SaberCats Game Notes

February 11, 2003 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - San Jose SaberCats News Release

Game: San Jose SaberCats (1-1) at Georgia Force (1-1).
Date: Sunday, February 16, 2003.
Kickoff: 12:00 p.m. (PST).
Site: The Arena At Gwinnett Center (11,200).
Officials: Referee: Bill McCabe; Umpire: Doug Wilson; Head Linesman: Royce Cooley; Line Judge: Gary Cavaletto; Back Judge: Joe Duncan.
Television: Sunday’s game will be regionally televised by NBC. For the second straight week the SaberCats will have the announcing team of Dan Hicks (play by play) and Charles Davis (color analyst) calling the game.
Radio: San Jose’s flagship station The Ticket (KTCT) 1050-AM will broadcast the game live with Bob Fitzgerald handling play-by-play duties and George Atkinson supplying the color commentary.
Internet: Log on to www.ticket1050.com to hear a live webcast of the game.
Series Record: San Jose leads 1-0.
Last Meeting: San Jose 59, Georgia 53 (May 4, 2002 in San Jose).
Series Streaks: San Jose Won 1.
Coaches: San Jose, Darren Arbet (5th season; 42-16 regular season, 47-18 overall). Georgia, Marty Lowe (2nd season; 6-4 regular season and overall).

OVERVIEW: The World Champion San Jose SaberCats conclude their season opening three game road trip when they travel to Georgia to face the Force in the first-ever Arena Football League game to be played in the new Gwinnett Center Arena. The SaberCats are coming off a last second loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Avengers, a game in which Los Angeles scored a touchdown and two-point conversion with one second left in regulation for a 73-72 win. San Jose’s point total was its most ever in a loss and the combined point total of 145 represents the third highest scoring game in SaberCats history and the 11th highest scoring game in league history. San Jose tied team one-game records with two interception return touchdowns and four total picks, but allowed an opponent record 35 fourth quarter points in losing for just the second time in its last 17 regular season games. The SaberCats have won the only series meeting with Georgia, beating the Force, 59-53, on May 4, 2002 in San Jose, but there is a long history with the franchises. The Force moved from Nashville (Kats) prior to the start of the 2002 campaign. The Kats denied San Jose a trip to the ArenaBowl with semifinal playoff wins in 2000 and 2001. The Nashville/Georgia franchise has won four of the seven series games.

THE SERIES: San Jose has won the only series meeting with Georgia, 59-53, on May 4, 2002 in San Jose…The SaberCats do have a history with the Georgia franchise, however. The Force was sold and relocated from Nashville, where the team played five seasons as the Kats. Nashville eliminated San Jose in the semifinals of the league playoffs in both 2000 and 2001 and won four of the six all-time meetings between the clubs…All three of San Jose’s series win over the Georgia/Nashville franchise have come in San Jose…The SaberCats posted a 68-35 preseason win over the Force on April 12, 2001 in Atlanta.

SERIES NOTABLES: San Jose OS James Hundon tied team single-game records with 13 receptions and 5 touchdown grabs in San Jose’s 59-53 win over Georgia on May 4, 2002. His 184 receiving yards in that game is also the 6th highest single game total in team history…OL/DL Chuck Reed posted career sack No. 20 against Georgia last season, becoming the 14th player in league history with 20 or more career sacks…San Jose QB Mark Grieb set single-game records with 30 completions and 430 yards against Nashville on June 16, 2001. In that game he completed 16 consecutive passes in the fourth quarter and overtime as the SaberCats posted a 58-57 win…San Jose’s James Roe and Shalon Baker each had 11 receptions against Nashville on June 16, 2001. It marked the first, and only, time the SaberCats have had two double-digit receptors in the same game.

