In hindsight, one all-encompassing statement that can be made about the Power early in their first season is that they have played to the level of their competition. That’s something head coach Chris Siegfried certainly doesn’t want to see happen against a Tulsa squad that has fallen on hard times, as he was not shy about criticizing his team’s offensive performance after narrowly escaping Milwaukee with a win. If the Power can jump on Saturday’s opponent early the way they did their Week 3 victims, that could lead to a very big night for the home team. They’ll need more consistency on offense, plus more highly stubborn–and highly impressive–play by their defense to make it happen. Here is a quick glance at Week 4:
KICKOFF: 7:30 PM, Consol Energy Center
TV/RADIO: WPCW-TV/The CW (Bob Pompeani on play-by-play, Craig Wolfley on color); 93.7 The Fan (Troy Clardy on play-by-play, Darnell Dinkins on color, Megan Wolfley reporting)
LAST WEEK: Week 3 was another one of firsts for the Power, who are coming off a 49-47 triumph over the Milwaukee Mustangs Monday night, their second straight victory. It was the first road win in franchise history, not to mention a much-needed first-ever win against one of their American Conference East Division rivals. The Talons are coming off their third straight loss and first at home, a franchise-worst 69-20 National Conference setback at the hands of the Arizona Rattlers, tying Tulsa with Kansas City for last place in the Central Division.
MEET THE QUARTERBACKS:
Kevin McCabe, Pittsburgh: His first full start as a member of the Power couldn’t have started off much better, though he and his teammates ended their win in Milwaukee in full-blown survival mode. McCabe threw four touchdown passes on the night and helped stake Pittsburgh to a quick 21-0 lead, but also threw three interceptions, including a pick-six in the final minutes that nearly helped the Mustangs complete a wild comeback. The Pine-Richland star ended 16-of-29 for 182 yards, and he is 26-of-43 (60.5%) in his first two appearances with 292 yards, seven TD’s, and those three INT’s, which is good for a passer rating of 104.6.
Bobby Reid, Tulsa: Reid continues to take his lumps since taking over for departed QB and 2010 AFL TD pass leader Justin Allgood. In that lopsided Week 3 loss he was picked off four times and threw for just one touchdown on 15-of-32 passing for 108 yards. Never shy about scrambling, he ran for a game-high 29 yards on five carries. Through three games Reid has completed 55% of his passed for 499 yards, six TD’s, and five INT’s, good for just a 63.7 passer rating. He leads the AFL with 206 rush yards and seven TD’s on the ground on 18 carries. If Reid doesn’t go, Matt Bassuener, who went 4-of-9 for 62 yards and one score Monday, will back him up.
*In 2010 the Tulsa Talons won the American Conference’s old Southwest Division with a 10-6 record before a humbling upset loss to eventual conference winner Tampa Bay in the conference semifinals. Prior to this, their 11th year of existence and second since jumping ship from AF2, they lost their No. 1 QB (Allgood), top two receivers Donovan Morgan and Jeff Hughley, and AFL Defensive Player of the Year Gabe Nyenhuis, and the effects are evident. The Talons entered Saturday one of four teams looking for their first win of 2011. Although Tulsa is one of the smallest markets in the league, the AFL did move its headquarters there from Chicago upon reorganization.
*How bad was it at BOK Center last week? Tulsa trailed Arizona 42-0 at halftime, though it did avoid becoming only the second shutout victim in AFL history and the first since it happened to the San Antonio Rampage in 1992. One bright spot, besides the running ability of Reid, has been the play of wide receiver Trent Shelton. The rookie from Baylor is third on the team with 115 receiving yards, and he has pulled in a team-leading three touchdowns on nine catches. He entered Saturday’s action eighth in the AFL with 180 kick return yards on 11 opportunities.
*Through three games the identity of the Power’s offense has been…well, its power. For the third game in a row fullback and Duquesne grad Joshua Rue scored two rush TD’s in Pittsburgh’s Week 3 road victory, and his seven touchdowns make him the team’s leading scorer. His six rushing touchdowns are second-most in the AFL behind Reid, and his 42 rush yards on 15 carries ranks fourth among players at his position. Of course, having a balanced receiving corps hasn’t hurt the Power either. Last week four different players caught TD passes, and four different players have multiple touchdown grabs, led by Lonnell DeWalt’s four.
*The Power’s defense continues to get the job done, which could make for a good combination against a Tulsa squad whose 182 passing yards per game ranks last in the 18-team Arena Football League and is tied with the New Orleans VooDoo for fewest points through three games (107). Pittsburgh’s 133 points allowed began Saturday as the third-best three-game total in the AFL, and the contributors have been many. On Monday linebacker Gary Butler recovered two fumbles–including one in the end zone–recorded his second sack, and helped stop the two-point try that would have tied the game. Josh Lay and Tyrell Herbert each had six solo tackles; Herbert, who, like Butler, forced one fumble, is tied with Lenny Wicks for a team-high 16 tackles.
By Matt Popchock