After a stellar first week that had seen the Wranglers stroll into Oklahoma and dominate the Roughnecks in a 31-17 win; the Wranglers came into Week Two with a bit of a swagger.
That swagger didn’t last long.
The Wranglers came out Saturday and completely fell flat on their faces. On their first four drives, the Wrangler offense managed a whopping -17 yards. On the first drive, Iowa’s defense held Houston to a 3 and out. On the next drive, Matt Nichols threw the first of his three interceptions. The following drive would see a Matt Nichols fumble. On Houston’s next drive, the offense started to finally move the ball down the field. Nichols connected with Aldrick Robinson for an 11 yard connection, Aaron Jones then added an 11 yard run (before getting stuffed for a 3 yard loss.) Matt Nichols would then follow with his 2nd interception on the day and Houston found itself in a huge hole, down 17-0.
A team that was picked to be their division champion this season, a team that was aggressive during the end of last season as well as the off-season throughout free agency, the draft, and the D-League now finds themselves in panic mode, trying to figure out what happened and how to fix it.
“I really don’t know what the hell happened.” said Wranglers Head Coach Mike Jones; “Matt Nichols is our guy, he played great football last year. Matt made a lot of mistakes on Saturday, but I think he’ll be able to right the ship so to speak and get things back on track. It’s one loss and there’s a lot of football still to be played.”
Matt Nichols, after a stellar breakout season last year with a QBR over 100 has struggled so far this season. In the week one win over Oklahoma, Nichols completed slightly higher than 50% of his passes and had a pedestrian 200 yards passing against an expansion team in their first game. This week, Nichols struggled greatly throwing 3 interceptions and fumbling the football four times (losing three of them.)
Aaron Jones, the teams undisputed MVP also had an extremely rough outing. Jones posted a career worst 36 yards on 12 carries, an average of 3 yards per carry. That average is undoubtedly misleading as one of Jones’s twelve runs were for 25 yards and another for 11.
“I don’t know what the problem is.” said Jones; “We upgraded our offensive line, we upgraded at tight end, we upgraded at receiver, I have a more versatile blocking full back, I just don’t get it. It’s something we’re going to work on moving forward though.”
Iowa dominated the Wranglers in every aspect of the game on Saturday, including time of possession where the Threshers held the ball for an amazing 40:37. Iowa came out and not only marched down the field on the vastly improved arm of QB CJ Beathard, but Orleans Darkwa absolutely ground the Wrangler defense into the ground, which is hard to do with two huge bodies on the Wrangler line in Jonathan Hankins and Andrew Billings clogging up the middle. Darkwa carried 29 times for 103 yards. Iowa as a whole rushed 40 times for 140 yards and completely controlled the game through the ground.
“Our hats off to them” said Wrangler Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans; “They completely dominated us from the start.”
We reached out to Wrangler management for a comment about the game and were given the following statement:
“We don’t know what the hell’s wrong with this team. We finished with a lot of success last season, we went out and thought we’d address a lot of the weaknesses on our team, but maybe we changed too much? Who knows? All we know is that this is a playoff caliber team and we expect nothing less. Last season, we averaged just shy of 25,000 fans per game. During our last two games, we averaged over 30,000 fans. To look out and see empty sections in our stadium for our home opener, after winning week one, after spending an off-season acquiring great players like Seantrel Henderson, Shaq Mason, Jonathan Hankins, Pacman Jones, as well as other guys like Miles Killebrew and Derrick Kindred.
We drew less fans than two of the four expansion teams, and one of the two we didn’t, we couldn’t have because their capacity is 17k. We drew less fans than the Nashville Renegades, and this after they screwed Nashville over to move to Memphis (their hated rival city) only to move back the next year.
It’s not a good look for us, and management has taken notice. If Dallas can sell out every game and draw 60k plus to the Cotton Bowl, and San Antonio can draw 50k per game, so can Houston. This is Texas, if we can’t sell out a 40k seat venue, what the hell are we doing here?”
The Wranglers have a rough road ahead of them. This week, the Wranglers will host their hated rivals, the Dallas Six-Shooters at Rice Stadium. The game was moved to Rice Stadium to accommodate a larger crowd, though not one as large as a game at NRG Stadium might require. At this rate, it appears that a larger stadium wasn’t needed.
Following their game against Dallas, the Wranglers hit the road for a trip to New York to take on the Marauders before coming home again to TDECU Stadium to take on division leading Omaha.
Can the Wranglers right the ship, or has panic set in on a season that’s only two weeks in?