March 12, 2011SABERCATS PAGE
San Jose SaberCats football returned with a bang Friday night before a raucous crowd at HP Pavilion as the three-time ArenaBowl champion SaberCats topped the 2010 AFL champion Spokane Shock 76-48. QB Mark Grieb was excited with what he saw on the field tonight in the teams first game since July 27, 2008.There was a lot of anticipation with this game, how its going to be and not knowing what kind of team you are going to have because there are so many new guys, but I thought we really saw some guys step up tonight, said QB Mark Grieb. He threw for 222 yards and six touchdowns increasing his total to 721, completing 84 percent (21-25) of his passes in his 97th consecutive start. On the defensive side of the ball, DL Gabe Nyenhuis showed why he was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, providing constant pressure on QB Kyle Rowley and helped force him into three interceptions thanks to a strong all-around defensive effort.The SaberCats also enjoyed contributions from FBLB Chad Cook, who set a single-game career high with three rushing touchdowns while WR Nichiren Flowers tied a single-game career high with four touchdown receptions.
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Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns by SaberCats rookie defensive backs Dwight Mclean and Courtney Smith, marking only the fourth time in franchise history the team had two returned for touchdowns. The Shock kicked off to start the game and the kick struck the scoreboard hanging over midfield giving the SaberCats the ball at their 20-yard line. Two plays later at the 13:29 mark, quarterback Mark Grieb found veteran wide receiver Rodney Wright in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown pass to put the 'Cats on the board.Kicker Juan Gamboa converted the extra point to give San Jose a 7-0 lead. A mishandled squib kickoff by Gamboa pinned Spokane back to their 5-yard line to begin their drive, and the interception of a bobbled pass by San Jose defensive back Courtney Smith was returned for a 16-yard touchdown to put the 'Cats up 14-0 with 10:59 remaining in the first quarter.The Shock answered back with a 16-yard pass from Shock quarterback Kyle Rowley to WR Raul Vigil set up a two-yard touchdown pass to receiver Markee White bringing Spokane to within seven at 14-7 with 8:04 remaining in the opening quarter.Gamboa continued to pin the Shock deep in their own territory with a kickoff between the goal posts that set Spokane back at their own three-yard line to start the drive. Three completions by Shock quarterback Rowley pushed the ball into SaberCats territory and a long touchdown pass to wide receiver Markee White cut the SaberCats lead to six at 20-14 with 1:30 remaining in the opening quarter. An electrifying kickoff return that saw Mervin Brookins fumble to ball directly into the arms of Dwight Mclean gave the SaberCats the ball in Shock territory, and on the first play of the drive Grieb hit Goodson for a 25-yard touchdown pass highlighted by Goodson shaking free of his defender at the ten-yard line on his way to the end zone to put the SaberCats up 27-14.Once again Gamboa pinned the Shock deep inside their own five yard-line with a kickoff low off the net. Two Spokane completions and a personal foul penalty against the 'Cats gave the Shock a first down at the SaberCats ten-yard line. Two plays later Dwight Mclean picked off a Rowley pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to put the 'Cats up 34-14 with 10:56 remaining in the half.Starting from their own five-yard line, Spokane quarterback Kyle Rowley completed three quick passes to drive the Shock inside the SaberCats ten yard-line with fourteen seconds remaining in the half, and a pass interference penalty against San Jose in the end zone gave Spokane the ball at their one-yard line. Rowley barely escaped pressure put on by defensive lineman George Hypolite to throw the ball away with five seconds remaining before he scored on a quarterback sneak to bring the Shock within 21, at 48-27.The SaberCats took over the second half, never allowing the Shock to pull within 14 points. Chad Cook punched the ball into the end zone two more times as the SaberCats closed out the Shock. The offense scored a touchdown on every drive expect the final one as the team capped off their return to the AFL with a dominating performance at HP Pavilion.San Jose (1-0) will take on Kansas City (0-0) next week in their second home game of the season.