Wranglers fall victim to Predators, 47-37
In a game marred by 23 penalties, Orlando made bigger plays and fewer mistakes as Austin fell 47-37 at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday night.
Orlando QB Joe Hamilton's 28-yard touchdown pass to OS Jimmy Fryzel converted a back-breaking third-and-long and put the Predators up 10 points with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter. The Predators also added a late rushing touchdown. With the Predator victory already secured, Austin QB John Fitzgerald hurled a wild Hail Mary pass that bounced off the net and two Orlando defenders before landing in OS Derrick Lewis' hands.
Hamilton was 23-of-33 for 255 yards and threw four touchdowns, including three to Fryzel. The Orlando offensive specialist pulled down six catches for 72 yards and earned Offensive Player of the Game honors. Saturday's game was Fryzel's first action since being diagnosed with diabetes last month.
Austin DS Donvetis Franklin was named Defensive Player of the Game after making seven tackles and returning a fumble for a touchdown. Franklin's 36-yard return gave the Wranglers a 21-10 lead in the second quarter.
The Wranglers led 24-16 at halftime, but the Predators (5-4) pitched a shutout in the third quarter and outscored Austin 31-14 in the second half to take the road victory.
Defensively, Austin held Orlando to two short field goals by kicker Jay Taylor, but the Orlando defense was even tougher to crack. The Predators stopped the Wranglers on three consecutive rushing attempts in the third quarter when Austin needed only a yard to convert a first down. Orlando made another short-yardage stand on the next drive before Austin FB/LB Torrance Marshall dove over the pile for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from inside the one-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter.
Fitzgerald completed 24-of-30 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns for the Wranglers (6-3). Fitzgerald also threw two interceptions in the Predators end zone to kill Wranglers drives.
Trailing by two points late in the game, the Wranglers took the ball inside the red zone before Fitzgerald misfired and was intercepted by DS Kenny McEntyre. Hamilton seized the advantage and hit Fryzel for the clinching score on the ensuing Predator drive.
After Orlando won the toss and deferred, Austin marched down the field into the red zone before Fitzgerald's pass was intercepted by Orlando DS Khalil Carter, who just joined the Predators on March 14 in a trade from Nashville.
Orlando seized the momentum and jumped out to a 10-7 lead before Austin stormed back on a touchdown pass from Fitzgerald to Lewis. On the next Predator possession, Franklin dropped an easy interception in Wrangler territory, but he atoned for his mistake by scooping up a fumble caused by teammate WR/LB Greg Brown and running it back for a touchdown.
Austin remains the only team to not surrender a sack this season, thanks to a heads-up play by Fitzgerald, who heaved the ball out of bounds as he was being swarmed by Predators late in the third quarter.
Predators WR/DB Jerrian James was named the game's Ironman after making 4.5 tackles and catching six passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.
The Wranglers closed out a three-game homestand Saturday and travel to Philadelphia to face the Soul next Friday at 7 p.m. Austin will return home on Sunday, April 9 when the Wranglers host the Georgia Force at 3 p.m. Tickets are still available for the Wranglers' four remaining home games by calling 512.339.3939.
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