06/26/2011 1:57 PM
The Cleveland Gladiators ripped through the San Jose SaberCats, 82-21, on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena in front of 5,619 fans. The Gladiators improved to 8-6 with the win, and also improved their position in the race for a wild card bid. With the loss, the SaberCats dropped to 5-9 and are losers of 7 straight.
Andrico Hines started his first game in the AFL for Cleveland at quarterback and would have a solid outing before going down with a left knee injury. He finished the game by completing 8-of-15 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Kurt Rocco came in to replace the injured Hines and the offense would not miss a beat. Rocco finished the game by completing 18-of-20 passes for 235 yards and seven touchdowns. Kurt has started 12 games this season, and his experience with the first team offense showed in the scoring display they put on throughout the night;
“When someone, a quarterback goes down,” said Rocco. “You just need to be ready to step up.”
The dynamic duo was back in action tonight as wide receiver Troy Bergeron came back after missing the last four games with a shoulder strain. Bergeron had a huge game with ten catches for 136 yards and five touchdowns en route to winning National Guard MVP. Wide receiver Robert Redd got back to his old self with his six catches for 97 yards and three touchdowns.
The game began with the Gladiators receiving the ball and scoring a little over two minutes later from a 15-yard pass from Hines to Bergeron to put Cleveland up 7-0.
The Gladiators would quickly gain the ball back after defensive back Demarcus Robinson recovered the ball from wide receiver Quorey Payne’s forced fumble during the kickoff return.
The first quarter would end with Cleveland up 12-0. The Gladiators would get their second touchdown off of a 24-yard pass from Hines to Bergeron to give them their second connection of the night.
During the second quarter Cleveland would get their second fumble recovery of the game when defensive linebacker Tim Cheatwood sacked quarterback Mark Grieb for eight yards. The fumble would be recovered by defensive lineman Prentice Purnell.
The Gladiators would then convert the turnover into eight points. Redd would catch a 12-yard pass from Rocco along with roping in the two point conversion.
San Jose scored their first points of the game in the final minute of the game to make the score 7-20, Cleveland. Marco Thomas would catch a four yard pass from Grieb for the score.
The Gladiators would close the first half by scoring 21 points in the final 20 seconds to make the score 41-7 going into the half. The first touchdown would come from a 51-yard interception return by defensive back Levy Brown. The second touchdown would come from a deflected kickoff recovered by Cleveland. Bergeron would make the score after a 13-yard pass from Rocco. The final touchdown would come after kicker Matt Denny hit the uprights and forced the SaberCats to mishandle the ball. The ball was recovered by defensive lineman Conor Reilly in the end zone.
“It was kind of the way the football rolled for us,” said head coach Steve Thonn about the three touchdowns in 20 seconds.
To begin the third quarter, Cleveland scored the first three touchdowns to make the score 61-7, capping off a 41-0 run by the Glads. The touchdowns were caught by Bergeron, Redd and the third was a seven yard interception return by defensive back Joe Phinisee.
The quarter would end with San Jose getting their second score of the game to make the score 61-14. The touchdown was thrown by McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who relieved Greib, to former Cleveland Gladiator Ben Nelson.
In the fourth quarter Cleveland would score three touchdowns to the SaberCats one touchdown to make the final score 82-21. For the Gladiators, the scores came by Payne, Bergeron and Redd. For San Jose the score would come from an eight yard run by Victor James.
The SaberCats were led by Grieb, who came into the game ranked third in passing average per game (290.9), fourth in total offense (292.5), and ninth in pass efficiency (112.3). In the game Grieb completed 20-of-34 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown to his three interceptions. Nelson had a good game for the offense, catching eight passes for 101 yards and one touchdown.
San Jose’s defense was led by Rod Mosley who had 6.5 tackles (five unassisted and three assisted) and two passes defended on the night. Also for the defense was Chris Vedder who had six tackles (five unassisted and two assisted).
Cleveland’s defense, coming into the game, ranked first in scoring defense (44.8), second in opponents fourth down conversion (38.5%), second against the pass (243.9), third in red zone defense (74.3%), fourth in total defense (272.1), seventh in pass defense efficiency (108.8), and eighth in sacks (21). The defense was at the top of their game as they were able to hold the SaberCats to only 21 points on the night. As a whole, the defense had seven passes defended, four interceptions, four fumble recoveries, a net recovery, three forced fumbles, two tackles for a loss and one sack.
Leading the way for the defense was Brown with 15.5 tackles (13 unassisted and five assisted), two passes defended and one interception en route to winning the Riddell Defensive Player of the Game. Brown’s 15.5 tackles breaks the Gladiators’ record for most tackles in an individual game. The record was previously held by Alphonso Hodge who had 12.0 tackles.
Robinson had 6.5 tackles (six unassisted and one assisted), two interceptions, one pass defended and one fumble recovery and was named the Nifty Playmaker of the Game. Also for the defense, Phinisee had 5.5 tackles (four unassisted and three assisted), one pass defended and one interception.
The Gladiators have a crucial division matchup with the Milwaukee Mustangs for their next game on Saturday, July 2 at 8:00 pm at the Bradley Center.