By Matt Popchock
We are live at CONSOL Energy Center, where the eight-month itch for fans of the Arena Football League has come to an end! The Pittsburgh Power get set to host their cross-state rivals in the American Conference’s East Division, the Philadelphia Soul.
The Power are coming off a 40-26 in Orlando over the Predators two weeks ago, while the Soul prevailed in a 63-62 nail-biter over the VooDoo in New Orleans last Sunday to begin their season.
Last year the Soul inaugurated this building with a 58-52 overtime win on NFL Network, which is in the house for this contest as well. The visiting Power repaid Philly in their regular season finale, a 61-48 victory at the Wells Fargo Center, led by tonight’s starting QB, former Seton-LaSalle/Pitt product Bill Stull.
We’ll have periodic updates throughout the game, so stay tuned!
7:30 – Probable starters for both teams:
POWER: Bill Stull (QB); Tyre Young (FB); Mike Washington, Lonnell DeWalt, P.J. Berry (WR); Moqut Ruffins, Mike Lucian (G); Beau Elliott (C); Justin Parrish, Anthony DeGrate (DE); DeWalt (MLB); Bryan Williams, Chris LeFlore, LaRico Stevenson (DB); Collin Wagner (K); Berry (KR)
PHILADELPHIA: Dan Raudabaugh (QB); Derrick Ross (FB); Donovan Morgan, “Tiger” Jones, Jeff Hughley (WR); Brennen Carvahlo (C); Christian Johnson (G); Zipp Duncan (TE); Dustin Barno (DE); Darnell Campbell (NG); “Dusty” Bear (MLB); Joe Goosby (JLB); Tanner Varner, Rayshaun Kizer, Micheaux Robinson (DB); Phil Marfuggi (K); Hughley (KR)
Most of the Power’s projected opening night roster is still intact after the brief players’ strike. Notable absences include quarterback Kyle Rowley, defensive back Josh Lay, and veteran nose guard Neil Purvis. I talked to team owner Matt Shaner earlier this week, and he believes Lay and Purvis will eventually re-sign with the Power.
Former Dave Wannstedt-era Pitt starters Ricky Gary and Oderick Turner are listed as backups. Former Sto-Rox QB Adam DiMichele is Raudabaugh’s backup, and will hold for kicker Marfuggi.
7:35 – The pyrotechnic archway the team uses to take the field has been wheeled out. Incidentally, the team is planning to put on the “biggest indoor fireworks show in United States” history at halftime, so it should be interesting to see how they pull that off. (And no, it won’t be a team meal. Trust me, I’ve heard ’em all…)
7:40 – Young Sam Werner of the Post-Gazette is seated to my right, and off in the distance is the “Pittsburgh Power Green Man.” Oddly enough, they’re both wearing green. And this time there’s another one, in a patriotic-looking body suit…yikes…
7:45 – “Whip It” by Devo greets the Soul as they take the field. A smattering of boos, but to their credit, their fans travel well. They always have.
7:48 – An unfamiliar sound (that hard core rap cover of “Crazy Train,” can’t remember who sings it), followed by a familiar sound (“Thunderstruck”) greets the Power as they take the field.
7:52 – Definitely not as big a crowd as the last home opener, though, given recent events, that’s to be expected. Stull gets a good round of applause, some folks standing.
8:00 – Power win the coin toss, defer to second half. Common strategy. Dueling chants between Philly and Pittsburgh fans (will do courtesy of not reprinting all of them).
8:07 – Hughley finds a seam, takes kickoff to Pittsburgh 20.
8:09 – Pass interference on LeFlore for tying up Morgan, so says referee Joe Pester. Half the distance, 1st and goal.
8:10 – Morgan gets around LeFlore and scores in the far corner. He had five TD grabs here last year. Marfuggi’s extra point works. Philly 7, Power 0. 12:45 left, 1st.
8:11 – Berry tackled by Hughley on ensuing kick return. Power start at own 6.
8:13 – Power aided by illegal defense called against Goosby after Washington couldn’t come up with one over the middle he normally grabs…
8:15 – Touchdown Power! Stull downfield to–guess who–Washington, on the right side, in man coverage. 5th of the year. Wagner’s first extra point clangs off the right upright. I’m chalking that one up to nerves (AFL debut tonight). Philly 7, Power 6. 9:47 left, 1st.
8:18 – Touchdown Power! On the ensuing kickoff, Bryan Williams recovers the ball off the post, in the back corner. A legal play in arena football. Wagner misses another, so it remains 12-7 Power, 8:55 left, 1st quarter.
8:21 – Morgan holds off despite getting drilled over the wall in front of the camera booth. No idea how he hung on. LaRico Stevenson right back on the horse with a pass breakup the next play.
