After a practice last week, Columbus Lions head coach Jason Gibson chastised his team for its lack of effort and focus, calling it "a wasted day".
At the time, Gibson thought the bad practice was due to his team's having two straight bye weeks and the monotony that comes without having a game to look forward to.
However, Gibson's displeasure was a sign of things to come, as the Lions were flat in a 72-45 loss to the Alabama Hammers Saturday night in Huntsville, Ala. The loss is the second straight setback for Columbus (1-2) and dropped the Lions into fifth place in the Professional Indoor Football League standings.
"We got our butts kicked," said Gibson. "The way we practiced this past week is how we came out and played in the game. We just showed up and didn't make plays. We did all kinds of things wrong and Alabama's a good enough team to take advantage of it."
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The laundry list of miscues included four turnovers, a missed field goal that allowed the Hammers (3-1) to score on the final play of the first half and a defense that yielded at least 20 points in three of the four quarters.
"All of the mistakes we made were mental mistakes," said Gibson. "If you make mistakes against a good team, you're going to pay for it and we did. I don't know if it was the three weeks off, that we watched too much game film or what, but we didn't play like we're capable of."
Columbus was down 14-0 before the game was even four minutes old, but had closed to within 21-14 by the end of the first quarter. The Hammers led 35-21 late in the first half when Columbus lined up for a 25-yard field goal. A make would've gotten the Lions to within 35-24 at halftime and Columbus was getting the ball back to start the second half, so it would've had some momentum to try and make a comeback in the final two quarters.
However, Chandler Brooks missed the field goal and the Hammers scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Russell Hill to Mico McSwain on the final play of the half to take a 42-21 lead into the locker room. Columbus never recovered, getting no closer than 15 points in the second half.
"We had a chance to practice some different scenarios (in the second half)," said Gibson. "We might see some of those scenarios in the playoffs, but if we don't get on the field and make some corrections, we won't be making the playoffs."
Lions quarterback Marcus Jones was 14-for-31 for 192 yards and four touchdowns, but he threw four interceptions as well. Maurice Dupree was his top target, hauling in five passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns. Gerald Gales (3 catches, 56 yards) and Jarmon Fortson (2 receptions, 15 yards) also recorded touchdown catches in the loss.
On the defensive side of the ball, LeRoy Vann picked off two passes and returned both of them for touchdowns and Ryan Babb also had an interception in his first game back with the Lions after spending the 2012 season with the Albany Panthers.
"I still think we have one of the most talented teams since I've been here," said Gibson. "We just had one bad game. We played pretty well in the other two and we did force three turnovers (against Alabama). We had four turnovers that they scored off of and that's 28 points. We lost by 27 points, so there's the difference in the game."
Columbus hits the road again this week, traveling to Lake Charles, La. to take on the Louisiana Swashbucklers (0-2), who sit in the cellar of the PIFL standings. It will be the second of five straight weeks without a bye, which suits Gibson just fine.
"We don't want another layoff anytime soon," said Gibson. "We want to get back on the field, get some reps and get back into a routine. We still have a good team and nobody's too worried, but we need to get into a routine."