LAST SERIES MEETING: San Jose 59, Georgia 53 (Saturday, May 4, 2002 • Compaq Center) – For the third consecutive week the SaberCats defense used late-game heroics to earn a victory, this time stopping a Georgia Force drive with just under five minutes remaining to earn a 59-53 victory. San Jose trailed the Force for most of the game after falling behind 20-14 early in the second quarter. Both clubs traded scores throughout the rest of the evening with the SaberCats never getting closer than 53-51 until they forced a Georgia field goal on fourth-and-10 with 12 minutes to play. The Force’s Scott Szeredy missed a 52-yard attempt and San Jose recovered the errant kick on its own 5-yard line. On the ensuing play, SaberCats quarterback Mark Grieb completed a 45-yard touchdown pass to James Hundon. The two-point conversion pass from Grieb to Jerry Reese moments later provided the final margin of victory. Hundon’s fifth TD catch on the night tied a franchise record and it was Grieb’s 150th career TD pass. For the second time in as many seasons, the SaberCats opened the season 3-0. After SaberCats kicker Daron Alcorn closed the gap to 20-17 with a 22-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, Georgia QB Kevin McDougal hit receiver Markeith Cooper on a 13-yard touchdown pass to open the Force lead to 26-17. Grieb, who was knocked out of the game on the SaberCats previous possession, returned on the next series to complete a 15-yard touchdown pass to Hundon to close the gap to 26-24. The rest of the night unfolded in similar fashion with both teams trading scores until San Jose had back-to-back defensive stops and offensive scores to close the game. Grieb’s 33 pass attempts on the night moved his career total to 709 and into first place on the SaberCats career chart. Reese, Barry Wagner and Matt Kinsinger also scored for the SaberCats.

ALL-TIME SERIES SCORES
Date Score
May 4, 2002 @San Jose 59, Georgia 53
Aug. 12, 2001 @Nashville 71, San Jose 47 (po)
June 16, 2001 @San Jose 58, Nashville 57 (ot)
Aug. 12, 2000 Nashville 51, @San Jose 42 (po)
July 16, 1999 @Nashville 56, San Jose 45
May 30, 1998 @San Jose 49, Nashville 41
May 2, 1997 @Nashville 47, San Jose 21

THE IFS…:

If the SaberCats defeat Georgia it would…
*Give San Jose a 2-0 record against the Force.
*Give San Jose a 72-41 all-time regular season record.
*Be San Jose’s 35th all-time regular season road win.
*Be San Jose’s 7th straight win over a Southern Division team.
*Give San Jose a 17-11 record vs. the Southern Division
*Give San Jose a 6-5 road record vs. the Southern Division.

THE COACHES:

San Jose – Darren Arbet, 5th season
42-16 (.724) reg. season; 47-18 (.723) overall 1-0 (1.000) career vs. Georgia

Last season Arbet guided the SaberCats to the best regular season record (13-1) ever in league history, the most victories in a season (16) and the franchise’s first league title. Arbet has compiled a 42-16 (.724) career mark in regular season games and currently owns the third-best regular season winning percentage in AFL history among coaches with at least 10 victories. Named AFL Coach of the Year in 2000 and 2002, Arbet’s teams have gone 41-10 (.804) overall in the past four seasons. Spanning the 2000 and 2001 seasons, Arbet led the SaberCats to a league record 15-game regular season winning streak and twice in the last three years the SaberCats have had 12-game win streaks.

Georgia – Marty Lowe, 2nd season
6-4 (.600) reg. season and overall 0-0 career vs. San Jose

Lowe is in his first full season as head coach of the Force after taking over for Robert Lyles five games into the 2002 campaign. Lowe currently owns a 6-4 (.600) career record after his team finished the 2002 season winning five of its last eight games. His first head coaching gig began after the Force went 1-4 to open last season. He joined the Force after serving as running backs coach at the University of Texas-El Paso. Lowe’s previous AFL coaching experience came as the offensive coordinator of the Nashville Kats in 2000-01.

