By Matt Popchock
7:05 – Boy, when the Power called for a “White Out” tonight, they weren’t messing around…they’re actually wearing their white (road) jerseys, as opposed to their traditional home black jerseys…to say nothing of the white t-shirts and thundersticks that have been passed out to fans young and old…
Mac linebacker Gary Butler was talking with me before practice on the South Side Thursday, and he joked about how he hates the white jerseys! Come to think of it, he hates road games altogether, he said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. And who could blame him for being anxious to come back to Pittsburgh for the team’s penultimate regular season home game tonight?
Emphasis on “regular season” there…the Power stand at 7-6, technically ahead of the 7-6 Cleveland Gladiators for first place in the American Conference’s East Division, despite consecutive road losses that were brutal for different reasons, thanks to their earlier win over the Glads. (Cleveland, by the way, hosts San Jose tonight.) This puts them right in the middle of the Arena Football League’s playoff chase. Butler, a California (PA) guy and one of several Pittsburgh natives on the roster, talked a lot about improving upon execution in all areas tonight, and above all, playing with more pride, and greater individual accountability. (Head coach Siegfried definitely underscored that last point when I talked with him as well.) Butler also thinks having DL Neil Purvis and a healthy LaRico Stevenson back on board can make a big difference.
Hopefully the Power do get some pride back against the Milwaukee Mustangs, a 4-9 club that has dropped three of its last four overall, and already lost a nail-biter to the Power, 49-47, back on Mar. 28 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee…a game that, hometown loyalties aside, was a little closer than it probably should have been.
Let’s hope the Power can minimize their mistakes tonight, get back on track against these struggling Mustangs, and widen that virtually non-existent division lead over the East Division’s last-place team. In the meantime, I’ll be providing you with updates all night long…
7:20 – “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper plays over the P.A. as the Milwaukee Mustangs take the field in their black uniforms with orange trim. I am indeed a Cyndi Lauper fan, but that’s neither here nor there…
DL Dayon Benson, who was recently released by the Power, played for Milwaukee against Pittsburgh in Week 3 and won Defensive Player of the Game honors. Former Power OL Albert Stinson was recently signed by the Mustangs.
7:25 – With thundersticks-a-poppin’, your white-clad Pittsburgh Power take the field! DL Neal Purvis back in the lineup, per earlier post. WR Irving Campbell is dressed tonight. Backup QB Chris Wallace, who went 19-of-39 for 196 yards and 4 TD in his Power debut last week is introduced…and so is regular starter Bernard Morris, who did practice, despite reports his banged-up shoulder wasn’t entirely healed. Let’s see who gets the nod from Coach Siegfried…
7:30 – Pittsburgh native Sidney Hutchko (sp?) sings the National Anthem. Bernard Morris, interestingly, is one of the Pittsburgh captains making his way to midfield for the coin toss…which Milwaukee wins. The Mustangs defer to the second half, and the Power’s offense will move right to left on your computer screen. Time to get excited…
7:35 – Jerome Mathis takes it off the slack net and out to the Power’s own 15. The Power rank fifth in the AFL in kick return yardage per game.
7:37 – It is Chris Wallace under center for the Power, and he starts off by floating a ball to a wide open Jason Willis down to the Mustangs’ 15 for an easy first down.
7:40 – The drive stalls, and Paul Edinger’s field goal attempt from midfield just clangs off the right upright. Kelvin Rodgers is stopped just beyond the 10 of Milwaukee, thanks to a nice last-ditch tackle by Josh Rue.
7:42 – Antoine Burns takes a pitch-out to the right, but is “Lay”d out by DB Josh Lay inside the 5.
7:45 – Ironman Justin Lawrence is gang-tackled for no gain over left tackle at the one-and-a-half yard line! Fourth down Mustangs…timeout Power as they line up for a field goal. Two timeouts remaining for the Power, still no score, 8:23 left, 1st quarter.
Good catch by fellow blogger Dom Errico…backup QB Gino Guidugli from the University of Cincinnati (2001-04) is starting tonight, for the first time as a Mustang, not R.J. Archer.
