05/01/2011 1:08 PM
The Cleveland Gladiators clipped the Tulsa Talons on Military Appreciation Night, 34-30, on Friday at Quicken Loans Arena in front of 5,109 fans. The Gladiators snapped their two game losing streak with the win to improve to 4-2 on the season. With the loss, the Talons dropped to 2-5.
Quarterback Kurt Rocco had a solid game through almost three full quarters until he went down with an injury. He was 12-of-21 for 136 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Rocco was replaced by rookie Dan Whalen who would play the remainder of the game.
“I’ve always worked hard to prepare just in case,” said Whalen. “I was waiting for the chance. You know, I pulled coach aside earlier this week and I said, ‘Hey if Kurt goes down or if something happens, I’m ready.’”
Whalen had not thrown a pass up to this point in the season, but was still able to lead the team to victory by going 4-of-7 for 39 yards and one touchdown. He also showed off his ability to run the ball as he scrambled for 28 yards in four attempts in only a little over a quarter of football.
“Man, that’s a tough spot to come into,” said head coach Steve Thonn. “He’s had zero reps with our offense, but he did a great job.”
Wide receivers Robert Redd and Troy Bergeron would have excellent games for Cleveland. Redd caught five passes for 30 yards and three touchdowns. Bergeron caught the ball three times for 49 yards and one touchdown.
The Gladiators started off the game receiving the ball, and they would waste no time. In just five plays, the offense marched down the field and Rocco threw a two-yard pass to Redd while spinning off several would-be tacklers to make the score 7-0.
The rest of the first half would go back and forth between the teams, with Tulsa scoring three touchdowns and Cleveland scoring two more, making the score 21-21. The half ended with the Talons on top 23-21, after the team recorded their first safety of the season.
The second half consisted of only three total touchdowns between the two teams. The turning point of the game was when Thyron Lewis intercepted one of Matt Bassuener’s passes late in the fourth quarter. Before the interception, Tulsa was leading 30-28 and was poised to score again, as they were on Cleveland’s eight yard line.
After the interception, Whalen was able to march his team down the field 44 yards for the go-ahead score: a four yard run by fullback Russell Monk.
Impressive performances for the Talons and their top-ranked rushing offense (61.7) came from quarterback Matt Baussener. Baussener was ranked third in the league for rushing at 29.8 yards per game, and would have another good game on the ground with 20 yards and one touchdown.
He threw the ball well by going 23-of-40 for 246 yards and three touchdowns. His only mistake on the day was his pass in the fourth quarter that was intercepted by Lewis. Unfortunately, for Bassuener, this pass would eventually cost his team the game.
Coming into the game, the Gladiators’ defense ranked first in total defense (257.8), second in red zone defense (69.2), third in scoring defense (43.8), third in pass defense (235.8), and fourth in pass defense efficiency (91.5). The unit would not disappoint as nearly matched all of these numbers, while holding the Talons to only 30 points in the game.
Leading the way for the defense was defensive back Levy Brown. Brown came into the game ranked twenty-first in the league for tackles at 5.9 per game. He would surpass his average with 9.5 total tackles (eight unassisted and three assisted) en route to winning Defensive Player of the Game. Also for the defense was defensive back Joe Phinisee, who came into the game ranked sixth for tackles at 7.1 per game, who recorded 5.5 total tackles (four unassisted and three assisted).
The Gladiators look to continue their winning ways on Friday, May 6 at 7:30 at Quicken Loans Arena when they open East Division play against the rival Milwaukee Mustangs.