8:23 – Morgan beats LeFlore again in the back corner, near side, this time. Good toss by Raudabaugh. Marfuggi puts it through…14-12 Philly, 5:59 left, 1st.
Morgan now has two TD’s in each of his first two games. That’ll be an interesting matchup with LeFlore; the former Dallas DB had a big interception two weeks ago that preserved a halftime tie.
8:27 – Soul special teams doing a good job on Berry so far. Long field to go.
8:30 – Touchdown Power! On 3rd and short, with DeWalt driving the car, Young, a powerful man if there ever were one (no pun intended) scores from 4 away. First TD with the Power…and he just threw up on the field. Wow. Good news is, extra point is good. 19-14 Power, 1:53 left, 1st.
8:37 – There was a delay while they cleaned the–uh, stuff–off the turf. Game has resumed. Stevenson and DeWalt playing together on special teams.
8:38 – We have a Vinnie sighting! Our beloved midday host is sitting all the way up front, in a Toe Blake hat! Oh my…
8:40 – Ugh. Backup DB John Green picks off Raudabaugh, but loses the ball before the end zone. Jones recovers for a touchback…and there was a penalty against the Power on the runback. Illegal block, or so it appeared. Green needed to secure that ball, either way, and he never did.
8:41 – 2nd down and 5 for Philly when 2nd quarter starts. Power 19, Soul 14.
Bill Stull: 7 of 8, 73 yds, TD in 1st quarter.
Morgan: 5 rec., 45 yds, 2 TD
8:46 – Derrick Ross, the leading fullback in the AFL in 2011, dinks and dunks the Power’s D, breaking open for a diving 15-yard TD. 2nd TD this year. Marfuggi further quiets the crowd. Poor tackling there all around. Power trailing 21-19, 13:14 left, 2nd.
8:48 – Bryan Williams gathers in a squib kick to the Philly 20, but takes a pounding in the process.
8:49 – A healthy Berry picks up his second 1st down of the night. Power on the move.
8:51 – Young is back in there, amazingly…and he sets up a lollipop from Stull to wide-open tight end Ruffins. 1st TD in a Power uniform. 2nd TD of the night for Stull. Ruffins getting involved with one of the Soul after a choreographed celebration that, interestingly, wasn’t called (I’ve seen other refs do that) after Wagner’s kick is made. 26-21 Power, 10:27 left, 2nd.
8:54 – Wagner saves a touchdown. Hughley has been able to do what he wants for the most part. Soul have the ball at midfield.
8:57 – Ross finds a hole on the left side and scores standing up this time. 2nd of the game for him. Marfuggi converts, and it’s 28-26 Philly, 7:55 left, 2nd quarter.
9:02 – Berry broke loose and looked like the might’ve had daylight, but fumbled. Keon Perry on the return. 1st and goal at the 5.
9:04 – LeFlore with a breakup in the back corner of the end zone after it looked like he had been beat.
9:05 – On 3rd and goal, Raudabaugh finds Morgan again. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Power getting sloppy as Dominie Pittman runs into Marfuggi, who still converts. 35-26 Philly, 4:31 left, 2nd quarter.
Another recurring theme from Power’s last game against Raudabaugh–they’ve barely gotten any pressure on him in this half.
9:10 – Bryan Robinson sacks Stull. First of the game for either team.
9:11 – Touchdown Power! Randy Hymes, the former Baltimore Raven, gets separation and pulls it in along the far sideline. 2nd for Hymes in as many games. 3rd for Stull. Wagner is true, and the Power cut the deficit to 35-33, 2:11 left, 2nd quarter.
9:13 – Power try going onside (another thing not uncommon in the AFL), but the crew decides the kick didn’t go the required distance, nor stay within the field of play. Siegfried tries to challenge, nothing doing. Could’ve gone either way, I think.
9:17 – 1-minute warning. 1st and goal Philly from the 7.
9:20 – Raudabaugh is picked off by Stevenson! Just stepped right in front of the intended target at the 3. The 2011 returnee gives the Power the ball at their own 5.
9:22 – Timeout Philly, its first. 43 seconds left. 3rd and middle distance…and now 4th, as Washington can’t make the chains on a pitch right.
9:23 – Timeout Power, one left. 39 seconds left. (Not sure what happened to the first timeout, but oh well…)
9:24 – Stull overthrows Washington deep. Way too high, even for Joystick. This was a problem for the Power last year; when their defense did generate stops, they had a hard time getting out of their own way.
9:27 – A touchdown run by Ross up the near wall is under review. Another close one. I think referee Pester’s decision will depend on point of contact, and that’s hard to tell from where I’m sitting.