7:47 – Garrett Lindholm kicks a chip-shot field goal, his AFL-leading 17th FG of the season, 3-0 Milwaukee, 8:23 left, 1st quarter.
7:49 – Nice return by Mathis through traffic, stopped just shy of the Power’s 20 yard line. And he came up limping a bit…hopefully that ends up not being a big deal…
7:51 – TOUCHDOWN POWER! Wallace tosses a 21-yarder to Lonnell DeWalt that he hangs onto in the back corner of the end zone! 5th TD pass of the year for Wallace, 14th TD catch of the year for DeWalt…who also caught the game-winner from Kevin McCabe at Milwaukee in Week 3. Edinger’s extra point is good…7-3 Power, 5:31 left, 1st quarter.
That was set up by Rue rumbling for a first down on the previous play on 3rd and 4. The more touches he gets, the better…
7:55 – Guidugli’s first pass is broken up neatly in Power territory by LaRico Stevenson, intended for Antoine Burns, who played well against Pittsburgh in Week 3.
7:58 – TOUCHDOWN POWER! Josh Lay, the ex-Aliquippa/Pitt DB, times the route perfectly, and walks into the end zone with an easy pick-six up the far sideline! It’s Lay’s second INT of the year, and first since Week 2 vs. Iowa. But a delay of game penalty backs up the Power on the ensuing P.A.T. try, and Edinger clanks it wide right. 13-3 Power, 2:06 left, 1st quarter.
8:00 – Kelvin Rodgers with a great return that he nearly fumbles at the Power 19, but recovers anyway. Bad upfield coverage by the Power.
8:03 – Josh Lay, who’s been invisible the past couple weeks, seems to be all over the place tonight. Pass to the back corner intended for Dwayne Eley Jr. glances off his fingertips amidst man coverage as the quarter ends. 3rd and short for Mustangs on Power’s 13…Power 13, Milwaukee 3.
By the way, Guidugli had only thrown one pass all year for Milwaukee before tonight. Yep, they’ve had QB problems of their own.
8:07 – Guidugli takes advantage of some good blocking and converts the 3rd down himself. 1st and goal to the 7.
8:08 – Guidugli finds Burns over the middle, just beyond Josh Lay, for a Milwaukee touchdown. 1st AFL TD pass for the Cincinnati alumnus, 5th TD catch of the year for Burns. Lindholm’s extra point cuts the Power’s lead to 13-10, 12:40 left, 2nd quarter.
Cleveland leading San Jose 20-7 moments before halftime of that game. The Power need to take care of business tonight…
8:12 – Unfortunate bounce off the upright; Irving Campbell recovers the ball, which eludes Jason Willis, but the Power are pinned at their own 2 yard line.
Milwaukee outgained Pittsburgh 54-44 in the 1st quarter, though the Mustangs did run 10 plays to the Power’s 8.
8:14 – Rue runs for 4, and DL Luis Vasquez is drawn offside by Wallace, who then completes a pass to Willis up the near sideline. First down. Phew…
8:16 – Timeout Power…they have one left, leading 13-10, 10:50 left, 2nd quarter.
Quick stat: DeWalt had a game-high 3.0 tackles in the first quarter, in addition to his TD.
8:18 – Tough break–a pretty TD pass to Mike Washington is wiped out by a holding penalty, but good job by Wallace and Willis hooking up to get the yardage back.
8:19 – TOUCHDOWN POWER! The penalty is moot, as Wallace hits “The Joystick” wide open cutting toward the middle of the end zone! 2nd of the night for Wallace, and the team-leading 20th TD catch of the year for Washington. With that 28-yard grab, Washington has broken the 1,000-receiving-yard barrier. Edinger’s kick is good. 20-10 Power, 9:18 left, 2nd quarter.
8:23 – Washington sandwiches Rodgers on the ensuing kick return. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against OL Chris Terrell after the TD that had Siegfried a little puzzled gives the Mustangs the ball out to their 20.
