October 18, 2009 - United Football League (UFL) - California Redwoods
SAN FRANCISCO (October 17, 2009) - In the California Redwoods home opener tonight at AT&T Park, running back Cory Ross rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown, and wide receiver Doug Gabriel had 6 receptions for 70 yards, propelling the Redwoods to a 24-7 win over the New York Sentinels.
Redwoods' quarterback Mike McMahon, making his first UFL start, opened the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kai Brown with 9:39 remaining in the first quarter.
Sentinels' quarterback Quinn Gray began the second quarter with a 9-yard pass to Koren Robinson to the Redwoods' 34-yard line. The Sentinels continued their methodical march down the field, culminating in a 2-yard scoring toss from Gray to running back Chris Barclay, tying the game at 7-7. A defensive struggle ensued for the remainder of the first-half, capped by defensive back Tony Tiller intercepting a McMahon pass on the Sentinels' 5-yard line, preventing the Redwoods from a go-ahead score.
After the teams traded possessions in the third quarter, the Redwoods returned a short punt to the Sentinels' 39-yard line. Four plays later, the Redwoods set up their second score of the game with an acrobatic catch by Gabriel at the 1-yard line. The catch was originally ruled a touchdown, but Sentinels' Head Coach Ted Cottrell challenged the spot of the reception, resulting in the call being overturned. The Redwoods would score on the following play with a 1-yard run over the right side by Ross. After the score, both teams were again unable to sustain drives.
Redwoods kicker Patrick Douglass converted a 42-yard field goal for California, with 11:45 remaining in the game to push the lead to 17-7. Head Coach Dennis Green would return to the ground game, running Ross and John David Washington, with Washington scoring his first career touchdown to close the scoring. McMahon completed 16 of 29 for 145 passing yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
The night began as 14-year old Thia Megia thrilled the crowd of 6,341 with an acapella version of the National Anthem. Larry Baer, President of the San Francisco Giants, and Redwoods Honorary Captain Arial Gariano, from the Children's Miracle Network, performed the coin toss. Arial, a brain cancer survivor, overcame Rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer requiring intensive chemotherapy and surgery to remove multiple tumors.
Below are quotes from tonight's post-game press conferences:
Redwoods Head Coach Dennis Green: Re: Game "It's great to play at home and get a win. It's off to a good start for us. We played much better defense, similar to how we started defensively last week. Pretty good feeling of urgency on defense. Offensively, we sputtered a lot. Sometimes we looked okay, sometimes not so good. But we did take advantage of some points there. We added eight new players last week and I think in our first game, despite the fact that we had a legitimate shot against Las Vegas last week, we're just too young. I think this is turning out to be an excellent league. The team to beat is Florida and they are loaded. They've got as much experience as most NFL teams with a lot of talent. We had to get older and more experienced very quickly and we did it and now we probably need another week of practice with these guys."
"Injury wise, we got banged up quite a bit. It was a very physical game and so we probably look like we got about two out of our four safeties injured, which is going to make it tough for us against Florida. Two of our six linebackers are injured, so we'll have to quickly get ready to play on Thursday. We'll fly into Florida on Wednesday and we're going to play an excellent football team."
Re: On Improvement In the Passing Game "We didn't throw the ball very well last week at all. I don't make excuses for football players - everybody's got to produce. Three of the receivers that played in that game are gone and I decided that we should change the quarterback also. And hopefully it will work for us."
"We ran a little bit better and I think that helped us. Cory Ross is a very good back. Last week he was injured - he ran well in the first half and didn't play at all in the second half. And that made a difference because we are trying to be a balanced football team. I thought our offensive line was solid - those guys did a good job. With exception of a couple of penalties, they did an excellent job. Adding Doug Gabriel helped us. Doug is a big-time player. You guys know him from the Raiders days - he can make plays down the field with the ball, also running the pass. I think the more he's in our system, that will help us."
Re: Thoughts on the UFL "I think it's a good balance. Florida is a solid team - they're a fabulous team. They've got 10 players that have been in the Super Bowl and 40 players that have been in the NFL. Tatum Bell, Michael Pittman - those guys can really run the ball. They've got speed at receiver, they've got linebackers. (Odell) Thurman is as good as any linebacker in the game. They are a very, very good football team. Las Vegas is an explosive team - they've got excellent backs and receivers, very strong defensively. California & New York - we're younger and as a result of that, we're not quite there, but I think both of us will improve enough to get there."
Re: On Other Differences From Last Week To This Week "Defensively, we created some turnovers and we took advantage of it. Last week, in the second half we didn't move the ball very well at all. We had a 14-3 lead going into halftime and getting the ball coming out. We did as about as many things wrong in the consistency of football as you can do. Today we didn't (have) quite as many mistakes and we got some key first downs when we had to control the ball."
Re: On How Many UFL Players Could Be Playing In the NFL Right Now "A lot of them. A lot of them have played in the NFL. You take the guys like Doug Gabriel - people give up on him and think it's over. People think that a 3 or 4 year career is all you get most of the time. We know that in the National Football League, there's always a great group of players coming. Mike McMahon can still play. Steve Edwards can still play."
Sentinels Head Coach Ted Cottrell: "The difference was really time of possession. They got their first downs. They were able to pick up yardage with first downs. They chewed up the clock. On the other side, we weren't able to stop them. In short that's what happened in the second half, they had the total yardage. We didn't stop them when we needed to. I thought the first half we played well, but the second half they got the upper hand especially at the very end."
Re: Quinn Gray "I thought we needed a boost. I was hoping he would have a longer time with the ball, the switch was made but they kept the ball away from us. He just didn't have a lot of time. I hope that Quinn finds a rhythm. We will stick with him next week, I just hope he finds a rhythm. Looking back, he settles in pretty good."
Re: California Redwoods "I think we have even talent, it's just the execution. We need to execute for example, we can slant and hit the receiver in stride, make a couple yards. It's nothing to do with time in the league, it's just about executing the play."
"We played pretty hard today. We need to get things straightened out and go in the right direction. But if we get a chance to make a play, we have to make the play. They'll come together. We'll keep working hard and that's all we can do."
On the UFL: It's a good brand of football. I hope more people watch and become UFL fans. There's hard tackles, hits, nice runs and catches. If you're a true football fan tune in, check us out. The league is giving a great opportunity to the young players to showcase their skills and live out their dream."
California Redwoods Quarterback Mike McMahon: "Today, there were some ups and downs. Did some good things but left some out there but what's important is that we got the win. I think the defense played exceptionally well and got us in good position. We had tremendous field position in the second half. The special teams did a great job. And then we started running the ball really well as well. We just need to clean it up and get on the right page. We can't turn the ball over. In crucial situations we need to call the time out and then make the play. We need to take care of the football."
On the interception: "I tried to force one I shouldn't have. They had good coverage on us, I tried to fit it in there and I saw the clock ticking down and tried to take a shot. I should have called a timeout, we had one left. Again, it was probably too risky of a situation to try and squeeze that in. It's my fault, but main thing is we kept plugging away and we got the win".
On California Redwoods WR Doug Gabriel: "He did a great job, came in this past week. We were only together, what 5 days. He knew the defense pretty well. Once he gets the ball in his hand, he definitely can make the run."