SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose SaberCats (8-3) got back on the winning track Saturday night, defeating the Pittsburgh Power (3-8) 68-54 in front of 8,263 fans at HP Pavilion in a game of many firsts.
Quarterback Mitch Mustain, making his first career start, completed 21-of-37 passes for 250 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception. Pittsburgh’s David Cassidy, also in his first start of the season, threw for six touchdowns and 261 yards with one interception, while completing 19-of-41 passes. The win marked San Jose’s sixth in their last seven games, and improved their home record to 5-1 on the season.
San Jose’s own and the JLS Playmaker of the Game Fred Williams opened the night bringing back the kickoff to the Power’s six-yard line, which then set up Jabari Fletcher’s first rushing touchdown of his career. Williams would end the game with season-high 269 all-purpose yards and continuously gave the SaberCats great field position all night.
Following a missed extra point, Pittsburgh answered back with seven of their own on a 22-yard pass from Cassidy to Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game Mike Washington, giving Cassidy his first touchdown pass of the season.
On the ensuing drive, Fletcher logged his second rushing score of the game from seven yards out to put the SaberCats back on top 13-7. Once again, the Power marched down the field and Cassidy found receiver Oderick Turner in the end zone to take back the lead and make it 14-13.
In his first career start, ‘Cats quarterback Mitch Mustain connected with Williams to start the scoring in the second quarter. This 15-yard touchdown marked the eighth consecutive contest in which Williams has found end zone glory and more importantly, put the SaberCats back up 20-14.
Cassidy and Washington connected yet again, this time on a 35-yard pass along the wall, and the see-saw battle continued with San Jose’s Jason Willis high-stepping into the end zone to make it 27-21 in favor of San Jose. Cassidy’s first rushing touchdown of the year put the Power in front by one on the following drive.
Wide receiver Amarri Jackson joined the touchdown party and logged his first touchdown as a member of the SaberCats from 30-yards out, putting San Jose on top 33-28, which was the score after 30 minutes of play.
San Jose’s defense finally got that coveted fourth down stop and forced the Power to turn the ball over on downs to start the second half, which allowed the SaberCats to extend their lead to 40-28 on Fletcher’s third rushing score of the game.
Washington responded with his third receiving touchdown of the night, this time from 32 yards out and cut the lead to 40-34. San Jose kept their momentum going and answered the Power’s score with a 35-yard touchdown pass of their own from Mustain to Williams on the first play of the drive, extending the lead to 47-34.
Offensive lineman Jason Thomas powered his way to the end zone on the next Pittsburgh possession, giving him his first career reception and touchdown, yet again cutting into the San Jose lead to make it 47-41.
Williams surpassed his previous season high for touchdown receptions on his third score of the night and 12th this season to begin the fourth quarter, stretching the SaberCats’ lead to 54-41.
The dynamic San Jose defense responded on the following drive and refused to allow the Power to move the chains, forcing a second turnover on downs on the evening. The first offensive miscue for San Jose came on a fumble by Fletcher in the red zone, and the Power made that mistake count, as Cassidy’s touchdown strike to Julian Talley trimmed the lead to 54-48.
The Power’s Sergio Gilliam made the AFL Highlight of the Game when it mattered most, as he returned a Mustain pass 46 yards to the house, notching his fourth interception of the year.
Rauch had a chance to give the Power the lead yet again, however he missed the extra point wide right that left the score tied 54-54 with under one minute to play. The resilient Mustain shook off the turnover and was able to lead the ‘Cats down the field quickly and connected with Willis for a six-yard touchdown to put the SaberCats ahead 61-54 with only 12 seconds left in regulation.
Huey Whittaker showed why he was named the Riddell Defensive Player of the Game when he picked off Cassidy and strolled into the end zone from five yards away; ending all hopes of a Power comeback and making the score 68-54, which would be the final.
San Jose hits the road next week, as they are set to do battle with the Iowa Barnstormers (5-7) in Des Moines. The game will be broadcast live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and KNBR 1050 at 5:05 p.m. PT.
San Jose SaberCats Media Services contributed to this report.