05/18/2012 5:39 PM - JACKSONVILLE – The ArenaBowl XXIV Champion Jacksonville Sharks host the Iowa Barnstormers on Saturday, May 19 on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Saturday’s contest is set to kick off shortly after 7:00 p.m.
This week’s game serves as a chance for Jacksonville (3-5) to make up ground after last week’s 56-38 road loss against the Philadelphia Soul. Entering this week’s action, the Sharks sit a game and a half out of first place in the South Division, as the Tampa Bay Storm and Georgia Force lead the division with matching 5-4 marks.
The next month of action could prove pivotal for Jacksonville. Following this week’s contest, the Sharks’ slate becomes heavy with divisional play, as will take on Orlando, Tampa Bay and Georgia in succession. Later, a rematch against the New Orleans VooDoo looms at the end of June.
The Sharks hope to recapture the magic of their last home game, when the team sent its fans home happy after a dramatic, come-from-behind, 41-37 victory over New Orleans. That night saw the Sharks score the game’s final 27 points to erase a 37-14 third-quarter deficit.
Quarterback Bernard Morris led that comeback after starter Omar Jacobs was injured late in the first half. With Jacobs unavailable, Morris started last Saturday’s game in Philadelphia and had an up-and-down performance, as he rushed for a season-high 38 yards but threw four interceptions. It marked the third time this season that a Shark quarterback has thrown four INTs.
Earlier this week, Jacobs was put on injured reserve retroactive to May 11, meaning that he will not be eligible to appear in another game until Week 14 at Georgia. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, the reins of the Shark offense have been handed to Morris. This season, the third-year veteran from Marshall has completed 37 of 71 passes for 498 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He is also the Sharks’ leading rusher, accounting for 72 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, good for a mark of 4.8 yards per rush.
On offense, Terrance Smith continues to steadily produce at a high level. Smith now leads the Sharks with 55 catches for 683 yards and 18 touchdowns, and has accounted for a team-leading total of 23 scores. Fellow receiver Shamar Graves enjoyed a breakout performance against Philadelphia as he hauled in five passes for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 31-yard catch and run during which he broke several tackles on his way to the end zone.
The Shark defense showed some of its playmaking ability in last week’s game, as the team intercepted Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh three times in the first half. This one game quadrupled Jacksonville’s season total in that category, as the team had just one interception in the previous seven games. Bill Alford picked off his second pass of the season, while Charlie Hunt and Daylan Walker each nabbed one of their own.
That secondary looks to get a major boost this week, as Micheaux Robinson is set to play his first game since returning to Jacksonville in last Friday’s trade with Philadelphia. Robinson racked up 11 interceptions and 46 pass breakups last season and should be able to step in and contribute quickly due to his familiarity with defensive coordinator Jake Grande’s system.
Jacksonville’s secondary depth increased even further this week, as Bryan Evans was activated from injured reserve. Also returning to the lineup is fullback Rendrick Taylor, while offensive lineman Josh Vernon was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. The team made a pair of additions as well, bringing in quarterback Collin Drafts and defensive lineman Jimmy Saddler-McQueen.
Know Your Foe
At 4-5 in 2012, the Iowa Barnstormers currently hold third place in the National Conference’s Central Division, two games behind the 6-3 Chicago Rush and San Antonio Talons. This season, Iowa has enjoyed rock-solid quarterback play from starter J.J. Raterink.
At the halfway mark, Raterink leads the entire Arena Football League with a 123.9 pass efficiency rating, decimal points ahead of Arizona’s Nick Davila. Raterink has tossed 48 touchdowns against just five interceptions – the lowest total of INTs for any AFL quarterback who has started eight or more games this season. Unlike many of the league’s teams that feature a balanced group of receivers, Iowa’s Jesse Schmidt stands out from the pack. This season, Schmidt has racked up 91 receptions for 1,161 yards and 28 touchdowns, tops in the league in all three categories.
A vulnerability in Iowa’s game may exist along the Barnstormers’ offensive line. The team has allowed 28 sacks this season, five more than any other team in the league. Jacksonville used consistent pressure on VooDoo quarterback Kurt Rocco to help spring that May 4 comeback, and could look to match that performance this week.
About the Jacksonville Sharks
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and back-to-back South Division Champions are presented by Sea Best Seafood and play all home games on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Season Tickets for the 2012 season are now available, two tickets as low as $87. To reserve your season tickets or for more information, please call (904) 621-0700. Follow the Sharks on facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance.