SAN JOSE -- Facing off for the second time in just over a month to start the 2014 season, the San Jose SaberCats (3-3) escaped the Portland Thunder (0-5) 38-32 at the Moda Center in Portland on Friday night. Quarterback Russ Michna delivered a win thanks to a 19-for-29 performance for 250 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie wide receiver Doug Williams, in his first AFL contest, caught six passes for 108 yards and two scores.
Portland opened up the contest with the football, but a fumbled snap at midfield was recovered by SaberCats defensive back Simeon Castille. On San Jose’s first offensive play from scrimmage, Michna connected with rookie Doug Williams for a diving catch, the first of his AFL career, but the ball was stripped and recovered by the Portland defense. On the ensuing possession, quarterback Kyle Rowley drove the Thunder down the San Jose two-yard line, only to be intercepted by defensive back Clevan Thomas. On the next SaberCats possession, fullback Odie Armstrong was stripped by Portland linebacker Ayo Idowu, and Idowu carried the ball into the end zone to put the Thunder up, 7-0. On the following kick off, the newest member of the Portland Thunder, fullback Dustin Risseeuw, came up with the net recovery giving Portland prime field position.
After a sack from linebacker Francis Maka, a field goal from kicker Michael Braunstein pushed the Thunder lead up to 10-0. On the next SaberCats possession, the offense finally got on track as Michna connected with wide receiver Dominique Curry from 17-yards out to cut in the Portland lead at 10-7. Portland would answer right back, as Rowley connected with wide receiver Douglas McNeill for a 15-yard fourth down conversion touchdown. However, the kick was no good, putting the Thunder up 16-7. After another net recovery by Risseeuw, the SaberCats defense forced a turnover on downs. With the offense back on the field, Michna connected with Doug Williams for a diving 15-yard touchdown, bringing San Jose within two points. After recovering an onside kick attempt, Braunstein converted his second field goal of the half, putting the Thunder up 19-14. With two seconds remaining, SaberCats kicker Nich Pertuit knocked through a 23-yard field goal, bringing the half time score to Thunder 19, San Jose 17.
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Michna was intercepted by Portland defensive back Eric Crocker. Two plays later, Risseeuw reached the end zone from one-yard out, but another missed extra point kept the score at 25-17. On the next possession, backup quarterback Nathan Stanley entered the contest and promptly connected on a 22-yard pitch and catch with Doug Williams for a touchdown, bringing San Jose within one at 25-24. On the ensuing drive, Thunder wide receiver Duane Brooks coughed up the football and it was recovered by Thomas. After a crucial fourth down penalty on the Thunder, Michna reached the end zone on a one-yard keeper, giving the SaberCats their first lead of the night at 31-25.
Opening up the fourth quarter on fourth down, Rowley hooked up with McNeil for a 48-yard touchdown, putting Portland back up 32-31. After a long pass to Harper, Michna was intercepted by Thunder defensive back Varmah Sonie in the end zone. However, Portland wouldn’t capitalize on the extra possession, as they turned the ball over on downs deep in SaberCats territory. Michna would make up from his previous mistake, converting a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rod Harper to put San Jose back on top, 38-32. With 48 seconds remaining, the SaberCats pass defense shut down Rowley to force a turnover on downs. San Jose would proceed to run out the clock, clinching the 38-32 road victory.
The SaberCats are back in action next Saturday, April 26 as they head down south to face the LA KISS at the Honda Center at 7:00 pm. The game can be found on the radio on KNBR 1050 and on Comcast Sports Net.
Courtesy San Jose SaberCats media services