Defensive back Tracy Belton wants the New Orleans VooDoo defense to toughen up.
Collect a turnover.
If the VooDoo offense fails to take advantage, the defense needs to grab another interception, fumble or just as important, post a stop on fourth down.
It’s this level of play that the VooDoo (2-5) must enjoy Friday night if they want to upset the Cleveland Gladiators (4-3) at Quickens Loans Arena in Cleveland. Kickoff is 6 p.m.
“If offense doesn’t capitalize (on VooDoo defense’s forced turnover), the defense has to be real hungry and get another,” said Belton, who ranks third in the league in pass breakups (11), is tied for fourth in passes defended (14) and leads the VooDoo with 35 tackles. “Instead of getting four turnovers, we have to get five turnovers. We have to do everything we can do for the offense to step up.”
Friday’s game marks the second matchup between the two teams.
On April 4, the VooDoo recovered from a 14-point deficit during a home game against Cleveland before they were outscored 28-7 to end the second half. Cleveland quarterback Shane Austin passed for 272 yards and seven touchdowns.
Cleveland is coming off a 46-43 loss at the Jacksonville Sharks. During the loss, Cleveland committed five turnovers. Receiver Collin Taylor caught two touchdowns — he has 12 in his last four games. Teammate Amarri Jackson caught a game-high 135 receiving yards with three scores.
Cleveland is averaging 54.3 points per game (fourth in AFL).
The VooDoo defense ranks ninth out of 12 teams in scoring defense, allowing 53.4 points per game. The defense is also tied for third in the Arena Football League in interceptions (eight).
On offense, Brian Reader hopes to enjoy a better outing than Saturday’s 47-39 loss to the Arizona Rattlers, the three-time defending AFL champions. Reader passed for 313 yards and four TDs on 25-of-49 passing , many of his incompletions coming because of errant throws.
“We have to come out fast,” said Belton, an All-Arena player who signed with the VooDoo in the spring. “We can’t let the crowd get to us. We know we’re going to be in front of 12,000 (fans), unlike when we play at home. So we just have to stay poised and continue to do what we do.”