8:27 – Guidugli struggling with accuracy…he’s missed Eley Jr. deep twice…hope I didn’t jinx the Power just there…
8:28 – …and I did. He rolls all the way out to his right and hits Burns at the last second on the far side of the end zone. Stevenson seemed to slow up on the coverage, which allowed Burns to get open. 2nd TD pass of the night for Guidugli, both to Burns, who now has 6 on the year. Lindholm’s kick is good, 20-17 Power, 5:38 left, 2nd quarter.
The Power, one of the least penalized teams in the league, continue to be hurt by penalties, including a block in the back on the ensuing kickoff. 1st and 10 from the 4.
8:33 – Turnabout is fair play…on 4th down, veteran DB Andre Jones commits an obvious pass interference penalty covering Irving Campbell just beyond midfield. 1st down Power…
8:34 – TOUCHDOWN POWER! Wallace finds Washington open in the right corner for an easy 32-yard TD strike! 2nd of the night for Washington, 21st of the year…3rd TD pass of the night for Wallace. Rough night for Terrell…another penalty, this time a false start. Power have had WAY too many of those pre-snap fouls. Sure enough, Edinger misses the extra point way left. 26-17 Power, 1:53 left, 2nd quarter.
8:38 – Meanwhile, both teams continue looking strong in the kick return department…1st down Mustangs at their own 16…and Guidugli calls timeout after not liking what he sees. Two left for Milwaukee. 1:23 left, 2nd quarter.
Cleveland is destroying San Jose, 41-7, at the half. So much for scoreboard watching…
8:41 – 1-minute warning. Power lead 26-17, 2nd and 7 Milwaukee from their own 19.
8:44 – Ernest Smith stopped by DB Tyrell Herbert after moving the chains to the Power 23…Terrence Carter’s offside penalty–a questionable one, from my vantage point–nullifies another would-be INT in the end zone by Josh Lay…
8:49 – Eley Jr. is stopped short of the goal line…timeout Milwaukee with three seconds left…
8:50 – Wow! Carter comes around the end like a bat out of you-know-where, and blocks Lindholm’s short field goal attempt! Stevenson catches the blocked kick in mid-air as the half expires. At the midpoint, it’s your Pittsburgh Power 26, the Milwaukee Mustangs 17.
Despite some self-inflicted wounds, the Power’s offense has put forth a more valiant effort than it did in the first half against Utah last week. The defense, which has three stops, is playing with a greater purpose, delivering on what Gary Butler and Coach Siegfried each said earlier this week. But the Mustangs are still in this game with some of the veteran leaders they have, despite their struggles, and despite Guidugli’s inexperience, so the Power must not take their collective foot off the proverbial gas…
1st half numbers…
Wallace: 8-of-12, 120 yards, 3 TD, sacked once
Guidugli: 10-of-17, 107 yards, 2 TD, INT
Washington: 3 rec., 64 yds, 2 TD
Burns: 3 rec., 39 yds, 2 TD
Rodgers: 103 yds on 4 kick returns; 122 all-purpose yds; 3.0 tackles
DeWalt: 21-yd TD catch; 3.5 tackles
9:07 – Rodgers takes the 2nd half kickoff to the house, but a holding penalty on Justin Lawrence moves the ball back to the Power 24. Kickoff coverage still lousy…
9:10 – Guidugli wastes little time hitting Eley Jr. on a slant pattern for a Milwaukee touchdown to cap a three-play drive. Lindholm’s extra point is good. 3rd TD pass of the night for Guidugli, 10th of the year for Eley Jr. 26-24 Power, 12:19 left, 3rd quarter.
Willis is returning kicks for the Power, which can’t mean good news about Mathis. Yuck…
9:14 – Wallace hits Irving Campbell deep down the near sideline into Milwaukee territory to quickly get the Power out of the jam…he’s thrown the deep ball well tonight…
9:15 – Wallace makes an ill-advised throw over the middle that is picked off by Andre Jones in the back of the end zone, team-leading 12th INT of the year for Jones, who is among the league leaders. He returns it to the 11.