RECENT RESULTS: Los Angeles quarterback Tony Graziani connected with Greg Hopkins on a game-winning two-point conversion with one second left in the game as the Avengers nipped the San Jose SaberCats, 73-72, at STAPLES Center. Los Angeles scored a SaberCats opponent record 35 fourth quarter points and overcame a 20-point first half deficit to beat San Jose for just the second time in seven meetings. The SaberCats scored 28 consecutive points in the second quarter to build a 41-21 lead with 97 seconds left in the first half. Quarterback Mark Grieb connected with James Roe on a 19-yard scoring play a minute and a half into the second stanza to pull San Jose within 21-20. San Jose’s defense then turned to the offensive. On Los Angeles’ ensuing possession, Clevan Thomas intercepted an errant Graziani offering and returned the ball 28 yards for a score to give the SaberCats a 27-21 lead. Lineman Sam Hernandez got into the act on the Avengers’ next possession. He stepped in front of a Graziani screen pass and went 23 yards the other way for another score to increase San Jose’s bulge to 34-21. It was the fourth career interception for Hernandez and first returned for a touchdown. Thomas picked off another Graziani pass on the next Avenger possession setting up a Grieb to James Hundon 11-yard scoring play and giving the SaberCats a 41-21 lead. Grieb finished the day 16-of-22 for 290 yards with seven touchdowns. Hundon had five catches for 130 yards and four scores. Graziani threw three scoring passes in the fourth quarter and Chris Jackson added a fourth as Los Angeles pulled within 69-65 with just under a minute to play in regulation. San Jose recovered an onside kick but failed to gain a first down and settled for a 21-yard Daron Alcorn field goal to increase its lead to seven, 72-65, with :32 remaining. A 43-yard kick return by Kevin Ingram gave Los Angeles the ball at the San Jose 13-yard line with :26 left and four plays later Mathias Vavao bulled his way into the endzone from a yard out setting the stage for the dramatic two-point conversion. San Jose matched a team record with four interceptions in the game and the 72 points scored are the most in a SaberCats loss.

ABOUT THE OPPONENT: The Force played five seasons in Nashville as the Kats before being sold and re-located to Georgia prior to the start of the 2002 campaign…Georgia scored a team-low 31 points in a loss to Detroit last week and it’s the fewest points scored by the franchise since the Kats lost at Orlando 34-30 on May 13, 2001.

ROSTER MOVES: The SaberCats placed OL/DL Cedric Pittman on IR with a hamstring injury and have already lost OL/DL Joe Jacobs for an undetermined amount of time with a biceps tendon tear. WR/DB Brandon Nash was signed to the team’s practice squad on Feb. 5.

MILESTONES:

*OL/DL Sam Hernandez needs 1 sack for 50 career.
*K Daron Alcorn needs 6 FGs for 100 career and 35 points for team’s all-time lead.
*OS James Hundon needs 126 receiving yards for 2,500 career.
*FB/LB Matt Kinsinger needs 15 rush yards for 100 career.
*WR/DB Barry Wagner needs 75 receiving yards for 12,000 career and 9 rush TDs for 100 career.
*WR/LB James Roe needs 152 receiving yards for 2,000 career and 5 TD catches for 50 career.
*QB Mark Grieb needs 136 pass yards for 15th place in AFL history.

