Banged up Beef still looking for respect

06/04/03 NIFL Fan Article by Andrew Hoyle

Call it whatever you want: a close one, a nail-biter, a lack of focus. Any way you add it up, Friday night's game between the Omaha Beef and the Tri-City Diesel wasn't really as close as the score would have it appear. It was more like a cat playing with a mouse for several hours before breaking its neck. A cat in a body cast, that is. The Beef, still missing the likes of Damien Bauman, Cale Good, Steve Lovell and Deondre Jones, made the best of a tough situation by suiting up running backs coach Vershon Jackson as an emergency utility player. He wasn't needed during the game, and that's probably a good thing for the Beef; even coaches aren't safe from the injury bug these days. Assistant coach Tony Veland, brother of Beef player Tory Veland, blew out his Achilles' tendon in practice this week, requiring surgery. Help is on the way, though, in the form of one Paul Hawley, a 6-4, 300 pound mountain of a defensive end out of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Hawley, no stranger to Omaha Beef football, was coaxed out of "retirement" late last week and appears ready to bolster an already impressive d-line that includes Dwayne Harris and "Big Sexy" Johnson. With the addition of Hawley, the Beef defense looks to be truly unstoppable in its quest for the NIFL championship.

In the meantime, the Beef went with Terrell Spears at the defensive end position for the Tri-City game. How did the undersized (6-1, 230 pounds) LB do at his new position? Great. Spears ended up with five tackles for losses for -18 yards, two sacks, and 7.5 total tackles on the night. Spears, Harris and Johnson spent much of the first half in the Diesel backfield, making a pinata out of Diesel QB Roger Linn. Tri City was able to make some good adjustments at halftime, foregoing the deeper seven-step drops in favor of the quicker two- and three-step drops and a lot of draws up the middle. This resulted in four straight touchdowns for the Diesel in the second half, but the run-stopping ability of the Beef defensive line came through in the end with a goal-line stand late in the game to preserve the win.

Another Beef player that stood out this week was Jesse vonBehren. In the true utility athlete mold, vonBehren had two catches for 38 yards and a touchdown, two rushes for 20 yards and a touchdown, saw duty as the placekicking holder, and ran back kickoffs. A guy who's looking to help the Beef any way he can, Jesse made some great plays this weekend, including a nice reverse play for a touchdown. Beef fans can't wait to see a healthy Steve Lovell and vonBehren on the field at the same time in the not-too-distant future.

The Beef were able to score at will on the Diesel, demonstrating both the quick-strike ability (four touchdown drives of three plays or less) and the sustained drive (three touchdowns with four or more plays and more than forty yards). Tri-City, playing pretty much for pride and roster spots for next year, dominated only the time of possession category in this one, especially in the first half (20:23 to 9:37 for the Beef). With the only role available to the Diesel being that of spoiler, Tri-City definitely played beyond its level and almost made the Beef pay for their lack of focus in this one. Two Beef turnovers resulted in two touchdowns for the Diesel and kept them in the game longer than they should have been. But it was the vote of confidence in his team by head coach Collins "Colonel" Sanders that made the difference in this one. Going for it on fourth downs, innovative play calling, and a not-so-stupid-at-second-glance onside kick try late in the game were definite messages to his team that he believed in them, and kept them focused on the task at hand. Ya got stones that drag on the ground for that one, coach, I gotta admit.

Next up for the Beef is a reunion of sorts; the last time Dwayne Harris and Marquette Smith stood across the field from each other was the 1994 Orange Bowl, when Harris was a junior rush end at Nebraska and Smith was a sophomore running back at Florida State. Don't look for this game to come down to a field goal like that one did, though; LaCrosse is on a downward spiral with both on and off the field problems, while the Heifers are just hitting their stride. Night Train S Marvin Hooker says, "We need to jump on teams first," in reference to the five straight losses by LaCrosse. Jumping out in front of the Beef at home might be a good idea to try, but that's not a bull the 'Train are likely to be able to ride for long. Look for a season sweep of the Night Train by the Beef this week, and a possibility for the fabled century, or 100, points mark to occur in the friendly confines of the Slaughterhouse in front of the Bovine Faithful. And let's all give Mr. Smith and the rest of the Night Train a big Nebraska welcome.

Speaking of the Beef fans, it's time to make an appearance. En masse. En herd. Whatever you want to call it, bring your dad, your mom, your grandma, your best friend, your best friend's grandma, anybody, to each and every game. Local media coverage has been apathetic at best, calling indoor football "not a true, professional sport," saying the Beef "aren't playing inspired football right now," and "when they've had somebody on the ropes, they haven't been able to put them away at home." The local paper likes to put Beef articles in the back, on page nine, right by the outdoor section. Don't let the lack of coverage and positive comments fool you; this team is about to put the lights out on the rest of the division and the conference, and your support would be greatly appreciated by the team. Hell, let's take this show on the road to both Sioux City and Wyoming. Come on out an be an athletic supporter………..

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