DALLAS -- The Dallas Vigilantes have produced some ugly statistical results during their eight-game losing streak, but one stat stands out among the others.
Cumulatively, Dallas has been outscored by 14 points in the first quarter of games this year. They have been outscored by just one point in the second quarters and have outscored opponents by 21 total points in the third. That puts the Vigilantes at plus-6 heading into the fourth quarter, where they have been outscored 221-124.
Before the team's Thursday walk-through at the American Airlines Center, interim head coach James Fuller strongly denied the idea that the Vigilantes (1-10) were fading late in games because of poor conditioning. He said the alarming statistic comes from the team's tendency to turn the ball over in the fourth quarter.
"I think a quarterback issue is what it is," Fuller said. "The way I kind of see it is you have to make good decisions in the fourth. Whether you're a quarterback, whether you're a [defensive back] or whatever it is, you're in position, just make the play."
The Vigilantes have struggled with inconsistent quarterback play all year after opening-game starter Shane Stafford was lost for the season in his only start. The Vigilantes rank 13th of the 15 AFL teams in passing offense.
Collin Drafts, the Vigilantes starter for the majority of this season, will return Friday night against the Iowa Barnstormers (5-6). Drafts left Dallas' road game at Alabama on June 19 with a shoulder injury and sat out last week's game at Oklahoma City. B.J. Hall, the team's third quarterback of the year, got the start.
Hall threw two interceptions in the later stages of last week's 35-31 loss to the Yard Dawgz. The Vigilantes led by nine with just five minutes remaining in the game, but Hall couldn't convert a first down to ice the game. It was Dallas' third loss in the last four games by less than four points.
Dallas linebacker Duke Pettijohn was careful not to place blame on one position, but his sentiment echoed Fuller's.
"[We've lacked] mental toughness, and we haven't had it in the place where we need it," Pettijohn said. "It's no fault of theirs, it's just inexperience at that position."
The Barnstormers don't stand out positively in any major category and are one of two teams with less passing yards per contest than Dallas (239 per game to 255). However, Iowa quarterback Ryan Vena is the second-leading rusher in the Arena League, and his footwork can deceive undisciplined linemen.
Drafts said he is healthy and eager to get back on the field. He believes the team's recent close losses are a sign that the Vigilantes could surprise with wins in the final five games of the year.
"We have to figure out how to put teams away when we have them," Drafts said. "We've gotten into a habit of finding a way to lose games, and I think if we can do it one time, we can say 'That's how you do it.' "
Josh Davis is an ESPNDallas.com intern and a writer for TCU's student newspaper, the Daily Skiff.