2002 SEASON REVIEW:

Anything less would have been deemed a failure. It wasn’t anything less. The San Jose SaberCats captured their first Arena Football League Championship by defeating Arizona in the most lopsided ArenaBowl game in league history on August 18. The title was eight years in the making. The SaberCats posted the best start to a season in AFL history by winning their first 12 games, breaking the old mark of 11 by the 1994 Orlando Predators. San Jose ended the season by establishing another league record, 13 victories on the season, going one win better than six other teams, including the 2000 San Jose squad. The records didn’t come easy, however, as the SaberCats won their first three games by a combined total of 14 points and needed defensive heroics in an offense-oriented game. Rookie Clevan Thomas made a statement in the first game of the year by intercepting a Sherdrick Bonner pass in his own endzone with one minute to play to preserve a 1-point victory over Arizona. Week 2 saw another defensive play decide the game. Bob McMillen returned an interception 46-yards for a touchdown with 34 seconds left in the game to give San Jose a 61-54 win at Tampa Bay. The defense again rose to the occasion in a Week 3 win over Georgia. The SaberCats shutout the Force in the final quarter and overcame a 10-point third quarter deficit to improve to 3-0. San Jose went on a scoring rampage the next three games posting wins over Los Angeles, 78-44, at Orlando, 77-45, and against Dallas, 77-54, to become the first club in AFL history to score at least 76 points in three straight games. The SaberCats’ first extended road trip of the season saw them get wins at Buffalo, 63-35, and at Los Angeles, 52-33, to run their record to 8-0. In perhaps the wildest game of the season, San Jose upended Chicago, 74-68, behind a record-setting performance by Thomas. The rookie amassed single-game records of 252 combined kick return yards and returned three for scores. The return of Steve Papin to San Jose couldn’t derail the SaberCats in Week 10 as they posted a 65-41 win over the Dragons despite 257 all-purpose yards from the former San Jose player. San Jose tied the 1994 Orlando Predators league record for consecutive wins to start a season and clinched its third straight Western Division crown with a 58-41 at Dallas on June 29 behind 6 touchdown passes from Mark Grieb. The SaberCats broke the record the following week and wrapped up the No. 1 seed for the postseason with a 52-41 win over Indiana. Just two wins away from a perfect season the SaberCats saw it end in Arizona with a 59-52 loss to the Rattlers on July 12. Not only did San Jose lose the game, it also lost starting QB Mark Grieb with a broken collarbone when lineman Stacy Evans threw him to the turf late in the third quarter. John Dutton rallied the troops to a tie late in the fourth quarter, but an 11-yard touchdown run by Chris Horn with :43 left gave Arizona its final advantage. Dutton’s fourth down pass in the corner of the endzone with :07 left glanced off the fingertips of a diving James Hundon and the SaberCats suffered their first loss of the season. Dutton, making his first start of the year in the season finale, threw 5 TD passes and the SaberCats won their league record 13th game of the year, 58-41, at Carolina to close out the regular season. San Jose opened the playoffs by hosting Tampa Bay in a quarterfinal game on August 3. The SaberCats started sluggishly and fell behind by 18 points early in the third quarter. The SaberCats regained their composure and outscored the Storm 28-3 over the final 21:29 to post a 55-48 win to advance to the semifinals for the third straight season. Against Orlando in the semis, the SaberCats finally got the monkey off their back and advanced to the ArenaBowl for the first time in franchise history with a 52-40 win over the Predators. San Jose had been denied a trip to the ArenaBowl by losing in the semifinals the previous two seasons. Before a crowd of nearly 17,000 at the Compaq Center on August 18, the SaberCats left no doubt as to who the Champions of the AFL were by blasting the Arizona Rattlers, 52-14, in ArenaBowl XVI. San Jose scored on its first possession and kept scoring while holding the Rattlers without a point for three and a half quarters. The SaberCats led 45-0 before Arizona scored with just over nine minutes left in the game. San Jose’s 38-point win was the largest in ArenaBowl history.

TRENDS:

SOMETHING NEW – San Jose’s loss at Los Angeles on Feb. 9 was just its second in the last 17 regular season games and third in the last 22 games. Since the start of the 2000 season, the SaberCats own a 36-8 (.818) record in regular season games.

ROAD WARRIORS – Over the past four seasons the SaberCats have posted a 17-6 (.739) record in regular season road games. With their loss at Los Angeles on Feb. 9, the SaberCats equaled their road loss total from 2000 and 2002 when they went 6-1 in regular season road games.

THAT 70 SHOW – The SaberCats surpassed the 70-point mark in a game for the 14th time in team history last week in their 73-72 loss at Los Angeles, and for the first time they did not win. San Jose’s highest scoring output previously in a loss came in a 68-64 defeat at Oklahoma on April 21, 2000. San Jose’s 72 points represents the second-highest total in the league this season, right behind LA’s total, and the combined total of 145 is tied for the 11th most in AFL history.

STREAKING ANEW – After having their streak of 50+ point games snapped in the season opener, the SaberCats must now settle for a streak of 40+ point games. That stretch (including postseason) reached 28 straight last week. The SaberCats last failed to reach the 40-point mark in a 59-35 loss to Orlando on May 26, 2001.

STOP MEETING LIKE THIS – Week 3 of the 2003 campaign has San Jose playing in Georgia for the first time in a regular season game. The two teams met in Week 3 last season with San Jose coming away with a 59-53 win on May 4 in San Jose.

