The first night of the AFL’s return to Pittsburgh was a triumph in just about every way except for the final score. In defeat the Power displayed great talent and character in holding their own against a veteran Philadelphia Soul squad thought to be a prime contender for the ArenaBowl title. The new kids on the block served notice that they won’t be bullied so easily, and now it’s up to the Power, in their second home game, to show that their valiant effort in the lid-lifter was not an accident. On Saturday night they seek their historic first win against one of the brightest coaches in the AFL, whose team will be fired up for its own opener after coming off a mediocre 2010 campaign. Here’s a quick glance at Week 2:
KICKOFF: 7:30 PM, Consol Energy Center
TV/RADIO: WPCW-TV/The CW (Bob Pompeani on play-by-play, Craig Wolfley on color); NewsRadio 1020 KDKA* (Troy Clardy on play-by-play, Darnell Dinkins on color, Megan Wolfley reporting)
LAST WEEK: The Barnstormers, who had a Week 1 bye, are getting set to open their 2011 season after finishing 7-9 in the Midwest Division of the National Conference and failing to reach the playoffs in 2010. The Power, who play in the American Conference, are coming off a 58-52 overtime loss at home to the Philadelphia Soul, one of their East Division rivals, in Week 1.
MEET THE QUARTERBACKS:
Bernard Morris, Pittsburgh: After spending last season as a backup in Jacksonville, Morris went 24-of-37 for 264 yards and five touchdowns in his debut as the Power’s starter. Unfortunately, he was also picked three times, including a walk-off pick-six by Mike Brown that won last week’s game for Philadelphia. Morris ended his night with a 64.9 completion percentage and 85.9 passer rating.
Brad Banks, Iowa: Banks will be making his AFL debut with the Barnstormers in Week 2, and he probably couldn’t be more excited to be breaking in with this particular team. He played his college ball at the University of Iowa, and in 2002 he finished behind Carson Palmer in the Heisman voting after throwing for 2,573 yards and 26 touchdowns with the Hawkeyes.
*If the name Iowa Barnstormers sounds familiar, that’s because Kurt Warner made it so. Before Warner led the St. Louis Rams to their only Super Bowl victory and won game MVP honors, he was the starting quarterback for the original Barnstormers, a position he played from 1995 through 1997.
*Coaching the Barnstormers, now in his second tour of duty, is John Gregory, who was with the original Iowa Barnstormers up till their relocation to New York and subsequent dissolution. Gregory is widely considered a genius with quarterbacks; Warner has given him a tremendous amount of credit for his own professional development.
*Trivia buffs, take note…it was receiver Jason Willis, a fourth-year man from the University of Oregon, who caught the first TD toss in Pittsburgh Power history on the team’s second play from scrimmage in Week 1. Willis ended the game with 79 yards and two scores on six catches. He spent the 2007 and 2008 AFL seasons with the New York Dragons–the Dragons are what became of the original Iowa Barnstormers.
*Arguably what kept the Power in last week’s game was its defense, which only allowed 50 points, a respectable number for an AFL expansion team. Defensive backs Lenny Wicks and Royce Adams each led the team with seven tackles, with Wicks assisting on two others, and Adams had a game-high three passes defended. The first sack in team history belonged to defensive end Terrance Carter, and the first fumble recovery went to nose tackle Terrance Reese.
By Matt Popchock
*Tonight’s game, normally heard on KDKA-FM, will air instead on KDKA-AM due to NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament coverage.