RiverRats Fall to Mississippi in Season Opener
The Pittsburgh RiverRats lost their inaugural game to the Mississippi Mudcats at the BancorpArena in Tupelo, by a score of 54-34. The RiverRats were lead by QB David Dinkins who threw 5 touchdown passes, including 4 to wideout Garvin Graves and the other to Tywan Napper. Pittsburgh (0-1) struck first, scoring on its first offensive play from scrimmage with a long pass resulting in the first of Graves' touchdowns on the night.
The RiverRats then added a point by stopping the kick returner in the endzone by its special teams unit to take a quick 8-0 lead.
However, disaster struck on their first defensive possession when 2 RiverRat starters, DT Anthony Rose (shoulder) and LB Mike Broadnax (knee) were both forced to leave the game, neither to return to action the rest of the night. Coach Shawn Liotta was forced to go deep into the depth chart and make several unplanned changes to his lineup for the rest of the night.
Mississippi (1-0) quickly took advantage of the RiverRats' injury problems and led by QB Tommy Jones, got its offense untracked and eventually took the lead 28-20 late in the second quarter. However, the RiverRats responded with Dinkins' 3rd touchdown pass to Graves and the subsequent 2-point conversion just before halftime sent both teams to their lockerrooms tied at 28.
Both teams traded quick touchdowns to begin the second half, but then the Mudcats took control of the game for good as the RiverRats weren't able to generate significant pressure on QB Jones, who connected on 3 more TD passes to wideouts Darryl Carter and Josh Smith. Mississippi iced the game by intercepting RiverRats QB Dinkins twice in the end zone to end potential scoring drives.
After the game, Coach Liotta addressed the media. "With the injury problems we sustained early in the game, I was proud of the way our guys battled them till the end, in the second half we just ran out of firepower. We showed here tonight with a long road trip and all the injuries, playing against what I think will be the top team in the Southern Conference, that we have potential to be a force in the AIFA title chase this season."
Looking ahead to the RiverRats' next game in 2 weeks, Liotta commented "we're glad to have a week off to correct our mistakes and perhaps make some personnel changes. We'll work hard to fix our mistakes from tonight and we're now turning our attention towards Reading in Northern Conference play."
The RiverRats are off this week, and will return to AIFA action on Sunday, February 18th at 5:00 in their home opener against the Reading Express at the Rostraver Gardens Ice Arena in Belle Vernon.
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