Stallions Offense Galloping
Week Three saw the return of Josh Woodrum, who missed last week after suffering a hamstring injury in Week One, returned to action against Arizona and solidified has position as starting quarterback. The signal caller finished 22 of 31 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown but perhaps more importantly no interceptions. The performance was one of the reasons Salt Lake prevailed 15 – 23 over the heavily favoured Arizona Hotshots.
With Woodrum under centre the offence looked much more balanced. Joel Bouagnon (45 Yards) and Branden Oliver (40 Yards) ran the ball effectively when asked and formed a nice combination while it was wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El who took centre stage in the passing game. He finished with 90 yards on 8 catches and an impressive touchdown. Stallions quarterback Woodrum said after the game, “I think we’re just starting to learn how each other plays and to play well together,” “We only had a month in training camp, and we had one preseason game, and from that our starters didn’t really play the whole game. Just a quarter, maybe a half.”
— The Alliance (@TheAAF) February 23, 2019
Defence Gets Icy
The Stallions continue to get great production from Karter Schultz, my favourite defensive player in the league. He only added one sack but his presence led to double teams that freed up others to make plays. Defensive tackle Luke Carrezola and linebacker Mike Purcell joined the feasting frenzy with one sack a piece. Not wanting to be outdone the defence stepped in with an interception when Greer Martini at the 29-yard line and returned to the 7.
Arizona struggle without Wolford
Constantly harassed by the Salt Lake defence, quarterback John Wolford had completed 14 of 22 passes for 127 yards. When he was lost to injury on a pass that resulted in an interception, Trevor Knight took over. Knight showed some that he was a rushing threat but was largely in effect in the passing game, finishing 6 of 15 for 68 yards. His loss for any significant amount of time would be a gauge blow for Arizona’s title hopes.
A Game of Two Halves for Ross
After a first half in which he hauled in 6 passes for 51 yards Rashad Ross was silent in the second. Perhaps because of the injury to Wolford, Ross was silent. No other player picked up the slack. Tight end Thomas Duarte made some nice plays and added 41 yards whilst Marquis Bundy added 40 from the receiver position. Receivers Josh Huff and Freddie Martino added 33 and 31 yards but Arizona never looked like scoring under Knight as third and longs became common.
Move Over for Mettenberger
Christian Hackenberg had zero passing TDs and 5 INTs in two and a half games. Zach Mettenberger has only played one half. All the former LSU star did was toss two touchdowns on 9-of-12 passing without an interception. In the 17-21 loss to the Orlando Apollos, Mettenberger completed 75% of his passes (nearly 25% more than Hackenberg) and uncorked a pair of long touchdown passes; 30 yards to Devin Lucien and 40 yards to Gerrard Sheppard. The fact that Mettenberger had a passer rating of 145.8 was extremely impressive and he should be the starter going forward.
— The Alliance (@TheAAF) February 24, 2019
Fourth Quarter Fades Continue
If the games ran for three quarters Memphis’ record word be better. The Express defence has allowed a stingy average of 10 points per game through the first three quarters this season. They struggle in the fourth quarter, perhaps because they’re wore down from an anaemic offense. With their first win in sight the Express capitulated again, allowing. They now allow an average of 12.3 points per fourth quarter.
Plug and Play
Sherman Badie was on the street last week. Just days after being signed by the Express, the former Tulane player rushed for a team-high 59 yards on eight carries and added one catch for 16 yards. Badie gained 1,517 yards rushing in four years with the Green Wave and was an undrafted free agent who was with the Arizona Cardinals for a time. He will make a tantalising combination with Zac Stacy moving forward.
Gilbert Has Other Weapons
After two weeks of the season Charles Johnson was the star of the league. Memphis did a good job of limiting his impact to just 53 yards. This forced the Apollos to spread the ball around and utilise the running game more.Apollos running back D’Ernest Johnson, who was started over former NFL back Akeem Hunt, finished the game with 13 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown, plus two catches for 18 yards. It’s the best single-game performance of any Apollos running back this season. After the game head coach Steve Spurrier said Johnson performed well enough to keep the starting job for Week 4.
Johnson was not the only recipient of extra touches De’Veon Smith finished with 52 yards. Smith started for the benched Kareem Hunt and De’Veon Smith. Perhaps because he struggled so much passing, quarterback Garrett Gilbert even chipped in with 7 rushes for 43 yards.
In the passing game, Rannell Hall led the Apollos with four catches for 68 yards and a 37-yard touchdown. Scott Orndoff also helped to pick up the slack with two catches of 41 Yards.
Redzone Offence kills Atlanta
Matt Simms moved the ball well for the Legends – until he hit the redzone . He completed 28 of 48 passes (just 58.3%) for 328 yards an a lone touchdown but the Legends struggled inside the 20 and failed to convert twice inside the 5-yard line. Worse than that, Simms killed multiple drives as he threw three interceptions. However, the problems were not limited to Simms. Time after time the Legends failed to execute. One prime example was a dropped pass by Denard Robinson dropped a would be touchdown.
Hat trick for Richardson and D Causes Turnovers
Trent Richardson scored three touchdowns against the hapless Legends. While he ran 46 yards on 17 carries and added 3 receptions for 4 yards, the former first round pick proved he was redzone gold. Richardson’s impressive nose for the endzone and Birmingham’s defensive dominance made up for a down day from Luis Perez. The Iron defense added another 4 turnovers and 3 sacks.
Trouble for San Antonio
De’Vante Bausby, who spent part of 2018 with the Philadelphia Eagles, intercepted San Diego quarterback Philip Nelson on the first play of the game and returned it for a touchdown but things went down hill for the Commanders from there. DeMarcus Ayers was practically invisible (2 receptions for 14 yards) as the San Antonio offence struggled. Their offensive line really struggled to protect Logan Woodside as he was hurried all day and passed for 151 yards before being swapped for MarquiseWilliams.
If there was a bright spot for the Commanders it was running back Trey Williams. The former Texas A&M player, who missed the first two games with a foot injury, finished with 75 yards on seven carries and looked like a powerful runner.
Nelson Takes Notice
I was critical of Fleet quarterback Philip Nelson last week. He proved me wrong, despite throwing an interception on his first pass, as he put on a show. Nelson completed 17 of 25 (68%) and threw for two touchdowns. He had assistance from a great running game. A week after starring against the Atlanta Legends, Ja’Quan Gardner set the bar for longest play in AAF history with an 83 yard run and finished with 122 on the day. But Gardner wasn’t the only runner to make an impact. Terrell Watson battered the Commanders on his way to 73 yards.
Jonathan Cumbleton writes about the AFC North for Ninety Nine Yards, covering the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers. He is a Philadelphia Eagles fan who has followed the game since 1990. You can follow more of his writing on Twitter @Cumbleton.