SAN JOSE -– The San Jose SaberCats (7-4) fell to the Arizona Rattlers (11-0) 51-42 at the US Airways Center in Phoenix on Saturday night in front of 12,094 fans. Quarterback Nick Davila, appearing in only the second half, led the Rattlers to victory by completing 15 of 19 throws for 136 yards and four touchdowns. The SaberCats closed the Arizona lead to two points midway through the fourth quarter, but couldn’t quite get over the final hump as the Rattlers held on for the victory, and in the process clinched the Western Division.
Looking for a quick start, the SaberCats offense scuffled early and turned the ball over on downs on their first possession. Capitalizing on the short field, starting quarterback Jason Murrieta spotted wide receiver Rod Windsor on a quick pass for a two-yard touchdown to give Arizona the early 7-0 lead. Looking to get those points right back, quarterback Russ Michna drove the offense down the field, eventually finding wide receiver Dominique Curry for the eight-yard touchdown connection to tie the game at seven.
On the Rattlers next play from scrimmage, legendary defensive back Clevan Thomas intercepted a deep pass to give the ball right back to San Jose.
Opening the second quarter in the red zone as backup quarterback Nathan Stanley entered the game for Michna, he connected with Curry on a four-yard fade route to give the SaberCats their first lead of the night at 14-7. After a San Jose fumble recovery touchdown was overturned as an incomplete pass, the SaberCats defense came up with a turnover on downs inside their own five-yard line.
On the ensuing possession, Stanley would be sacked by defensive lineman Anttaj Hawthorne who forced a fumble, and it was recovered by Rattlers defensive back Arkeith Brown for a touchdown to tie the game at 14. Trying to bounce back, the SaberCats offense stalled out for a turnover on downs with 38 seconds left in the first half. Managing the final minute clock, Murrieta orchestrated a drive that ended with a Kerry Reed touchdown catch with just 3.1 seconds left in the half to put Arizona back in front.
Looking for one last big play, Stanley was intercepted by defensive back Jeremy Kellem in the end zone to end the first half.
On the first play of the second half, Murrieta was picked off by Simeon Castille, and he took it back the other way for a touchdown to tie the game at 21 all. Davila would check in for the first time, and quickly led the offense to a score, an eight-yard hook up with wide receiver Nick Miller to give Arizona the lead back at 28-21.
The Rattlers would continue to apply the pressure, as defensive lineman Cliff Dukes got to Stanley in the end zone for a safety, extending the lead to nine points. Davila would continue his efficient night, this time connecting with Windsor for a 14-yard touchdown, giving Arizona the 16 point advantage. The SaberCats wouldn’t go away just yet, as a long drive ended with a Stanley one-yard touchdown run to cut the Rattlers lead to 37-28.
Continuing to impress in the second half, Davila connected with Windsor for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter and extend the Arizona lead to 44-28. Stanley would answer right back, finding wide receiver Jason Willis for a 26-yard touchdown, bringing the SaberCats within nine. A mistake would give the ball back to San Jose, as a fumbled snap was recovered by defensive lineman Jason Stewart at the Arizona 19-yard line. Stanley would find wide receiver Rod Harper on the next play from scrimmage to bring San Jose within two at 44-42.
On the ensuing possession, Davila worked the clock and found Reed for the nine yard touchdown, putting Arizona back up 51-42. Looking to get back in it in the final minute, Stanley’s pass bounced up off the back netting and was intercepted by Kellem, sealing the 51-42 victory for Arizona.
Courtesy San Jose SaberCats media relations.