9:30 – They give it to Ross. Silver lining is, Marfuggi’s extra point clangs off the right upright, so it’s a one-possession game, and the Power get the ball back to start the second half. Philly 41, Power 33.
So far the biggest plays in this game are the ones the Power haven’t taken advantage of…
9:40 – Stull 14 of 18, 143 yds, 3 TD in 1st half. Raudabaugh 13 of 20, 104 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT. Morgan: 9 catches, 67 yds, 3 TD. Washington: 5 catches, 44 yds, TD. Stevenson 3.5 tackles. Hughley 4 kick returns for 99 yards.
Like I said, the Power are still very much in this thing. Need to return to consistency on offense, and get Washington and Berry more involved. Credit Philadelphia’s veteran secondary for shadowing those two.
9:43 – Thanks to Berry, Power start at own 17. Best return of the night.
9:45 – Touchdown Power! Two plays, 20 yards to Hymes, all alone down the near side. His 2nd of the night. 4th for Stull, who continues to manage the game pretty well. Wagner’s kick is good. 13:13 left, 3rd quarter; Power trail 41-40.
(Non-sequitor: the smoke from the fireworks show is still hanging over the field. Yow…)
9:48 – Derrick Ross gets a friendly bounce, recovering his own fumble. Leads to a 1st down. DC Derek Stingley can’t believe it.
9:49 – Soul strike back with a 20-dart over the middle to Jones. LeFlore is getting beat like he stole something. Marfuggi converts, putting Philly up 48-40. 10:18 left, 3rd quarter.
9:53 – Philly gets a bounce of its own on special teams. Williams can’t recover the kick, and the Soul score on the next play. Raudabaugh to Brackins. 1st of the year for the AFL veteran. Marfuggi converts, and as was the case in 2011, the third quarter is a bugaboo for the Power. 55-40 Philly, 9:07 left in the period.
9:57 – Touchback. Hate to say it, but special teams battle, which has loomed large in this game, belongs to the Soul right now.
Announced attendance is 7,094.
9:59 – Hymes sheds a tackle and nears goes all the way. Showing why the NFL took a chance on him years ago.
10:01 – Touchdown Power! Joystick, unattended to, catches a “jumper” from Stull. Defensive offside waved off. 5th of the game for Stull, 2nd for Washington. Wagner’s kick is good, and the Power, down 55-47, need a stop with 5:47 left in the 3rd.
10:03 – DeWalt recovers an onside kick, but Ruffins fumbles, and Kent Richardson recovers near midfield. Again, story of the game.
10:04 – LeFlore picks off Raudabaugh in the end zone! Wow. Jones was the intended target.
10:07 – Rayshaun Kizer jumps a route and picks off Stull near the end zone. Not Stull’s fault. Good read (hey, he wasn’t First Team All-Arena for nothing…).
10:11 – Wow! Raudabaugh fumbles in Power territory, and Justin Parrish takes it to the house, nearly untouched! People going nuts at CEC…Richardson blocks extra point, takes it the other way up the sideline for two points. End of 3rd quarter; Philly 57, Power 53.
Filled out my game awards ballot a while back. Pretty even-Steven tonight. Win or lose, I think Stull has looked pretty good. Secondary has been gashed, but consider the opponent.
Stull 21/27 254 yds 5 TD 1 sack 1 INT
Raudabaugh 18/27 177 6 TD 1 sack 1 fumble 2 INT
10:20 – Morgan with his 4th of the night on a 35-yard bomb. Stevenson and LeFlore getting humbled this time. Extra point by Marfuggi is good. 64-53 Philly, 13:06 left in the game.
10:23 – An egregious facemask endured by Berry gives the Power better field position, out near own 20.
10:24 – Give the Power more penalty yardage; Washington was interfered with over the middle. Ball beyond midfield.
I believe Power’s best home field output in 2011 was 58 points. They could surpass that here.
10:27 – And they did! Stull puts it on 3rd down where only DeWalt could get it! 1st of the year for him, 6th TD pass of the night for Stull. They can’t hook up again on a two-point try, and it’s 64-59 in favor of Philly with 8:33 left in the game.
In any event, that was a nice play by DeWalt in traffic. Props to Stull, a relatively inexperienced AFL quarterback, for not being afraid to throw that one to that player.
10:31 – M. Robinson returns an onside kick for an easy score. Marfuggi converts. 71-59 Philly, 7:44 left in the game.