TWO MUCH – The SaberCats have not lost consecutive games since the 2001 season when they dropped a 59-35 decision to Orlando on May 26 and fell 47-44 at Los Angeles on June 2, a span of 27 games. Each of San Jose’s last four losses has been followed with a victory and the SaberCats are 22-18 all-time following a loss.

THE MALLEY FACTOR – Since Terry Malley took over as the SaberCats offensive coordinator with six games remaining in the 1999 season, the team has reached the 60-point mark 25 times in 57 games (includes playoffs). Prior to his arrival the SaberCats had scored 60 or more points in a game six times in 65 games. San Jose’s all-time record when reaching the 60-point plateau is 28-3.

JUST WIN – In his career as a member of the SaberCats, QB Mark Grieb owns a 30-5 record as the team’s starter.

NOTES:

FIRSTS – The SaberCats have been involved in a few firsts with the Georgia/Nashville franchise. Nashville hosted San Jose in its very first regular season game and posted a 47-21 win over the SaberCats on May 2, 1997. The Force hosted San Jose in a preseason game on April 12, 2001 in the very first AFL game played in Atlanta. Sunday’s game will mark the first-ever event held in the new Gwinnett Center Arena.

CLICKING – San Jose’s offense got back on track at Los Angeles on Feb. 9. The SaberCats amassed 303 yards of offense and scored eight touchdowns on just 30 offensive plays, an average of 10.1 yards per play. The SaberCats had three one-play scoring drives, all of which were 32 yards or longer.

JUST WIN – Not only did the SaberCats set a new AFL record for regular season wins in 2002 with 13, they also established a league record for most overall wins in a season with 16. Since the start of the 2000 season the SaberCats own a league-best 36-8 regular season record. Arizona is the only other team to win 30 games in the same time frame.

CLEVAN THE MAN – Clevan Thomas, the 2002 Rookie and Defensive Player of the Year in the AFL apparently has not heard the term “sophomore jinx”. Thomas had his first career two interception game last week at Los Angeles to increase his league-leading total to three. Thomas also returned one of the picks for his first career INT return TD. With picks in each of the first two games of the season, Thomas is well behind Tommy Jones’ record of having an INT in six straight contests.

PICKIN’ IT – While on the subject of interceptions, the SaberCats tied team records with four picks and two returned for scores at Los Angeles on Feb. 9. Thomas had two picks and went 28-yards with one for a TD while Sam Hernandez scampered 23 yards with another INT for a TD. Anthony Cobbs added another to equal the team record for picks, which has been done four times, the last coming on May 16, 1998 at Albany.

RUNNING MAN – Rookie FB Keala Keanaaina leads the league in rushing with 55 yards in two games. KK followed up an impressive AFL debut at Arizona on Feb. 2 with another strong running game at Los Angeles on Feb. 9. Keanaaina ran for a game-high 23 yards on four carries, including an 11-yard TD run, against the Avengers. At his current pace stretched out over the new 16-game schedule, KK would rush for 440 yards, breaking the 1991 league record of 429 held by Major Harris of Columbus. OK, it’s way too early to talk about that, but Tom Petithomme’s 1996 team season record of 214 rush yards is a possibility.

SACK MASTER – OL/DL Sam Hernandez, a 10-year AFL veteran who enters his sixth season with San Jose, is the league’s all-time leader with 49 career quarterback sacks and is also San Jose’s career leader with 28.5. During his illustrious career, Hernandez has been credited with at least one full sack against 19 teams and has 2.0 or more sacks in a game 12 times. Currently enduring the longest sack-less stretch of his career, Hernandez has gone the last 11 regular season games without a sack. He did get to Arizona QB Sherdrick Bonner in last year’s ArenaBowl.

