PARK CITY — Playmakers, Brandon Walker said, make plays.
So the Wichita Wild quarterback's goal was to use his superior speed to outrun the pass rush and throw it deep to an open receiver.
But like so many things during this surprisingly miserable Indoor Football League season, the play didn't go according to plan.
Instead, Walker was tracked down and tackled in the end zone for a safety — a game-changing play in the Wild's 54-47 loss to West Texas in front of 3,042 fans on Friday night at Hartman Arena.
The Wild, which reached the conference title game last season, dropped to 0-4. West Texas, which appeared to be a very beatable team, took advantage of the Wild's mental and physical mistakes to improve to 4-1.
The score was tied at 39 when, on second and 10, Walker scrambled far from the line of scrimmage before he was dragged down by Aaron Higdon a couple yards into the end zone.
“I just had a brain fart, lost track of down and distance,” Walker said. “I should have thrown it away.”
Wild coach Ken Matous said he saw positives from Walker, but he was highly critical of the mistake.
“That was just dumb,” Matous said. “Second and 10 and we take a safety? Huge play. It put us behind the 8 ball.”
West Texas took advantage, using four effective running plays and a costly penalty to quickly drive down the field on its ensuing possession. The Wild defense seemed tired, and lineman James McCartney's personal foul made matters worse, setting up a 9-yard touchdown run that gave West Texas a 48-39 lead.
McCartney was a difference maker on defense with two sacks, three tackles for loss and three blocked kicks, but he was disappointed in himself for the penalty.
“There was a lot of turmoil in this game tonight,” McCartney said. “We had a lot of mistakes and stuff, and guys like me doing stupid things. But at least we were better this week than last week.”
Walker said he was recruited to Wichita to do “everything on offense,” but he is listed as a running back on the team's roster. However, he moved to the top of the depth chart at quarterback after starter Alex Rouse was injured and backup Shane Mascarenas struggled.
On Friday, he completed 11 of 23 passes for 99 yards and three touchdowns, all to a hobbling Clinton Solomon. Walker also showed off his speed and toughness on a 30-yard touchdown run.
But Matous pointed out that he missed several receivers, including Jake Sharp wide open in the end zone, and that he held the ball too long.
“I saw a lot of positive things,” Matous said. “He kind of wet my whistle by doing some good things early, but then he settled in to just OK.”
Signing autographs and wearing a Red Sox cap after the game, Walker made no excuses.
“It's not a tough position for me to be in — it's something I've played all my life,” he said. “I just think there are a lot of other things we need to get together as a team. We need to fuse together as a team and get better at everything on offense.”
Notes — Center Greg Nicks, who rejoined the team this week, was injured on the game's first play and never returned. Matous said his loss was “huge” for the Wild.
W. Texas 7 19 6 22 — 54
Wichita 13 14 12 8 — 47
WT—Bush 22 pass from Hall (Arevalo kick)
W—Solomon 35 pass from Walker (Eason kick) scramble, adjusted route to go long...waited for ball in EZ
W—Kelly 19 interception return (Eason kick failed)
WT—Hall 6 run (Arevalo kick)
W—Solomon 7 pass from Walker (Eason kick)
WT—Wilson 40 pass from Hall (Arevalo kick failed) 20-20
W—Walker 30 run (Eason kick) bounced off one tackler, down the rite sideline...hugging wall 27-20
WT—Bush 25 pass from Hall (Arevalo kick blocked) 56 blocked it 27-26 Wild
W—Solomon 21 pass from Walker (Eason kick failed) 33-26
WT—Wilson 16 pass from Hall (Arevalo kick blocked) 23 blocked 33-32
W—Fudge 6 run (Eason kick failed) 39-32
WT—Jones 2 run (Arevalo kick) 39-39
WT—Walker tackled in end zone for safety 41-39
WT—Hogan 9 run 48-39
W—Lovett recover blocked field goal in end zone (Fudge run) 48-47
WT—Jones 4 run (run failed)
Rushing—West Texas, Hall 9-43, Jones 12-49, Hogan 5-25, Floyd 1-6, Jackson 1-0. Wichita, Walker 4-34, Fudge 8-28.
Passing—West Texas, Hall 15-22-1-176. Wichita, Walker 11-23-0-99.
Receiving—West Texas, Kimble 5-70, Floyd 5-26, Bush 2-35, Jones 2-5, Richardson 1-22, Hogan 1-18. Wichita, Solomon 5-72, Fudge 3-8, Sharp 2-3, Givens 1-16.