Spokane Shock Open AFL Title Defense with a Thud, Lose 76-48

Darin PikeContributor IMarch 12, 2011

LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 22:  Kevin McCullough #50 of the Spokane Shock celebrates in the end zone with Sergio Gilliam #9 after Gilliam returned an interception for a touchdown during the Shock's 74-27 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers in the AFL2 ArenaCup 10 at the Orleans Arena August 22, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The 2011 Arena Football League season is officially underway.

The most intriguing matchup on opening night featured the defending champion Spokane Shock, ranked first in the AFL preseason poll. Spokane traveled to the revived San Jose SaberCats, ranked second heading into the season opener.

The results for Spokane were similar to their opening game of the 2010 season. Its offense struggled most of the game with timing and concentration, leading to tipped passes returned for defensive TDs and stalled drives.  

San Jose was led by QB Mark Grieb, a three-time Arena Bowl champion. He completed 21 of 25 passes for six TDs. The rest of the team also played mistake-free most of the game.

Even when San Jose did misfire, it came up looking good. On a kickoff return when Spokane was looking to get back into the game, a Shock player forced a fumble. The ball bounced right into the arms of another SaberCat, who tacked another dozen yards onto the return.

San Jose also managed to capitalize on Spokane's mistakes. Shock QB Kyle Rowley had accuracy issues, going 30-for-47 for the game.

One of his better passes came on Spokane's initial possession. It bounced off a Shock receiver, however, looking almost like a set pass in a volleyball game. Rowley did match Grieb's TD mark of six, but three INTs were the difference in the game.

The game was saturated with physical play and post-whistle contact. Bad blood already seems to be brewing between the two teams, spawning a solid west coast rivalry.

Spokane will open its home season on March 19 vs. the Cleveland Gladiators. The Shock will look to protect its home winning streak against the eighth-ranked team in the AFL as the Gladiators open their 2011 campaign.