once reaching his feet, he immediately headed toward the sideline while pointing to the Tucson secondary.
His first play back on the field was a 11-yard touchdown catch to again give Vegas a six-point lead.
“[The offensive pace] could get better,” Cannon said. “It’s the second game so right now I love it but it could get a lot better.”
Henderson threw for 189 yards on 18-of-32 passing to go along with six touchdown passes and no turnovers.
Late in the fourth quarter, he nearly had an interception returned for a touchdown after a successful challenge from Davis.
“We still made some mental mistakes,” Davis said. “Had some guys wide open and a couple of guys running the wrong routes but we’re going to be fine.”
The team didn’t face any turnovers-on-downs until two in the final quarter-plus of the game.