Interceptions Propel Crush to 52-37 Win
DENVER -- It took a prodigious number of picks at the Pepsi Center to propel the Crush to its fifth win of 2005 and fourth in a row.
Delvin Hughley and Kevin McKenzie each ran back interceptions for touchdowns as the Colorado Crush (5-2) pulled away from the Columbus Destroyers (1-6) for a 52-37 win in front of 14,361 at Pepsi Center on Sunday afternoon.
Hughley and McKenzie's interception returns covered 48 and 39 yards, respectively, and came on back-to-back fourth-quarter possessions that transformed a close game into a rout. The pickoffs were part of a 24-0 second-half run that turned a 29-28 deficit into a 52-29 lead.
The special teams added another score when Andy McCullough recovered a kickoff in the end zone at the end of the first quarter, meaning that defense and special teams accounted for three of the Crush's seven touchdowns.
"It's a team game. Some days we've got to score 70-something points, some days they're going to score 21 like they did," quarterback John Dutton said. "So it was a big day for them. Now hopefully we can iron some things out offensively. "
McKenzie's interception was the one that turned the game. Colorado led 38-29, but the Destroyers were driving and appeared poised to score their fifth touchdown of the day before he leapt for the Ryan Vena pass while playing the restrictive box-linebacker position. McKenzie procured the pass and sprinted for the touchdown.
"If I didn't do it then, I probably wasn't going to get another opportunity like that," McKenzie said. "(Vena) was throwing the ball pretty low, and being very disrespectful in my house. My house is the box, and he was being very disrespectful, so I had to let him know that's my house, and you don't come up here, take off your shoes and change my TV channel while I'm chilling. You can't do that.
The interceptions also kept the Crush offense off the field in the final period. Colorado's offensive unit did not play a single snap for 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, and the team finished with just 188 total yards, the second-lowest in franchise history and the fewest since Feb. 22, 2004 at Chicago.
"We didn't panic offensively," Dutton said. "They took away a lot from us and we didn't make the plays that we needed to. We weren't real good on first down and were getting in second- and third-and-long."
Colorado's offense was mistake-free, committing no turnovers for a second consecutive week. Dutton completed 17 of 29 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns to McCullough, Damian Harrell and Willis Marshall.
Ahmad Hawkins added a first-quarter interception for the Crush, which set a franchise single-game record with three interceptions off of Vena. The Crush also harassed Vena up front, sacking him three times.
Colorado's interceptions came without All-Arena Football League defensive specialist Rashad Floyd, who left with a lower-leg contusion less than three minutes into the game. Hawkins replaced him as defensive specialist.
"Right now it's real tender, even to walk," Floyd said.
GAME TRACK FIRST QUARTER
Colorado won the coin toss and deferred, allowing Columbus to open the game with possession. Seven plays later, the Destroyers had the game's first points, as they capped a 45-yard drive -- aided by two Crush penalties -- with an 11-yard scoring toss from Ryan Vena to Sedrick Robinson. Steve Videtich's extra-point try hit an upright, giving Columbus a 6-0 lead.
Five plays later, the Crush was in front. John Dutton completed five consecutive passes for 43 yards to three different receivers, with Willis Marshall snaring the 9-yard touchdown to cap the march. Clay Rush drilled the extra point to put Colorado in front 7-6.
Colorado got the first defensive stop of the game four plays later when Ahmad Hawkins made a diving interception of Ryan Vena's fourth-and-9 pass for Robinson. The only problem with the pick was that it forced the Crush to begin the ensuing drive from its own 20-yard-line; if the pass had merely been incomplete, the Crush would have taken over at the Destroyers 9. But it didn't matter, as the Crush scored four plays later when Dutton and Damian Harrell connected on a spectacular 19-yard touchdown pass that saw Harrell separate from brandon Hefflin and then make a one-handed catch just before running into the walls behind the end zone. Rush hit the subsequent extra point to push the lead to 14-6 with 29 seconds left in the period.