10:35 – Four and out for the Power. Receivers and QB just not on the same page on that drive. Looking like the expansion team we saw here roughly a year ago. Moments later, Ross, on the ground, to the house. That’s probably a dagger. Power trailing 78-59 with 4:36 left as Marfuggi converts. The exodus begins…
Philly fans taking up a “We Got This” chant (their official team slogan for 2012). To the victor go the bragging rights, but number one, there’s no victor yet, and number two, it’s game two of 18.
10:40 – Berry takes it back to midfield. This is where, as a coach, you want to see who’s still fighting.
10:42 – Power were driving, but Stull was hit as he threw, and Goosby twists the dagger with a pick-six. 1-minute warning. Let’s see if Andrico Hines gets playing time, or if Stull finishes. Marfuggi clangs it, wide left. 84-59 Philly.
Rough 4th quarter for Stull. Too bad, he was keeping the Power in this game. Getting beaten by a team that’s a little bit better right now, and a little bit more experienced.
10:47 – I’m hearing rumors that disgruntled ex-Power QB Kyle Rowley was in the building. Can not confirm. Meanwhile, Kent Richardson gets in front of Hymes and picks Stull off in the end zone.
10:49 – Philadelphia 84, Power 59–final.
Power go to 1-1, Soul advance to 2-0. Power in Milwaukee this approaching Thursday.
Offensive POTG – Morgan
Defensive POTG – Stevenson
Ironman – B. Williams
Playmaker of the Game – Morgan
Cutters Catch of the Game – LeFlore INT
Highlight of the Game – Parrish fumble return TD
Game MVP – Morgan
Press conference highlights:
Head coach Chris Siegfried talked a lot about the turnovers, of which the Power had six to Philadelphia’s three (not counting the botched kickoff reception), and he also talked about the need for guys to “look in the mirror”:
Defensive back Chris LeFlore talked about a tough night for the secondary:
Fellow DB LaRico Stevenson also talked about how the team needs to grow from this game:
Wide receiver Mike Washington believes team unity will only continue to strengthen:
And of course, the local boy, Bill Stull, broke it all down for us:
Stull: 26/42, 290 yds, 6 TD, 3 INT, sacked twice
Raudabaugh: 19/29, 201, 7 TD, 2 INT, fumble
Ross: 9 rush, 35 yds, 3 TD; 16-yd TD rec.
Young: 5 rush, 23 yds, TD
Washington: 9 catches, 80 yds, 2 TD
Hymes: 7 catches, 112 yds, 2 TD
Morgan: 12 catches, 112 yds, 4 TD
Berry: 211 all-purpose yds; 162 on kick returns
Hughley: 150 all-purpose yds; 139 on kick returns
Richardson: 5 tackles (4 solo), fumble recovery, INT
Stevenson: 5.5 tackles (3 solo), INT
LeFlore: 3.5 tackles (2 solo), INT
Were you aware? -This game set records for the most points scored by the Power at home, and the most points allowed by them in a single home game.
At the risk of sounding like an apologist, the final score, I think, is deceiving. The Power were in this game until the fourth quarter, when they were outscored 27-6, including some points in garbage time, and it all just sort of came crashing down. Stull took some heat via social media as the game wound down, which I don’t get–not yet, anyway. Did he finish this one poorly? Yes. But was there some consistency to the Power’s offense under his command? Yes. You’ll never hear him, nor any of his teammates, make excuses, but I’m not willing to listen to this criticism until I see whether or not they do what any player worth his salt would do: learn from it, and get better. Realistically, this is one of the best opponents the Power will face all season, if not the best. Tonight that opponent simply played better. Swallow your pride and give them credit. Stull wasn’t really pressing or making bad decisions with the ball until Philadelphia started really pulling away, and it became apparent he would have to be flawless to win. Translation: I don’t pin this loss on him.
In a lot of ways, this was a photo negative of the 2011 season; when the Power really had their chances to seize the reins of this contest, they couldn’t get out of their own way. Furthermore, they resembled that 2011 expansion squad a little too closely with all the turnovers. We saw mistakes tonight that veteran players aren’t supposed to make. This was the first game the Power’s original 24-man roster was (largely) together, and that’s probably a factor. But again, you’ll never hear the players use that as a crutch. They said the right things afterward, and this team appears better equipped to pick itself up mentally after getting knocked down.
Elsewhere in the division: The Cleveland Gladiators won their home opener over the Kansas City Command, 49-39, and the Milwaukee Mustangs won in New Orleans, 65-42, over the VooDoo.
Next week: The Power visit the Mustangs Thursday night at 8:00.
Join us in two weeks for our next live blog, when the Power host the Iowa Barnstormers (Kurt Warner’s old team) Fri., Apr. 6 for a 7:30 P.M. kickoff.
(Follow the Power on Twitter @AFLPittsburgh.)
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)