On a night where the Columbus Lions struggled to find any consistency offensively, it was their defense that enabled them to still win a crucial division game.
Columbus limited the Alabama Hammers to just 11 points and 80 yards of offense through the first three quarters before holding on for a 39-31 victory Saturday night at The Columbus Civic Center that gives the Lions a two-game cushion on the third-place Hammers in the Professional Indoor Football League's American Conference standings.
"This was a phenomenal defensive performance," said Lions head coach Jason Gibson, whose team is now 5-0 at home and has won two straight games. "The guys were physical tonight and that's something we haven't done all year."
After a disastrous start, Columbus (5-4) was able to take a 28-11 lead into halftime. Alabama kicker Armando Cuko made an uno on the game's opening kickoff and on the Lions' first offensive play, quarterback Chris McCoy mishandled the snap and Johnny Anderson recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Just 1:09 into the game, Columbus found itself down 8-0.
Columbus missed a long field goal on its next possession, but the Lions forced Alabama to turn the ball over on downs at its own 9-yard line. Two plays later, McCoy found Kendrick Perry for a 9-yard touchdown pass. Camay made the extra point and hit his own uno on the subsequent kickoff to tie the game at 8 with 4:28 to go in the first quarter.
"This is the kind of game where you show your maturity as a team," said Perry. "When a team isn't mature and they're not scoring points, they're not going to stay focused. But our defense stood up for us and did what they had to do."
The Hammers (3-6) missed a chip-shot field goal on their next drive and Columbus took over on its own 10-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Perry took a handoff and rumbled 40 yards for another touchdown to give the Lions a 14-8 lead early in the second quarter. Columbus made it 21-8 on a 4-yard touchdown pass from McCoy to Pearcy with 6:14 to go before halftime and the Lions' defense forced another long-field goal miss by Alabama on the Hammers' next possession.
Columbus started on its own 20 and went 30 yards in four plays to score on a 13-yard pass from McCoy to Jarmon Fortson. Camay's extra point made it 28-8 with 1:06 to go in the half. Cuko did make a 25-yard field goal at the gun to get the Hammers back to within 17 points at 28-11 at the break.
McCoy only completed 7 of his 13 first-half passes for 64 yards, but he had three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Fortson had four receptions for 43 yards and a score and Perry finished the half with 64 total yards (55 rushing, 9 receiving) and two touchdowns. Columbus had 105 yards of offense on its 19 plays, but was called for seven penalties for 42 yards in the first two quarters.
Saturday at Columbus Civic Center
Alabama 8 3 0 20--31
Columbus 8 20 1 10--39
Ala - Armando Cuko Uno, 15:00.
Ala - Johnny Anderson recovers fumble in end zone (Cuko kick), 13:51.
Col - Kendrick Perry 9 pass from Chris McCoy (Craig Camay kick), 4:28.
Col - Camay Uno, 4:28.
Col - Perry 40 run (Kick failed), 13:35.
Col - Cody Pearcy 4 pass from McCoy (Camay kick), 6:14.
Col - Jarmon Fortson 13 pass from McCoy (Camay kick), 1:06.
Ala - Cuko 25 FG, 0:00.
Col - Camay Uno, 15:00.
Ala - Mico McSwain 3 pass from Russell Hill (Cuko kick), 13:40.
Col - Perry 11 pass from McCoy (Camay kick), 10:14.
Ala - Jeremy Grier 5 pass from Russell Hill (Kick failed), 7:37.
Col - Camay 40 FG, 1:48.
Ala - McSwain 4 pass from Hill (Cuko kick), 0:29.