GRAND ISLAND, NEB – Playing with a short-handed offense didn’t bother the Nebraska Danger on Saturday night. The defending Intense Conference champions used a stubborn defense that held the expansion Bemidji Axemen to 136 yards as the Danger won their home opener, 43-19.
The 19 points was a franchise-low allowed by Nebraska topping their season-opening number from last season when they defeated Sioux Falls 30-21.
“We kind of challenged our guys a little bit this week,” Nebraska coach Mike Davis. “We were not real happy with how we played last week in Sioux Falls and with the injuries we had on offense, we needed a big game from those guys.
“I thought they performed well.”
After allowing an Axemen touchdown from Hunter Wanket to Maurice Patterson to open the scoring, the Danger defense took over from there. They stopped Bemidji on four consecutive possessions to finish the half before new quarterback Cody Kirby went to work.
Playing for 2013 league MVP Jameel Sewell, who was injured last week against Sioux Falls, Kirby gave the Danger the lead for good with 49 seconds left in the first quarter on an acrobatic 10-yard run. The Nebraska offense, also playing without all-league receiver Kayne Farquharson and Marcus Barnett, still managed 306 yards on 20 first downs in the contest.
“I thought we had a bunch of guys step up and play well for us on offense,” Davis said. “I was happy to see our offense perform like they did. It was a little slow start, but that was expected a little bit.”
Kirby, who earned IFL rookie-of-the-year honors at quarterback for Chicago last season, had 73 yards rushing on 19 carries and finished the game 17-for-29 passing for 206 yards. Most importantly, the Danger offense did not turn the ball over for the second time in as many games.
The Danger led just 27-13 late in the third quarter and gave the ball over on downs to Bemidji. But, with a chance to cut into the lead, Wanket mishandled a snap and was tackled in the end zone by Pig Brown for a safety. On Nebraska’s next possession, running back Troy Evans scored on a 25-yard run for insurance and a 36-13 Danger lead.
Evans and newcomer Jacob Payne, each scored twice for the Danger. Evans recorded eight receptions for 64 yards and Payne added 41 yards receiving. Wanket led Bemidji as he ran for 44 yards and threw for 80.
Nebraska will continue their three-game home stand next Saturday night with a 7:00 game against the Texas Revolution at the Heartland Events Center. The Danger and Bemidji are both 1-1 on the season.