Taking stock of his two-sack game in the season opener against Allen, one thing stood out to Wild defensive end Matt Moss: his anger.
Displeasure doesn’t always reap such positive results for Moss, a Texas A&M product in his second season with Wichita. But a professional disappointment gave Moss raw emotion that he has harbored throughout the season and turned into defensive dominance.
Moss leads the IFL with 11 1/2 sacks, nearly double the total of the next-highest player heading into Saturday’s home game against Allen. He’s part of a scheme that emphasizes pressuring the quarterback, but it’s a philosophy that wouldn’t have legs without Moss.
"Sometimes that can get you into trouble," Moss said. "The first game I started off with two sacks, I came into the game and I remember I was just ready to play. I had gotten released from Edmonton (of the CFL) and I had a lot of built-up emotional anger to just release it onto somebody else."
Moss (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) had 2 1/2 sacks in two years at Texas A&M, where he played alongside current NFL standout linebacker Von Miller. Moss’ years in College Station gave him an education on pass rushing, and he refined his knowledge and skills by playing indoors.
Learning from some of the best defensive ends in the arena game, Moss discovered techniques that allow him to get to the quarterback in a faster environment with less room to work. He also played against challenging offensive linemen in the CFL.
"In the indoor game, the more you play it, the better you can get at it," Moss said. "There’s certain ways to attack it and certain ways to do it. It’s a lot harder to get a sack here than in the outdoor game, just because of the pure fact that the ball is (released) so fast."
By design, Wichita’s strength is the defensive line. Moss and Kwame Jordan, out of Louisiana Tech, give the Wild a formidable pair on the ends, taking advantage of a freedom to constantly harass the quarterback.
With such aggressiveness, however, comes the occasional mistake. Wichita is second in the IFL with 20 1/2 sacks but is last in passing yards allowed per game, at 220. The Wild’s pressure forces quick decisions, and Wichita’s secondary hasn’t often capitalized on those hurries.
"Sometimes when you get after them he can get outside of the pocket and it can open up a little differently," Moss said. "Or he can squirm through a little hole. We’ve been trying to work on closing it down a little bit.
"... If you want to get after the quarterback and establish that as your type of defense, if you want to attack him, you have to realize that sometimes you’re maybe not going to get there and he’s going to find that one hole in the defense and capitalize on it."
A heavy reliance on the defense has also put pressure on that unit. Wichita is 15th in the 16-team IFL in scoring, so it is usually on the defense to keep games low-scoring enough to win.
Moss doesn’t mind that. In fact, it kind of makes him mad — the kind of mad that has allowed him to be the most productive defensive end in the league.
"I let a lot of emotions into the game," Moss said. "I’m trying to move up and hopeful to move up, whether it’s the NFL or CFL. I play with that emotional chip on my shoulder just to know that I can play there and get back up there.
"It can get me into some trouble sometimes, because sometimes I play with too much emotion and get caught up in it. But at the same time I love this game ... so much and have so much respect for it, that I do play with that emotional passion on the football field."