Never let it be said Columbus Lions coach Jason Gibson isn't one to change things up.
Last week, the Lions had some intense practices before their home opener against the Knoxville NightHawks and Columbus came away with a 64-59 victory.
This week, as the Lions got ready to travel to Huntsville, Ala., to take on the Alabama Hammers tonight at 8, Gibson flipped the script.
"This is the first week where we've actually got film of our opponents to watch," Gibson said. "Last week, we pushed hard, but this week, we wanted to do some more film watching and prepare for our opponents. We played a good Knoxville team and beat a good quarterback (in the NightHawks' Tony Colston). Now what we're wanting to do is to make corrections, but also look at (Alabama) on film and figure out what they're trying to do."
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While Columbus was able to hold off Knoxville last week, Alabama lost its season opener, 56-49, to the Louisiana Swashbucklers in Lake Charles, La. The Hammers trailed by 21 points in the second half, but rallied to tie the game at 49 with just over two minutes to go. However, Louisiana was able to score a touchdown and pick off Hammers quarterback Arvell Nelson to pull out the win.
Nelson was only 19-for-41 passing but did throw for 197 yards and four touchdowns. He also had two rushing touchdowns but was picked off three times by the Swashbucklers' defense. Nelson's top targets are Mico McSwain and Charlie McLain. The duo combined for 130 catches, 1,600 yards and 36 touchdowns last season and already have 12 catches for 117 yards and four scores this year.
"(McSwain and McLain) are as good a pair of receivers as there are in this league," Gibson said. "When they're on the field, Alabama's always a threat to score. On defense, their front five could give us some trouble and Huntsville's always a tough place to play. They have great fans there and nobody in the league has won a road game yet."
If the Lions are to break the jinx and pick up the Professional Indoor Football League's first road win of the season, Gibson said the defense has to get the job done. Columbus will possibly be without one of its top defenders, though, as linebacker Justen Rivers -- who is second on the team with 7.5 tackles and a blocked kick -- is questionable due to a staph infection.
"We've got to play better defense," said Gibson. "Both weeks, we've given up close to 60 points and we can't keep doing that. In the past, our defense hasn't given up that many points. We have to make them earn their touchdowns and not have any 'one-play wonders' where they take just one play to go the length of the field and score. One thing we've to try and shore things up was to move Anthony Merritt over to defensive back to get some proven leadership on that side of the ball. He's done well so far with it. He's the Bo Jackson of arena football."
Who: Columbus Lions (1-1) at Alabama Hammers (0-1)
Where: Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Ala.
When: Today, 8 p.m.
Notes: Fans can listen to the game on the Lions' Web site, www.columbuslions.net. Click on the "Listen Live" link on the right side of the home page. Columbus quarterback Randy Hippeard leads the PIFL in passing yards (489) and touchdowns (12). Hippeard's top target, Maurice Dupree, is the league leader in receptions (15) and touchdowns (8) and is second to teammate Gerald Gales (191) in receiving yards with 151. Columbus and Alabama face off again March 31, this time at the Columbus Civic Center with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. In other PIFL action tonight, the Albany Panthers (1-0) are at Louisiana (1-0) and the Richmond Raiders (1-1) host Knoxville (0-1).