9:18 – Once again, the mettle of the Power defense is being tested. On 3rd and 10, Eley Jr. just makes the sticks…
9:20 – Head coach Bob Landsee, a longtime friend of Siegfried, not happy about a botched route…
9:22 – Guidugli stopped short of the goal line twice, though it looked like he got in the second time…timeout Milwaukee. Two left for the Mustangs. 3:27 left, 3rd quarter. Upon further review, good non-touchdown call by referee Jim Corpora.
9:25 – False start Mustangs…the plot thickens…
9:27 – Interception! Lonnell DeWalt with his team-leading 4th of the season on the far side of the end zone! HUGE! A flag for illegal movement by the jack linebacker is swallowed by referee Corpora, and the play stands! 1st down Power at their own 3 yard line, 3:04 left, 3rd quarter.
9:30 – Milwaukee gets a make-up holding call that nullifies a Power touchdown, a lollipop to Mike Washington that he turned into something special. Explanation please, Mr. Corpora…
9:33 – A fumble recovery is awarded to Milwaukee, but Jason Willis appeared to be clearly down. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…the Arena Football League has some work to do.
End of the 3rd quarter…Power 26, Milwaukee 24. This is getting ugly…
9:38 – The yellow flags remain contagious…false start on Milwaukee…
9:40 – Guidugli hits Eley Jr. over the middle for a 13-yard TD, and the CONSOL Energy Center falls understandably silent. Lindholm’s kick is good. 4th of the night for Guidugli, 2nd of the night for Eley Jr., 11th of the year. 31-26 Milwaukee, 12:08 left, 4th quarter.
9:48 – After a pass interference penalty against Jones, a pivotal 3rd down and 6 for the Power at the Milwaukee 17…4th and 6 as Wallace overthrows Willis in the right flat…
9:50 – Turnover on downs as Wallace is under too much pressure to hit Willis in the back of the end zone. With 8 minutes left, the defense needs to keep this game from getting out of hand…
9:52 – A pretty touchdown pass by Guidugli to Eley Jr. ahead of Josh Lay’s coverage in the left corner of the end zone. Lindholm’s kick is good. 38-26 Milwaukee, 7:08 left in a game that has taken a very disappointing turn.
9:56 – The Power continue to self destruct, as Butler takes a personal foul after a modest kick return by Willis, followed by a false-start penalty.
Rumor has it the Power may sign former Sto-Rox great Adam DiMichele later this week. More as it develops…
9:59 – TOUCHDOWN POWER! A methodical drive ends with a fade pattern run nicely by Irving Campbell! 2nd TD of the year for Campbell, 5th TD pass of the night by Wallace. Edinger hits the left upright, and the special teams woes continue…38-32 Milwaukee, 4:22 left, 4th quarter.
10:02 – An onside kick goes out of bounds, and Milwaukee starts, via penalty, at the Pittsburgh 6 yard line.
10:06 – The Power break through, and Lindholm’s field goal attempt clangs off the left upright! Power ball, 3rd and 8 from their own 16 after a Josh Rue run and an incompletion deep downfield, over the head of Campbell. 1-minute warning. Still 38-32 Milwaukee.
10:10 – Rodgers is called for pass interference, knocking down an open Lonnell DeWalt in the end zone, which gives the Power a 1st down just past midfield. 54 seconds left…
10:13 – Timeout Pittsburgh, two left. 23 seconds left after Wallace sneaks up the middle, just far enough for a first down to the Milwaukee 14 yard line…
10:15 – A cruel ending, as a fumbled snap is recovered by the Mustangs. This one HURTS.
10:17 – FUMBLE! LaRico Stevenson recovers the forced strip by Terrance Carter! The Power have one more chance at Milwaukee’s 16 yard line! 17 seconds left…you gotta be KIDDING me!
10:19 – Incompletions to DeWalt and Willis. 3rd and 10. 7 seconds left. Timeout Power. They have one left, Milwaukee has one left as well.
