Wranglers fall to Force, 60-51
ATLANTA-Missed opportunities and halted drives led to the Austin Wranglers 60-51 loss to the Georgia Force in front of 11,413 at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
Down for much of the game, the Wranglers battled back to within two points with 46 seconds remaining in the game after a Kevin Nickerson 16-yard touchdown reception. Looking to the on-side kick once again, kicker Mark Lewis squibbed the ball right down the center of the field but Austin was unable to recover it.
Today's U.S. Army Ironman of the Game, Force two-way Jarrick Hillery, carried the ball in easily for a one-yard touchdown as the Wranglers employed some Arena Football strategy. Austin hoped that Georgia kicker Keith Gispert would miss the extra point following their score, something he did three times in the game, to allow for the Wranglers to only be down one touchdown and a two-point conversion.
Sadly for the Wranglers, Gispert was good on his last attempt of the day, giving Georgia their final point of the game.
The Wranglers got the ball back with minimal time on the clock but were unable to find the end zone as time expired with quarterback Adrian McPherson falling short of the goal line.
McPherson finished the game 30-of-45 for 344 yards and four touchdowns in his first taste of the AFL's Southern Division. Again the Wranglers used several different players at quarterback, both M.Lewis and Sedrick Robinson took snaps. Robinson carried the ball five times for nine yards and two touchdowns from behind center.
Through the air, McPherson found Kevin Nickerson 13 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns, to lead the Wranglers receiving corp. Nickerson's 13 receptions was a new personal best for him and ranks him tied for second in Austin's single-game history. Also helping the cause on offense was lineman Donny Klein who McPherson found wide open in the end zone for a four yard score, the first of Klein's career.
Going into the game, the Wranglers knew their defense would be tested as the Force have a trio of dangerous receivers in Chris Jackson, Troy Bergeron and Derek Lee. Although the three came strong today, the veteran Jackson earned the Offensive Player of the Game with his five-touchdown performance.
Defensively, two-way Toure' Carter made his Wranglers debut and finished the game with four tackles. Also, patrolling the secondary was former Force defensive back and current Wrangler Nate Coggins who had five tackles and a forced fumble in the game. Their efforts helped to contain Bergeron and Lee but the later still managed three catches for 27 yards and two touchdowns.
Making his second career interception was Austin linebacker Dane Krager who picked off Georgia quarterback Chris Greisen in the second quarter, getting the ball back for Austin. The Wranglers had lost the ball a few plays before after a Robinson fumble on a kickoff.
For the game, the Wranglers were 3 of 10 on third down conversions, which hurt their chances of getting into the end zone and led them to four field goal tries. M.Lewis hit from 20, 25 and 24 yards and missed from 28 for Austin.
The Austin Wranglers travel to Orlando on Friday for another heated Southern Division match-up against the Predators, with kickoff set for 6:30 CST. Friday's game can be viewed on AFL Net and be heard on AM 1300 The Zone and www.austinwranglers.com.
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