Sugar Skulls ‘must get the backend right’ to improve abysmal defensive stats | sugar skulls

For the first five games of the IFL season, the Tucson Sugar Skulls play in the Big 12.

You know what we mean. Tucson has a high-scoring offense with a defense that spits out so many points the scoreboard looks like a basketball game.

Led by star quarterback Daquan Neal, Tucson’s professional indoor soccer team is averaging 54.4 points per game, making them the highest scoring offense in the IFL.

However, Tucson’s defense is allowing 56.2 points per game. The Sugar Skulls conceded 62 in Saturday’s 72-62 win over the Northern Arizona Wranglers. Tucson scored points on every possession and set a franchise record for most points in a game. The team’s in-state rival had 298 total rushing yards and averaged 7.6 yards per play. (Reminder: The IFL plays on 50-yard fields.)

Sugar Skulls coach and general manager Dixie Wooten said his defensive line forces “probably 15 quarterback hits” per game and stops the rushing offense of opposing teams. Against Northern Arizona, the Sugar Skulls allowed 72 yards rushing, but the Wranglers averaged 13.3 yards on each completion in the passing game. Wranglers wide receiver Quentin Randolph, who was named IFL Offensive Player of the Week, had seven receptions for 115 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 31 yards and two scores.

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It’s a product of the Sugar Skulls secondary spinner that has been hampering them all season.

“Defensive backs just don’t grow on trees, so you can’t pick one here or there,” Wooten said. “You have to choose the good ones, bring them in and hope they can help us.”

The Sugar Skulls brought in reinforcements last week, signing Middle Tennessee State product Mike Minter. Minter played for the Sugar Skulls last season, starting as a cornerback.

“He played really well for us. He made a mistake, but he was communicative. The thing with him is he understands what offenses are trying to do to him, and he understands how to recognize formations,” Wooten said “Him calling formations, it allows us to line up quicker and get our alignment right, so we can also make sure our mission is correct. He’s been great for us.”

Ahead of their rematch against the Duke City Gladiators on Saturday, Tucson signed Ephraim Kitchen. The former Louisiana Tech defensive back was in Tucson for training camp, but returned home after his wife gave birth to their baby.

Wooten hopes his defense can force more fourth down saves; Northern Arizona was 2-for-3 in fourth conversion against Tucson.

“The way we play, we score on one-game or two-game drives, so it gives the other team a lot more possessions. Usually people play in possession (attack), where they head the ball, run the clock and that’s why you see these low scoring games,” Wooten said.

“When you see us scoring 72 points, nine times out of 10, the other team will score maybe 45 or 50 because they just get more possessions. What I did as a coach was break down our biggest flaws on defense, and we got the lowest percentage (saves) on third and fourth downs on defense. So we have to find a way out of the field on third and fourth downs. … As long as we let’s keep scoring and stopping those other guys twice in a row, that’s how we’ll win ball games.

For now, Wooten is content to win, especially after losing three games in a row.

“Just how we were able to finish. … If we play every tight game like this, we’re going to come out on top,” Wooten said.

Wooten added, “We just have to get the back end right. When we get the back end right, we have a very good chance of winning a championship.

Upset by side kicks

Special teams errors have plagued the Sugar Skulls this season. Over the past three weeks, opposing teams have attempted five inbound kicks against Tucson, recovering four of them.

“They are tough and you never know what to expect. It’s the indoor game, so you’re 10 yards away and you can pretty much compare it to hitting a baseball; you have tenths of a second to make a move,” said Sugar Skulls wide receiver Quinton Pedroza, who recovered a field kick in the second half on Saturday.

“You really have to pay attention to the kicker and the movements, his different tendencies. One of them, they got me, but I think I got hit before 10 yards. It didn’t work our way and I had to get rid of it. The next one, he kicked right at me, and instinct must have kicked in and I was able to find him.

Stealing a possession can be a shifter. An onside kick sparked the San Diego Strike Force’s 17-point comeback against the Sugar Skulls in Tucson earlier this month. Duke City recovered an onside kick early in their win over Tucson two weeks ago that helped the Gladiators take a 14-0 first quarter lead.

“The reason the teams in play hit us is because they know they have to do everything they can to beat us. Usually these teams don’t play against the other teams, but they do. are doing against us, because they know they can’t play possession versus possession with us, because they know defensively we’re going to make one or two saves or three,” Wooten said. “Then our offense going to make those saves. What teams do to us is just kick inside to steal possession from us to get our attack out of the field.

Pedroza said the Sugar Skulls “highlighted” kick recoveries in practice.

“That was our weak point, and we practiced a lot,” he said.

Stuck in 10th

The IFL’s Week 7 coaches poll was released earlier this week, and the Sugar Skulls sit 10th in the 14-team league. Arizona Rattlers were first, followed by Frisco Fighters, Massachusetts Pirates, Quad City Steamwheelers, Northern Arizona Wranglers, Iowa Barnstormers, Bismarck Bucks, Duke City Gladiators, Sioux Falls Storm, Tucson , Green Bay Blizzard, Vegas Knight Hawks, San Diego and Bay Area Panthers.

Contact the sports producer

Justin Spears at 573-4312 or [email protected]

On Twitter: @JustinESports

Rachel J. Bradford