Virginia Beats Vegas 17-3 To Win UFL Championship Game
For Marty Schottenheimer, it was his first championship after more than 200 professional victories. For Dominic Rhodes, it was another title to go along with the Super Bowl he won with the Indianapolis Colts. For Aaron Rouse, it was a big night in his hometown.
The Virginia Destroyers beat the defending champion Las Vegas Locos 17-3 in the United Football League championship game on Friday night, played before a standing-room only crowd of 14,172 at the Sportsplex in Virginia Beach.
The game was dominated by defense, and Rouse - whose three interceptions included one in the end zone and one returned for a 46-yard touchdown - was named the game's MVP. A safety from Virginia Tech, Rouse played the game about 20 minutes from his old high school in Virginia Beach.
Asked afterward what was going through his mind, Rouse sighed deeply and said: "A lot, a lot. A championship here, in my hometown - it means a lot. We've been through it all together. From Day One, when people said this league wouldn't happen and this team wouldn't happen, and through Hurricane Irene when we were out there in trailers. We stuck together. Nobody complained. And here we are."
Rouse was the first player in UFL history to pick off three passes in a game. His second interception, midway through the first quarter, gave Virginia an early lead. Rouse stepped in front of a receiver and picked off Chase Clement's pass, and he had nothing but open space in front of him. Rouse danced the final 20 yards into the end zone.
"It was fun," Rouse said. "Marty always tells us to have fun. Well, a pick-6 to the house, in your hometown, in the championship game? Man, that's fun."
His third interception, in the front corner of the end zone, cut off a potential Las Vegas scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
Both teams came up big on defense. Las Vegas did not record a first down until midway through the third quarter, and Clement was sacked six times. The Destroyers put up 251 yards of offense, but they were more workmanlike than explosive. Rhodes, the league's offensive MVP, rushed for 90 yards but averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, and quarterback Chris Greisen was 21-of-31 for 154 yards but had trouble finding receivers upfield.
The Destroyers led 17-3 at halftime, and neither team scored in the second half.
After Rouse's touchdown, the Destroyers' second score was set up by the special teams, as Clifton Smith's 60-yard punt return - built by broken tackles, good cuts and solid blocks - gave Virginia the ball inside the Las Vegas 10-yard line. Two plays later, Rhodes scored from 2 yards out to make it 14-0.
Las Vegas' Clint Stitser and Viginia's Delbert Alvarado each added field goals in the second quarter to round out the scoring. Stitser's 32-yard field goal was set up by the Las Vegas defense, as Alfred Malone delivered a crunching sack on Greisen, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Montavious Stanley.
Five years after winning the Super Bowl with Indianapolis, Rhodes hoisted the UFL championship trophy. Asked to compare the two victories, Rhodes adamantly declined.
"Anyone who ranks championships doesn't deserve to have one," he said. "I won a Super Bowl five years ago, and now I've won this. I gave everything I had that day, and I gave everything I had today. I was sore that day, and I'm sore today. Any championship is sweet."
Schottenheimer, the fifth-winningest coach in NFL history, never did win a Super Bowl, or even coach in one. But after winning a UFL title, he wore a very satisfied grin.
"I couldn't be more pleased," he said. "Not only for our squad and our coaches and myself certainly, but for the whole Virginia Beach region. We all heard people say that this wouldn't happen, but I said to a number of our staff members, 'Who says we can't make it happen? We're going to make it happen.' It was sort of against all odds, but now we've done it, and I take tremendous pride in that."
He spoke of how Rouse had earned another shot in the NFL, and he praised Rhodes for his tireless work ethic in practice.
"These are outstanding young men," Schottenheimer said. "It's a privilege to work with them."
As Rhodes rested his hand on the trophy, he explained what it meant to him.
"The thing about a championship is, nobody can ever take this away from you," he said. "We are the 2011 champions of the UFL, and they can't ever take that away from us."
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