PARK CITY – The Wild wasn’t about to let another big defensive play go to waste.
Not long after failing to capitalize on a goal-line stand that ended in a fumble recovery, the Wild blocked a third-quarter Oklahoma field-goal attempt that set Wichita up for a scoring opportunity.
This time, Wichita converted on a 12-yard drive that ended in the second of Joe Kassanavoid’s three receiving touchdowns, and the Wild was on its way to a 67-37 win at Hartman Arena.
“It was very key in the game,” Wild coach Paco Martinez said of the blocked kick and subsequent score. “The biggest thing in the second half was playing a different style of football. The first half was not us.”
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Oklahoma’s offense was providing a challenge to Wichita’s top-rated Champions Professional Indoor Football League defense, trailing 28-24 when it drove deep into Wichita territory late in the first half.
The Wild seemed primed for a stop until a pass interference penalty and a seven-yard pass got Oklahoma to the 2-yard line, then to the 1-yard line on the next play. But Anthony Smith smothered a fumble that would seemingly keep Wichita ahead at halftime.
That prognostication took a rapid change when Oklahoma blocked an Ernesto Acayo field-goal attempt and returned it for a 25-yard touchdown with no time remaining to go ahead 30-28.
Even though Oklahoma scored the first three times it had possession, Wichita’s defense was mostly living up to its reputation. After allowing a touchdown on Oklahoma’s first play, Wichita held the Defenders to a field goal, then on a kickoff-return touchdown for which the defense was not to blame.
The Wild also had a first-half interception, but, like the recovered fumble later, Wichita was unable to turn it into points. Only after the blocked kick could the Wild’s offense and defense operate fluidly at the same time.
“Football is a game of momentum for the most part,” Wild quarterback Rocky Hinds said. “We try to feed off each other, but our defense was struggling in the first half, so we knew the offense had to step it up. Our defense picked it up in the second half, and when we’re clicking on all cylinders, nobody can stop us.”
After the recovery, Hinds completed a touchdown drive with a seven-yard run to put Wichita ahead for good. Hinds, with seven touchdown passes, accounted for eight Wichita scores, and his only touchdown run started a stretch of 28 straight Wild points.
That string included two more touchdown passes to Kassanavoid as Wichita unleashed a methodical but efficient offense that produced five scores of 10 or fewer yards. Kassanavoid’s three touchdowns totaled 24 yards. Running back Tywon Hubbard provided some big plays by rushing for 84 yards on nine carries, including a 40-yard sprint.
The Wild’s four straight touchdowns ended with a 20-yard fumble recovery by Dan Kontz, and after Oklahoma broke the string, Wichita started a new one that included a safety and featured the help of its second interception.
“We told them, ‘Offense is going to get the ball, we’re going to score really quick; defense get a stop, then the game is over,’ and that’s exactly what happened,” Martinez said. “Just like we drew it up. We just try to get the guys to believe every single time and not play football the way we did in that first half.”
O—Anderson 25 pass from May (Frevert kick)
W—Kelley 22 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
O—Frevert 24 FG
W—Love 25 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
O—Anderson 47 kickoff return (Frevert kick)
W—Kassanavoid 7 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
O—Jones 17 pass from May (Frevert kick)
W—Kelley 16 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
O—Robinson 15 blocked FG return (kick failed)
W—Hinds 7 run (Lacayo kick)
W—Kassanavoid 10 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
W—Kontz 12 fumble recovery (Lacayo kick)
O—May 1 run (Frevert kick)
W—Kelley 5 pass from Hinds (kick failed)
W—Lacayo 26 FG
Rushing—Oklahoma, Washington 7-16, Birkenfield 3-15, Thomas 1-8, May 3-(-1), Anderson 1-(-4); Wichita, Hubbard 9-84, Allen 6-20, Hinds 2-6, Kassanavoid 1-1,
Passing—Oklahoma, May 17-33-119-2 INT, Birkenfield 1-1-3-0; Wichita, Hinds 13-20-169-0.
Receiving—Oklahoma, Anderson 6-47, Washington 5-31, Jones 5-30, Thomas 2-14; Wichita, Kassanavoid 5-51, Kelly 4-52, Love 2-42, Hubbard 1-17, Allen 1-7.