The Nebraska Danger had their backs against the wall.
They needed to win on Saturday night on the road, against a team that was one play away from being undefeated heading into the final week of the year, to clinch their spot in the 2019 Indoor Football League (IFL) playoffs. Otherwise, they would have to rely on Quad City beating Tucson – which also didn’t happen – to make the postseason.
Thanks to a late interception by Brandon Roe and a touchdown from Davonte Sapp-Lynch with just seconds to play, Nebraska upset the Iowa Barnstormers 46-40.
IFL: Danger upset Barnstormers, Clinch Playoff Spot
With 3:31 to play in the game, though, it looked bleak for Nebraska. The Danger had just drove the length of the field only to falter near the red zone, as they had done a couple times in the game.
Nebraska’s kicker, Diego Marquez, faced a 25-yard field goal – something that is relatively trivial for him.
But, he missed. It gave the ball back to Iowa, who still held a two-point lead at the time.
That’s when Roe made his interception.
“The resiliency of my team is unbelievable,” Sapp-Lynch said. “We’re always getting the short end of the stick when it comes to calls and the momentum of the game, but the way we fought [for that chance at the end] we had no choice but to go score.”
Former Nebraska Cornhusker Tommy Armstrong Jr. led his offense out onto to the field to lead the way on the game-winning drive.
“Roe made a great play and we had another chance to go out and score. I think our offensive line did a great job of establishing the run game early in that series.
The Danger have been the victim of late losses a few times this season.
In fact, one of those came to the same Iowa team that was on the field on Saturday.
“[Sapp-Lynch] had that long catch on third down then getting the ball in the end zone with [four] seconds left,” Armstrong Jr. said. We had to play four quarters and we did.”
Sapp-Lynch finished with 38 yards on the ground, 37 yards through the air, and two touchdowns.
That includes the game-winning run.
“He’s a heck of a competitor,” Armstrong Jr. said. “He’s a playmaker. I think we have probably one of the best offenses in the IFL and I think we showed it in four quarters today.”
Finishing was something that Nebraska has vastly emphasized as the season has gone on.
With how many games they had fall away in the closing seconds, it was almost the only thing they really needed to work on.
“We’ve been preaching finish, and we finally put together four quarters and finished,” Eric Thomas said. “[The win] just shows how hard we’ve been working.”
The aspect of finishing comes full circle for IFL veteran Mike Tatum.
He started the year off playing with the Bismarck Bucks who finished the season with a 2-10 record.
Three weeks ago, Tatum joined Nebraska, and so far the move has paid off.
Tatum finished the game as the leading receiver, corralling 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns himself.
Winning on Saturday was the icing on the cake.
“It’s surreal,” Tatum said. “I joined this team for a reason and I feel like we have everything we need to go ahead and make this playoff run.”
2019 IFL Playoff Schedule
Friday, June 21 – 7:00 p.m. CT
No. 4 Green Bay vs. No. 5 Nebraska
Sunday, June 23 – 3:00 p.m. CT
No. 3 Sioux Falls vs. No. 6 Tucson
Saturday June 29
4-5 winner @ No. 1 Arizona (8:00 p.m. CT)
3-6 winner @ No. 2 Iowa (7:05 p.m. CT)