Wranglers lose to Desperados in final minute, 68-64
DALLAS-In a game that showed the Wranglers dominate the undefeated Desperados for four quarters, Dallas scored in the final minute to take their first lead of the night, beating Austin 68-64 in true Arena Football League fashion in front of 14,112 fans in Dallas.
With Dallas going ahead by four with 53 seconds remaining on an on-side kickoff return by Anthony Armstrong, the Wranglers recovered the second on-side kick on the Desperados eight yard-line. In an effort to use up some of the clock, Austin quarterback Adrian McPherson ran the ball one yard, which brought the clock down to 36 seconds. After a pass to fullback Chad Dukes, Austin sat at the four-yard line with 23 seconds remaining.
The Wranglers hope for a score was lost when the third down play witnessed McPherson scrambling and Desperados linebacker Duke Pettijohn stripping the ball out of McPherson's hands. Dallas was able to run the remaining time off the clock for the win.
In arguably McPherson's best outing since returning to the AFL this season, he was 21-of-34 for 293 yards and six touchdowns and one lone interception in the loss. He also ran in for a three-yard touchdown.
Although Dallas prevailed in the end, Austin showed great progress in all aspects of the game. More chemistry on the offensive side of the ball was evident as five receivers scored touchdowns. Getting his first action in a Wranglers uniform was wide receiver Anthony Hines who scored a pivotal 30-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Hines and McPherson were teammates with the Indiana Firebirds in 2004 and again are together now in Austin. Hines finished the game with two receptions for 50 yards and a score.
In addition to the offensive improvements, the defense and special teams continued their strong play. In his first game off injured reserve, defensive back Deveron Harper made an instant impact, as he intercepted Dallas quarterback Clint Dolezel in the first quarter. He also stripped Desperados two-way Will Pettis on a kickoff, to give the Wranglers the ball back deep in Dallas territory. Also new to the line-up was defensive lineman Donovan Arp who had 2.5 tackles, a fumble recovery and a quarterback hit in his 2007 debut.
At one point in tonight's game, the Wranglers held a 23-point lead over the Desperados. Dallas chipped away each quarter to battle within two before taking the lead late in the game.
The area that was of most concern to Wranglers Head Coach Brian Partlow was the turnover margin. In the first half, the Wranglers caused three turnovers, but slowly sputtered as the game went on in this area.
Building on their momentum after each score, Dallas receivers Pettis and Willis Marshall lead the way in their comeback. Pettis took the opening kickoff of the second half back for a 52-yard touchdown, sliding the momentum in the favor of Dallas. Austin answered back well though, driving 43 yards to score on a seven-yard touchdown run from wide receiver Otis Amey. He also took over the kick return responsibilities as usual kick returner and holder Sedrick Robinson was put on injured reserved due to a leg injury.
Although Austin did better in the turnover category, which was a team goal this week, a late fumble at the end of the game proved to be the difference. Dallas moves to 5-0 while Austin falls to 1-4, despite the solid effort against what most people think is the best team in the AFL in 2007.
Next Friday, Austin returns home to host the Utah Blaze at 7:30 p.m. at the Frank Erwin Center. As always, the game can be heard on AM 1300 The Zone and via the Official Website of the Austin Wranglers, www.austinwranglers.com.
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