Inside Alliance Football February 25

News And Thoughts After Week 3 

Sometimes you have to ROLL with the punches and just try to stay alive to make it in 2019. That is so true in the Alliance of American Football as we finish up week 3 of the new league. When you start the week off NOT being able to make payroll and have to be SAVED is NEVER a good thing, but the only place to go now is UP.

The Arizona Hotshots suffered their first loss of the year to the the Salt Lake Stallions 23-15. The Hotshots needed to come from behind in Week 2 to beat Memphis, but couldn’t pull off a similar feat this week without quarterback John Wolford.

Salt Lake City was close to pulling an upset in Week 2, but finally got its first W of the season in a 23-15 win over the Hotshots. The fact that Arizona lost starting quarterback John Wolford to a back injury early in the third quarter didn’t help, but credit to Salt Lake’s defense for holding one of the AAF’s best offenses to 15 points while grinding out a victory with a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ate up more than eight minutes in the fourth-quarter, punctuated by a leaping Joel Bouagnon score. Trevor Knight, who entered the game after Wolford’s injury, finished with just five completions on 14 attempts. The Hotshots went 2-of-10 on third-down conversions and lost the time of possession battle, 36:03 to 23:43.

Despite being outplayed for much of the first half, Arizona was able to tie things up with Salt Lake City 9-9 thanks to a touchdown catch by leading wideout Rashad Ross. The former Arizona State stud already has six catches in the game as the Hotshots were able to march down the field on their scoring drive. The fascinating, and sometimes frustrating, thing about Arizona is that they can legitimately play from behind because of the explosiveness of their offense. Players like Ross and Josh Huff always seem to come up big when it’s needed most.

Then, the Memphis Express traveled to the Orlando Apollos for what Vegas thought was going to be a huge mismatch. The line, per Westgate SuperBook, opened at -15.5 for Orlando. Instead, one heck of a football game broke out with the Express going with Zach Mettenberger in the second half.

What a difference Mettenberger has made for Memphis’ offense since starting the third quarter. The backup threw for two touchdowns in a loss to the Apollos, his latest being a gorgeous bomb on a — wait for it — 3rd-and-19 for a crucial score. The problem? Mettenberger didn’t start sooner, otherwise the Express may have had an even better chance to upset the Apollos. As it was, Orlando was able to do what it did a week ago against San Antonio and run the ball in the fourth quarter when it absolutely needed to drain the clock.

As for Mettenberger, he hasn’t been taking tons of snaps during the week in practice — in fact, he missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness — but he showed nice patience and movement in the pocket while obviously displaying a heck of an arm. Frankly, Memphis’ quarterback woes should be over after tonight, regardless of the outcome. No team has improved as much from Week 1 to Week 3 as Memphis has, and with Mettenberger in the fold, that first win could be coming in earnest.

Then there was Rod Woodson mic issues. Hall of Fame safety Rod Woodson had some explaining to do after he was apparently caught mocking the AAF’s ratings and relevancy when a broadcast got its wires crossed on Saturday.

 

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On Sunday Philip Nelson overcame an interception on the game’s first play to throw two touchdown passes and Ja’Quan Gardner ran for 122 yards on 12 carries as the San Diego Fleet defeated the San Antonio Commanders, 31-11, Sunday.

The Fleet defense made five quarterback sacks, intercepted two passes and limited the Commanders to three points after Logan Woodside threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Mekale McKay on the game’s second play and Woodside completed a pass to Evan Rodriguez on the required two-point conversion attempt.

The touchdown came one play after De’Vante Bausby intercepted a pass by Nelson at the San Antonio 35-yard line and returned the ball 18 yards to the Fleet’s 47-yard line.

Both of Nelson’s touchdown passes went to Nelson Spruce. They were the Fleet’s first touchdown passes in their three games.

The Fleet (2-1) also got touchdowns from Gardner on an 83-yard run, the longest play in the Alliance of American Football’s 12-game history, and middle linebacker A.J. Tarpley on a 27-yard interception return.

And in Atlanta, Starter Matt Simms finished the game 28-for-48 for 328 yards and one garbage time touchdown. He threw three interceptions, had multiple delay of game penalties and lost 25 yards on three sacks taken. While he racked up more yards than he did in his first two games combined, he didn’t do it when it mattered. The Legends were 3-12 on third downs and only scored six points in four red-zone trips.

“We’re just scratching the surface as far as who we can really be,” Simms said. “We just have to hone in on the details and make sure we don’t hurt ourselves, and that starts with me.”

Down 20-6, Atlanta had a change to swing the momentum when Carlos Merritt intercepted Birmingham’s Luis Perez and gave the offense the ball at the Birmingham 11-yard line with less than five minutes left in the game. Simms and the offense followed up with a sequence that could be described generously as disastrous.

Before they could snap the ball once, the Legends got a false start penalty to push the ball back five yards, their eighth penalty of the game. Simms followed up with a trio of incompletions to set up fourth-and-15.

Sensing the game was getting out of hand, coach Kevin Coyle kept the offense on the field. Again, the play clock ran all the way down, forcing running back Tarean Folston to call a timeout. Simms took a 13-yard sack, turning the ball over and effectively ending the game for the Legends, despite there being over 10 minutes left on the game clock. It was the fourth time the Iron stopped the Legends from scoring a red-zone touchdown.

The first half saw Atlanta dominate the game, but come away with very little to show for it. At halftime, the Legends trailed 9-6 despite racking up 15 first downs, 207 total yards and controlling the ball for more than 19 minutes.

Where will we end up in Week 4?  More to come… Stay #ACTIVE!!

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