After spending a month away from The Dollar Loan Center, the Vegas Knight Hawks returned home, only to lose by 27 points.
Vegas was beaten, 45-18, by the Northern Arizona Wranglers on Mother’s Day Sunday, May 8 from The Dollar Loan Center.
“It’s just self-inflicted wounds,” head coach Mike Davis said. “When you give a team that’s opportunistic, good field position and opportunities, it’s tough to come out of it.”
It was the third and final regular season meeting between these two clubs, with the Wranglers claiming two of the three.
The lone win of the season series for the Knight Hawks came in a week two, 22-9, win at home.
Last week, the team defeated the IFL’s defending champion, Massachusetts Pirates, 46-44, on the road.
With the loss to Northern Arizona, Vegas is now 1-3 at home with three straight home losses.
“I feel like we’re just coming out starting too slow,” defensive back Kalen Hicks said. “Sometimes we just have a feeling of complacency. We just came off a big win at Mass and at practice we kind of felt entitled.”
With a 3-5 overall record, the Knight Hawks will head back to the road for a contest against the San Diego Strike Force.
“We’ve just got to come into practice and have a new mindset,” Hicks said. “Stuff has to start changing if we want something big to happen. Either the way we practice, the way we come out in the game, the players, the personnel – stuff has to change.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, May 14.
Self-inflicted wounds was the name of the game early as the Vegas defense couldn’t get out of its own way, posting penalty after penalty.
“We had seven penalties in the first two drives,” Davis said. “That’s just being dumb. That’s just watching the football and understanding the down-and-distance. Three of the penalties were on fourth down where we gave them a first down.”
On the first drive, Vegas was whistled for three flags on the defensive side of the ball. The final of which was declined in favor of the Wranglers’ first touchdown of the day.
The first illegal defense flag of the drive came on a third and four where the Knight Hawks sacked opposing quarterback Kaleb Barker.
“A lot of those penalties were self-inflicted wounds,” Hicks said. “That’s our biggest problem on defense right now, just self-inflicted wounds. Coming in, I think we were a top-3 defense but all these self-inflicted wounds – We just can’t have that on defense. It cost us the game.”
The second quarter saw more of the same as back-to-back taunting and facemask penalties set up another Northern Arizona touchdown.
“Jokingly, I say all the time, ‘You can’t fix stupid,’” Davis said. “We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot and make dumb penalties over and over and over. And when you do that, it snowballs like it did tonight.”
Even with the turnovers, Vegas had a chance to get within a point or tie the game with a two-point conversion but suffered another setback.
Running back Elad Covaliu fumbled on a second and nine, resulting in a scoop-and-score going the other way for a 21-6 start for the Wranglers.
“You’ve just got to bounce back,” Davis said. “We’re a young team still but for us, you’ve just got to bounce back after sudden changes. And for us, we’re not very mentally tough right now and we’re trying to work on that and we’re trying to work on that as a staff to get them better.”
Covaliu made up for the mishap, returning a kickoff for a touchdown right before halftime to cut the deficit to 16 points.
However, the second half would bring about more misfortune for the Holy Cross product.
In the third quarter, Covaliu would muff a different kickoff opportunity allowing for Northern Arizona to fall on top of it.
That turnover came after the Wranglers had gone up 35-12.
“We try to just pick each other up and encourage each other,” Hicks said. “We had that same problem during the Green Bay game. We came out flat in that first half and then we just kept picking each other up.”
Covaliu muffed another kickoff later in the quarter before finishing the night with 14 rush yards on four attempts. He also had two catches for 12 yards.
Wide receiver Dez Epps also fumbled in the second half of the eventual blowout loss.
That turnover appeared to be a far cry from his 42-yard touchdown snag on the second play from scrimmage to open the game.
Quarterback Jerod Evans had a grueling day after being named the Offensive Player of the Week by the IFL.
Evans went 14-for-23, throwing for 126 yards and a touchdown.
A crumbling pocket forced him to rely on his legs for 11 carries, picking up 26 yards and a touchdown along the way.
His rushing touchdown came with 4:30 left in regulation and was the team’s lone second half touchdown.
Two weeks ago, Vegas was shutout the entire first half at Green Bay.
“I’ve got to do a better job at that,” Davis said. “We can’t try and get it all back at once. We were trying to run a guy off to take two and work the underneath but we weren’t doing a good enough job up front.
“You see the last drive, we did some dink-and-dunk and that’s kind of our style of play until [the defense] comes up and we can run by you. So I’ll put that one on me.”