Columbus opens three-game homestand tonight
By Joseph Myers
Special To The Ledger-Enquirer
When the Columbus Lions last played in the friendly confines of the Columbus Civic Center, they posted a 63-41 victory over the Georgia Fire -- their third win in four games -- to move their record to 3-2 overall.
Never miss a local story.
Since that win, which came all the way back on April 26, Columbus has had two bye weeks, two road losses to division rivals and a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Antwon Young.
So, it is a struggling Lions team that limps home to take on the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (4-3) Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center and Lions coach Jason Gibson knows this is an important game if his team has any hopes of making the Professional Indoor Football League playoffs.
"It's been a while since we've been (home)," said Gibson, whose team trails the division leading Nashville (Tenn.) Venom by two games with five games to go. "We're coming home and we have three straight games here and we need to take advantage of it. Lehigh Valley is the first priority for us. We have to get our offense going. Statistically, we have good-looking numbers. But we're losing games."
To replace Young -- who tore his ACL in the Lions' loss at Alabama on May 17 -- the Lions signed former Maryland and Wisconsin standout Danny O'Brien, the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2010. O'Brien, who finished his collegiate career last fall with 2,490 passing yards and
15 touchdowns for Division II member Catawba (N.C.) College, signed with the team on Tuesday and has hit the ground running.
"(O'Brien) looks good," said Gibson. "He's picked up a lot in just a few days. He's got the tools and the mind set we need right now. He'll be playing (tonight)."
Gibson hopes the signing of O'Brien and improvement by incumbent starter Chris McCoy will stabilize a Lions' offense that sputtered in last week's 58-44 loss at Nashville. In that game, McCoy threw three interceptions and Columbus was stopped on downs three other times.
"The last couple of games, the offense has played about as poorly as it has all year," Gibson said.
"We need to get some consistency at the wide receiver position with the guys we're running out there. We held Nashville to 11 points in the second half and had ample chances to win the game. As many points as our defense has given up, I'm done with the line of 'the defense doesn't make enough stops.' It's about the offense getting the job done. That's my concern."
While Columbus (3-4) has dropped its last two straight games, the Steelhawks come into tonight's game riding a three-game losing skid after starting the season 4-0. Last week, Lehigh Valley dropped a 55-42 decision to the Trenton (N.J.) Freedom in New Jersey and prior to that, the Steelhawks lost home games to the Alabama Hammers (51-48) and Nashville (53-38).
Gibson said his team will have its hands full with the Steelhawks, but that the Lions need to take advantage of the long road trip from Bethlehem, Pa., to Columbus.
"Lehigh Valley is a veteran team with veteran coaches," said Gibson. "However, they're going to have made a long trip to get down here and we need to play on that. They may have some 'bus legs' and we need to take advantage of that. We're in a precarious position here. We get hot and we could end up hosting a playoff game and we lose one game and we could be out of the playoffs."
If the Lions are to break their losing streak, Gibson said they need to hustle in all three phases of the game for all four quarters.
"We were very lethargic last game," said Gibson. "The game of football is about running and making plays. If you don't make plays, it's going to be hard to win the game."