If it seems like Columbus Lions coach Jason Gibson talks about the same things before his team plays each week, it's because he does.
Gibson keeps saying the same things because over the course of the Lions' season, the same issues keep coming back to hurt the team at the most inopportune times. It's a trend Gibson hopes doesn't continue tonight when Columbus (5-5) hosts the Albany Panthers (9-1) at the Columbus Civic Center. Kickoff for the game is 7:30.
"I talk every week about how we need to take care of the football and how if we do that, we'll win," said Gibson, whose team lost at Louisiana 61-57 last week. "We had four turnovers, and Louisiana scored three defensive touchdowns. Our defense gave a great effort last week, but our offense let us down. We've had 10 turnovers in the last three games, and I don't know if we had 10 turnovers all last year. If we can just get a couple of stops per game and not turn the ball over, we'll win."
The Lions had a chance to pull out a victory at Louisiana, as they had the ball on their 20-yard line with time for one play. Instead of trying for a long touchdown pass, Gibson opted to try and tie the game
by kicking a field goal and having kicker Chandler Brooks make an uno on the subsequent kickoff. Brooks missed the field goal, and the Swashbucklers were able to earn the home victory.
"I felt like we had a better chance to make the field goal and an uno to tie the game than to throw a touchdown pass," Gibson said. "It was going to be hard to throw a Hail Mary with the lack of pass protection that we were getting, plus Louisiana's end zone is only about 5 yards deep. So, I felt like the field goal and uno for the tie was my only option."
Tonight's game will be the third meeting between the Lions and the Professional Indoor Football League-leading Panthers, with each team winning once on their home turf. Albany won 57-40 in Albany on April 21, while the Lions got a 54-yard field goal from Trey Crum as time expired to earn a 58-56 victory May 6 at the Civic Center. Since then, Albany has won three straight -- albeit against the bottom three teams (Louisiana, Knoxville and Alabama) in the PIFL standings -- while the Lions went 1-2 on a three-game road swing.
"They're the first-place team in the league, so we know it's going to be tough," said Gibson, whose team has lost back-to-back regular-season games for only the second time in franchise history. "We're looking at Albany, but more than anything, I just want to do us. We don't turn the football over, we win football games. We have to get ready for the playoffs and I'm just trying to get us right. We haven't come close to peaking yet and that might be to our advantage. Most of the teams in the league have a lot of veterans, but we started the year with a lot of rookies and we had to learn a lot of lessons. We're in the playoffs, but I'd like for us to go into the playoffs on a hot streak and we don't want to lose at home."
To shore up the Lions' roster down the stretch, Gibson has signed defensive lineman Franklin Lloyd and offensive linemen Arthur Smith and Isaac Williams. Lloyd and Smith are both former Lions who were members of the 2010 Southern Indoor Football League championship squad. Also, Crum will resume his kicking duties after missing the last three games due to previous commitments.
Notes: Albany defensive back Damian Daniels has 88 career interceptions, including eight this season for the Panthers. Albany leads the league in scoring defense (43.4 points per game), while Columbus leads the league in passing offense (270 ypg), total offense (279 ypg) and passing efficiency (107.3). Columbus wide receivers Maurice Dupree (85), London Crawford (78) and Gerald Gales are first, second and fourth in the PIFL in receptions.