For the third time this season and for the second time against the Fairbanks Grizzlies, the Alaska Wild suffered a one-point loss, this time falling 31-30 despite a dramatic comeback Thursday in an Indoor Football League game at Sullivan Arena.
With one minute and 25 seconds left in the game, the Wild scored a touchdown to pull within one point of the Grizzlies. Alaska coach Darnell Lee had to decide between kicking the extra point to tie the game or going for a two-point conversion to take the lead.
The Wild went for the lead, but quarterback Donald Carrie's pass was deflected.
"We haven't made an extra point (kick) in two games," Lee said. "I take blame for the loss. The players were down and they kept fighting right to the end."
The Wild (2-3) trailed 15-0 early and 28-12 midway through the third quarter before a big rally put them right back in the game.
Kendrick Perry scored on a three-yard run just before the end of the third quarter to pull the Wild within 10 points, and Alaska outscored the Grizzlies 12-3 in the final quarter.
Grizzlies kicker Carlos Ojeda nailed a 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give his team a 31-18 lead, but Alaska answered with another touchdown run by Perry and Carrie's 19-yard touchdown pass to Steven Whitehead to make it a one-point game.
Lee decided against going for a PAT kick, because the kicking game has struggled for the Wild all season. Through five games, they have booted only one field goal and scored only 10 points via the kick. By comparison, the Grizzlies have scored 44 points with their kicking game.
The Wild kicker missed two extra points in the game, and the Grizzlies (4-1) scored the winning points on Ojeda's field goal. Clearly the kicking game is important in the Indoor Football League.
Lee gave credit to the fans that came out for the game, saying the crowd was bigger than at two previous home games. He said he could feel their energy when the team started coming back.
"The momentum was swinging and the fans helped us keep it going," he said.
The bright spot for the Wild was their defense. They came in with the best defense in the Pacific North Division, allowing 34.5 points per game. They gave up just 31 to a Grizzlies team that averaged nearly 50 points coming in.
The Wild defense set the tone early with a tackle for a loss and a sack on the second and third plays of the game.
On consecutive plays midway through the second quarter, Jameel Brady of the Wild sacked Fairbanks quarterback Justin Rummel for a 10-yard loss and then Wild safety Damien Huren intercepted a Rummel pass.
The Wild squandered that great opportunity when they fumbled the snap on the next play from scrimmage. Still, the defense came up with another sack and held the Grizzlies to a field goal on the ensuing possession.
Tory Collins, the nose tackle for the Wild, consistently put pressure on Rummel. Just before halftime, he crushed Rummel for an 8-yard loss and squashed the Grizzlies' last attempt to score before halftime, keeping the Wild within striking distance, 15-6.
The Wild are on the road for their next two games, beginning with an April 10 game against the Kent Predators of Washington.
Fairbanks 6 9 13 3 -- 31
Alaska 0 6 12 12 -- 30
Fairbanks -- Orban 6 run (kick failed), 7:07
Fairbanks -- Ojeda 8 FG, 7:51
Fairbanks -- Brown 50 kick return (kick failed), 5:24
Alaska -- Carrie 6 run (kick failed), 00:59
Fairbanks -- Orban 30 run (kick failed), 10:15
Alaska -- Whitehead 30 pass from Carrie (pass failed), 10:06
Fairbanks -- Crawford 7 pass from Rummel (Ojeda kick), 6:00
Alaska - Perry 3 run (run failed), 1:18
Fairbanks -- Ojeda 40 FG, 12:07
Alaska -- Perry 4 run (kick failed), 1:25
Alaska -- Whitehead 19 pass from Carrie (pass failed), 1:25