By Matt Popchock
Due to illness, there will be no regular edition of “The Power Source,” our new Pittsburgh Power podcast, this week. We apologize for the inconvenience, and we expect to resume production prior to Fri., Apr. 6, when the Power host the Iowa Barnstormers.
In the meantime, though, we would like to pass along a few notes and preliminary thoughts before tonight’s kickoff, as the Power (1-1) visit the East Division rival Milwaukee Mustangs (1-1).
The Power have welcomed back veteran defensive lineman Neil Purvis, who will be in uniform tonight. Last year, nary did a week pass in which the team only had to integrate one new player (in this case, a 2011 returnee) into the roster, so head coach Chris Siegfried considers this a breath of fresh air.
Furthermore, Purvis, who battled an ankle injury throughout the 2011 campaign, has a clean bill of health, per our conversation before Tuesday’s practice. He’s eager to set a physical tone in tonight’s game, and the Power are eager to watch him work. Purvis, who finished last year with 15 total tackles (12 solo) and 3.0 sacks over just nine games, has always been integral to Siegfried’s defensive scheming.
One of the men in the trenches he’ll be matched up against is Adam Tadisch. Tadisch was an outstanding offensive lineman with the Cleveland Gladiators in 2011, and was occasionally used as a pass-catching tight end.
It appears Purvis will not necessarily begin the game at nose guard, which is where we would normally expect to see him. He is listed at defensive end, with Justin Parrish at the other end and Callahan Bright at nose. Parrish recorded the Power’s first defensive touchdown of 2012 last Friday with a second-half fumble recovery and return of 40 yards. Bright, the former All-PIAA star and Florida State castoff, has impressed his coaches with his performance in practice–to say nothing of his useful girth (6’3″, 343 lbs.)–the past couple weeks.
Defensive back Josh Lay is reportedly not far from returning either. Siegfried says Lay is presently dealing with an issue involving his full-time job, but he said Monday he expects him back in the lineup soon. In fact, a conversation between Lay and fellow Pitt alumnus Jonathan Baldwin seen on Twitter corroborates this, and notes that Lay might be back in time for the Power’s Apr. 6 home contest.
The Power won both meetings from the Mustangs last season. Pittsburgh defeated Milwaukee 49-47 at the Bradley Center almost a year ago to the day, and they were victorious at CONSOL Energy Center, 39-38, June 25. Wide receiver/mac linebacker Lonnell DeWalt accounted for the winning TD catch in both games, including a buzzer-beater in the latter that set up a walk-off extra point. Last Friday he hauled in his first touchdown of the 2012 season.
Because these teams have staged wars of attrition, we’re going to keep an eye on fullback Tyre Young. Young shined as a rookie for Mustangs, then known as the Milwaukee Iron, in 2010, scoring 20 TD’s on the ground. Last year a conflict with his full-time job prevented him from playing football, but he and Siegfried, who had been after Young for some time, worked out an agreement for him to play this season.
Last week Young looked good in his Power debut, running for 23 yards and a score on five carries. As those in attendance observed, he got sick on the field, but Young was laughing about it when I brought it up before practice earlier this week, and attributes it to a mixture of medicine he took before the game that disagreed with him, combined with pregame nerves.
Young told me he is particularly eager to get involved in the Power’s offense tonight, and make some kind of a statement against his old team. In the AFL, players only have one-year contracts (the league designs them that way), but this one still means a great deal to Siegfried’s new fullback.
Generally he is pleased with the job he and the offensive line did keeping Bill Stull upright. Speaking of quarterbacks, Stull, who threw six TD’s and three INT’s while amassing 290 yards versus Philadelphia, will be opposed by former University of Cincinnati QB Gino Guidugli (coincidentally, a member of my freshman class), who got more comfortable with the Mustangs as he racked up playing time with that team during the second half of 2011.
Guidugli took the loss to the Power in that second meeting last season, and he has begun 2012 by throwing for ten touchdowns and over 600 yards in his first two outings. His passer rating stands at an impressive 121.3 entering tonight.
We said it throughout their inaugural season, and we can’t help but say it after last week’s game either: the Power have been their own worst enemy, and that problem has been punctuated by a lack of ball security. They turned it over seven times against the Soul. The bottom line is, if they don’t beat themselves, this team can beat the Mustangs.
You can watch the game live on the Pittsburgh Power’s Ustream channel. You can see it on tape delay Saturday night at 7:30 on WPCW-TV, as Bob Pompeani and Craig Wolfley bring you the action.
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)