10:22 – TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN! DeWalt with a beautiful grab in the back of the end zone, as he was pushed out of bounds, on a desperation throw by Wallace from the opposite side of the field! Edinger’s extra point…is GOOD! POWER WIN! Edinger’s kick is good with NO TIME LEFT! Power 39, Milwaukee 38! WOW!
On a separate note, press row, including my buddy Dom, is going ballistic! Maybe you could say karma evened out after all for the Pittsburgh Power, but this was nothing short of a miraculous ending.
More to come…
Chris Siegfried: The story of this game? “The guys just didn’t quit.” Play of the game was the blocked field goal late. Lightheartedly admitted he gets frustrated when the fans leave early and the game isn’t over. Defensive line “played their butts off.” Complimented Guidugli’s performance, and complimented the perseverance of his own team. Last play designed as two vertical routes with DeWalt running a post. Willis ran a “go” route, Washington ran an underneath cross. Thought they’d have time for two plays with seven seconds left; could’ve taken the check-down, but DeWalt broke free, and talked with Wallace after INT that if he was going to throw it into such tight coverage, he needed to throw it high. “DeWalt made an unbelievable play.” On officiating: always tells his players not to put selves in a position where an official could affect the game. Has send two tapes to league offices for review; not sure if Willis was down before fumble, but initial reaction was he was down. “It’s a tough game to officiate…a lot of intricate rules that are hard to understand.” Offside penalty is a particularly difficult one for anyone to call. NFL tends to pluck best AFL officials (“The [league] is constantly developing officials, just like we’re developing players.”). Difficult game to coach, but need to keep plugging away. Shot selves in foot a couple times in the second half…”didn’t have any rhythm.” He and Chris Wallace go way back as far as arena football is concerned, and he humorously shared the story of how a great play by Wallace “got me fired,” and some time later, Wallace played for and was cut by Siegfried. High praise for Wallace’s play and leadership. Bernard Morris, meanwhile, has a bum shoulder AND a bum ankle, just to clarify reports. Hopeful he can come back next week. Blocking was a lot better on offense, but still have work to do.
Chris Wallace: Arena football can often come down to the last play, often tells younger players, you “can’t get too up, can’t get too down.” Recalls playing for Milwaukee coach Bob Landsee in Green Bay in the now-defunct AF2 developmental league, and being part of a game that had a similarly wild finish. Props to teammate–and roommate–Paul Edinger for making the extra point after a couple tough misses, told him “you’re going to have a chance to make a play. Everyone has that chance in arena football.” Elaborates on Siegfried’s anecdote about “getting him fired” with a last-second win. Credits the Power’s perseverance with tonight’s victory, feels comfortable playing for Siegfried, no bridges burned. Last touchdown was just “trying to make a play”; didn’t like what he saw initially, wanted to get out of the pocket. Didn’t see the catch because he got it. Thinks he’s played well the last couple games, all things considered, but needs to play better in the third quarter, and in the second half in general. Felt more chemistry with Mike Washington and other receivers as the game wore on.
Josh Lay: Early-season injuries were a byproduct of him getting used to the speed and intensity of the Arena Football League. During the week defensive coordinator Maurice Blanding told him that when Milwaukee does outside motion, they do short routes; he read it right, which led to the pick-six. Credits the defense for “coming back strong”; goal is to keep the opponent under 40 week in and week out.
Mike Washington: A lot of receivers were out of position early on, tough to develop chemistry with another new quarterback. Knew about the pedigree of Milwaukee’s secondary, but felt the team was up for the challenge. Most impressed about the resilience of the team. Team needs to start coming together right now. Communication with Chris Wallace was key, everyone felt for comfortable as the game went on. Hopeful Bernard Morris can come back next week. “Penalties, penalties, penalties…” must be addressed and cleaned up before the Orlando game.
Well first of all, if you’ve ever watched “Pardon the Interruption” on the Four-Letter Network, you know they do “Errors/Omissions” at the end of every show. Let’s do that now…
*Upon further review, it was Tyrell Herbert, not LaRico Stevenson, who recovered the fumble that led to the final touchdown. Hey, when you’re several hundred feet off the ground, a turtled-up #24 can look a lot like a turtled-up #28, and the crowd noise that followed seemed to drown out the official announcement by P.A. man (and fellow CBS Pittsburgh employee) Bubba Snider. Anyway, sorry ’bout that, folks!