GOOD GRIEB! – QB Mark Grieb has had some of his best and worst performances against the Georgia/Nashville franchise. On June 16, 2001 Grieb established career-highs and set team records with 30 completions and 430 yards in a 58-57 overtime win over the Kats. Grieb completed his last 16 attempts in that game as San Jose overcame a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to get the win. The year before, in a semifinal playoff game, Grieb completed just 18-of-37 attempts for 160 yards and two interceptions as the Kats advanced to the ArenaBowl with a 51-42 win on Aug. 12, 2000. Against the Force last season, Grieb hit 24-of-33 for 292 yards and six TDs without an INT.

A MAN OF 10,000 YARDS – Grieb became the 16th player in Arena Football League history to throw for over 10,000 yards in a career earlier this season and now has a career total of 10,351. Grieb needs 136 pass yards to move ahead of Kurt Warner, who amassed 10,486 passing yards in his three-year AFL career, for 15th place on the AFL’s career chart.

CATCH THIS – OS James Hundon had a big game in a losing effort at Los Angeles on Feb. 9. J.Hun had 130 yards on five catches, an average of 26 yards per catch, and four were for scores. It was the 5th time in his 22-game regular season career that Hundon had at least four TD catches and his 11th career 100-yard receiving game. Hundon trails only Steve Papin, who had 17 100-receiving yard games in his San Jose career. With 56 career TD catches now, Hundon moved ahead of Shalon Baker (55) into 3rd place on the SaberCats all-time list and trails only Jerry Reese (73) and Papin (65) in that category.

CAREER FIRSTS – Several SaberCats had career firsts in the team’s game at Los Angeles on Feb. 9. WR/DB Anthony Cobbs had his first career pass reception. WR/LB Kevin McKenzie had his first career reception as a SaberCat. DS Clevan Thomas had his first career two-interception game and OL/DL Sam Hernandez had his first career interception return touchdown.

DEFENSIVE LAPSE – The offense did its part, but there were defensive pitfalls in San Jose’s 73-72 loss at Los Angeles on Feb. 9. The Avengers scored a SaberCats opponent record 35 fourth quarter points, had the fourth highest point total against San Jose, and tied opponent records for most second half points (49) and TD passes (8) in a game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

SAN JOSE OL/DL CHUCK REED – Played in just two games last year but has been elevated in the rotation with the loss of Joe Jacobs. Reed had a strong game at Los Angeles last week putting pressure on the quarterback and handled his offensive duties well. Reed was credited with a tackle, a PBU and four hurries in loss to the Avengers.

SAN JOSE WR/LB JAMES ROE – Did not play against the Force last season, but has 17 catches for 297 yards and 6 TDs in two career games against Nashville. Roe had career-highs of four TD grabs and 195 receiving yards, also the third-highest total in team history, on 11 catches against the Kats on June 16, 2001.

GEORGIA OL/DL STACEY EVANS – You may remember the name. Last season as a member of the Arizona Rattlers, Evans laid out Mark Grieb breaking his collarbone and ending the season for the 2002 Offensive Player of the Year. The Force signed Evans after Arizona released him prior to the start of the season.

GEORGIA DS CLIFF GREEN – The former SaberCat has blossomed into one of the better defensive specialists in the league. Green returned a fumble 33 yards for a score against San Jose last season and tallied 5 solo tackles and 3 PBUs against San Jose in a 71-47 semifinal playoff win for Nashville on Aug. 11, 2001.

GEORGIA OS TYRONNE JONES – Jones has been a thorn in the SaberCats side since joining the AFL in 1998. In five career games against San Jose, Jones has caught 34 passes for 449 yards and 12 TDs. Twice Jones has had a four touchdown reception game against San Jose and he added a 52-yard missed field goal return TD for Nashville in a semifinal playoff win over the SaberCats on Aug. 11, 2001. Jones was recovering from an early season injury and didn’t play against San Jose last year.

CONNECTIONS:

Georgia backup QB James Brown spent time on San Jose’s roster last season after Mark Grieb was injured. Brown and Scott Wood were signed to backup John Dutton for San Jose’s playoff run. Brown signed with the Force on Feb. 1…Force DS Cliff Green played his rookie seaon in the AFL with the SaberCats in 1999. Green was selected from San Jose’s roster by the Los Angeles Avengers with the 1st pick in the 2000 Expansion Draft.

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