A fortuitous bounce later, the lead was 21-6. Rush hit the kickoff off the net, where it caromed out of the end-zone area and out of the Destroyers' reaches. The ball bounced back into the end zone where Andy McCullough fell on it for the touchdown. Rush hit the extra point to put Colorado up 15 points as the period expired.
It took only four plays for the Destroyers to respond with their second touchdown of the game -- but a second missed extra point kept them down two scores. Vena and Cornelius White connected for a 30-yard touchdown play three and a half minutes into the period, but Videtich's missed extra point kept the Crush in front 21-12.
Marshall returned the ensuing kickoff to the 11, and the Crush picked up 10 more yards when Hefflin held up Kevin McKenzie as he ran his route, drawing a pass-interference penalty. But the drive stalled after Marshall dropped one pass and Dutton misfired on the next two. Rush attempted to salvage the drive with a 45-yard field-goal attempt, but it missed wide right and over the rebound nets, giving the Destroyers the ball again at their 5-yard-line.
Two plays later, the Destroyers had their second 30-yard touchdown pass of the quarter when Vena found a wide-open Randall Lane for a 30-yard score. This time, Videtich hit the extra point, putting the Destroyers within two points at 21-19.
The Crush began its next drive at its 5-yard-line when Videtich's kickoff became wedged in the upright. From there, the Crush offense continued to struggle, as Dutton threw two straight incompletions. An 11-yard pass to McCullough on third down kept the drive alive. Four plays later, another Dutton-to-McCullough connection got the Crush back on the scoreboard, as the two hooked up on a lob-and-leap, 24-yard scoring strike that put the Crush back in front 28-19.
Columbus controlled the football for the final minute of the half, but could only muster a 20-yard Videtich field goal that trimmed the Crush edge to 28-22 at intermission.
The second half began on a sour note for the Crush when the Destroyers successfully executed an on-side kick, as Cornelius White recovered the football at the Destroyers 17. Six plays later, Robinson took and end-around to the right and scored on a 7-yard touchdown run. Videtich then drilled the extra point that put the Destroyers up 29-28 -- their first lead since 6-0 early in the first quarter.
Two plays later, the Crush were in scoring position as Dutton and Harrell connected on a 21-yard pass to move the Crush to the Columbus 11. Three consecutive incompletions followed, and Rush salvaged the drive with a 27-yard field goal that gave the Crush a 31-29 lead with 7:09 left in the quarter.
Taut defense and a crucial penalty against the Destroyers helped the Crush keep the visitors off the board on their next drive. Pressure up front forced Vena into an incompletion on third-and-1 from the Crush 19, and a subsequent delay-of-game penalty wiped out a 35-yard field goal by Videtich. He missed the 39-yard rekick, and the ball bounced out of play, giving it back to the Crush at its 5-yard-line.
Colorado took over and drove into a goal-to-go situation as the quarter concluded.
Colorado pushed the lead back to two scores as Marshall plowed over left end for a 2-yard score and Rush nailed the extra-point try that followed to give the Crush a 38-29 lead 1:14 into the quarter.
Four plays later, McKenzie got the game-breaking play the Crush had been unable to find in the first three quarters, as he leapt, intercepted Vena's pass for Groce and sprinted 39 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown. Rush added the extra point and put Columbus in a 45-29 hole with 10:22 left in the game.
It only took five plays and two and a half minutes for Delvin Hughley to provide the backbreaker. Vena's pass was just off target, and Hughley bobbled and hauled it in, zooming 48 yards for a touchdown that gave the Crush its largest lead of the night to that point at 52-29.
It only took five plays and two and a half minutes for Delvin Hughley to provide the backbreaker. Vena's pass was just off target, and Hughley bobbled and hauled it in, zooming 48 yards for a touchdown that gave the Crush its largest lead of the afternoon to that point at 52-29.
Columbus stopped the string of interceptions by driving to a 6-yard touchdown pass from Vena to Robinson. Vena then made like Ken Stabler and completed a desperate two-point conversion pass to Groce as he was being tackled from behind, narrowing the Crush lead to 52-37 and closing out the day's scoring.
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