*Also, in hindsight, it appears Chris Terrell did get a piece of Lindholm’s final field goal attempt on its way up, hence Coach Siegfried referring to it as a “blocked” field goal during the presser. Either way, it was a solid job by the entire Power DL to get heat in the kicker’s kitchen and force the miss. Don’t let the zero sacks fool you, because it’s hard to get those in arena football; Siegfried was right to say the line played its butt off.
*We all got caught up in the euphoria of the end of this dramatic win (you ought to hear Troy Clardy’s final call), but I would be derelict in my duty if I didn’t mention DeWalt’s TD was his 15th TD catch of the year. Wallace has now thrown for 9 TD’s in seven-plus quarters, with just one INT.
*Damian Harrell of Milwaukee, the AFL’s all-time leading receiver, did not play, in case you hadn’t noticed. Not sure how we missed that one…
*No further word on Mathis. Will investigate this week…
Wallace: 19-of-33 (57.6%), 253 yds, 5 TD, INT, sacked once; 4 rush, 13 yds
Guidugli: 21-of-34 (61.8%), 237 yds, 5 TD, 2 INT; 5 rush, 9 yds
Eley Jr.: 11 rec., 144 yds, 3 TD
Burns: 4 rec., 44 yds, 2 TD
Washington: 5 rec., 72 yds, 2 TD
DeWalt: 2 TD rec. for 37 yds; one INT, one missed FG catch, 4.5 tackles (4 solo)
Willis: 136 all-purpose yds
Lay: game-high 7 solo tackles; 31-yd INT TD
Jones: 5 solo tackles; INT
Rodgers: 5 solo tackles; 164 all-purpose yds; recovered Willis’ controversial fumble, which was forced by Jones
Milwaukee came in with the No. 2 red zone defense in the AFL. Good thing the Power made it a moot point; all of their scores on Saturday came outside the red zone. The Mustangs scored on 4 of 7 red zone possessions; which, percentage-wise, is about par for the course for Pittsburgh’s defense.
It’s all about efficiency…Milwaukee held the ball for nearly 6 minutes longer than the Power…but the Power ran only two fewer plays, and they outgained the Mustangs 277-252.
Joystick was right…the Power took 13 penalties for 73 yards. That’s a bad job by the second-least penalized team in the league (47.0 penalty yards per game). Not to be outdone, though, Milwaukee, 12th in that category, committed 11 penalties for 79 yards.
Attendance was 8,227…not so bad, considering what was going on across the Allegheny River…
Six total stops by the Power defense, counting Milwaukee’s first drive, on which they settled for their lone field goal…which is six more than last week, if memory serves. At any rate, if you get that many in a game, you’re going to win a lot of games in the AFL.
This is the 9th time this year the Power (8-6) have held an opponent to 50 or fewer offensive points, the first time since June 4 vs. Cleveland. The Power are 7-2 in those games. It’s the 4th time they’ve held a team under 40, and they’ve won all four of those.
The Power, who are now 5-3 at CONSOL Energy Center, have at least assured themselves of a winning record at home with one regular season home game left on Sun., July 10 vs. Arizona.
While Milwaukee drops to 4-10 and remains in the basement, the Power remain tied for first place in the East Division of the AFL’s American Conference, though they still hold the tiebreaker, as previously mentioned, over the Cleveland Gladiators. We neglected to tell you how the San Jose game turned out, but as you probably guessed judging for the halftime score, the Glads did go on to win…BIG time. They beat the SaberCats 82-21. Franchise- and AFL season-highs in points scored, and, by one point, missed the league record for most lopsided win (Albany over Texas in 1996).
On a semi-related note, Coach Siegfried’s previous employer, the Jacksonville Sharks (13-1), clinched the American Conference’s South Division with their win over Tampa Bay last night, in addition to the No. 1 playoff seed. This leaves three more playoff spots for the Power to chase with four games left, including a nationally-televised contest against the host Orlando Predators this approaching Friday at 8:00.
This is a little later than normal, and I apologize, but I found them late…the official post-game awards:
Offensive Player of the Game: Eley Jr.
Defensive POTG: Lay
Highlight of the Game: DeWalt game-tying TD at the end (obviously)
Catch of the Game: Irving Campbell’s TD
Player of the Game: Eley Jr.
The ones I voted for that came to fruition, just FYI, were Washington and DeWalt as Ironman of the Game. I submitted my pick for Highlight of the Game before the final seconds (ballots are usually collected early in the 4th quarter); at the time, my vote was a tie between DeWalt’s and Lay’s INT’s. I voted for Milwaukee’s Kelvin Rodgers for Defensive POTG.
Final thoughts in the aftermath of a seemingly miraculous comeback…
This game, although it certainly ended up the way we wanted it to, was ugly on multiple fronts. It was the second straight home game in which the Power scored 40 points or less at home (4th time that’s happened at home this year), and it was another game in which, as a player, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a flag. I clocked the official game time at 2 hours, 47 minutes, but it felt like 20 hours, 47 minutes. By that same token, I’m all for letting the players decide the outcome, and in some ways, at the risk of sounding like a whiny yinzer, I don’t feel that happened.
Siegfried is right; officiating in the AFL is tough to sharpen, just because of the nature of the game, and the job turnover. But given some of the highly questionable stuff we’ve seen the last few games–calls that have gone for and against the Power–without much apparent accountability, it’s something the league absolutely, positively must improve upon if it wishes not to look less than professional. Again, Siegfried’s point is well taken; it’s up to the players to handle their business. But honestly, it felt at one point like the Power were being legislated out of this game, for lack of a better word. It just doesn’t feel right.
And on that note, I’ll step off my soapbox and applaud the guts the Pittsburgh Power showed last night, and continue to show at home. Now I see what Gary Butler meant when he talks about how much of a kick the team, particularly the Pittsburgh guys, gets out of playing at home…especially the defense. That group definitely got its pride back, and played with more of it in Saturday night’s victory, particularly the defensive line. That unit did a good job pressuring Guidugli in the first half. I thought they gave him a little too much time in the second half, but boy, did they save their best for last. Blocking two field goals in an AFL game is mighty impressive, especially at crucial times. Speaking of Guidugli, I give him credit for playing well enough for the Mustangs to steal the upset (and not just because he’s a UC guy, either). He started slow, but got better as the game unfolded, and he put his team in position to win, which is all a coach can ask of an unproven QB.
I could say the same for Chris Wallace. It appears Siegfried pushed the right buttons when it came to finding a temporary replacement for Bernard Morris. Yes, we’d like to see more productivity, but we also can’t let the scoreboard fool us, because Wallace, like his young counterpart, made some veteran plays with an offense he is still learning to work with, and like Guidugli, ultimately put his team in position to win. Having said that, it’s nice that the Power added to their depth at QB (they needed to), but this simply isn’t the same team without Morris, so fingers crossed that he’s back Friday.
By the way, just throwing this out there…if the AFL were to give a Playmaker of the Year Award this year, I’d give serious consideration to DeWalt, and I’d seriously consider him for the Ironman of the Year honor that the AFL does, in fact, present annually. I know from experience he’s soft-spoken, but he’s done a great job letting his play on both sides of the ball do the talking for him, and he’s been one heck of a clutch player.
Consistency and improving upon consistency will be crucial for the Power moving toward Friday’s game. This team needs to finish a little stronger, and execute a little better…particularly in the third quarter, as multiple personnel said. Orlando is a season team that is loaded on both sides of the ball, so let’s just say the Power might not be as fortunate as they were on Saturday if the mistakes continue to add up.
Phew…that just about does it…the live blog will return for the regular season home finale on Sun., July 10, that aforementioned meeting with the Arizona Rattlers. In the meantime, be sure to revisit 937thefan.com this week for coverage of the Power’s matchup with the Preds!