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Rampage Lose Season Opener to Arizona

Randy Snow
Monday January 31, 2005


It has been an off-season of rebuilding. New coaches, new players and a new attitude. A near capacity crowd of 10,284 was on hand at the Van Andel Arena to witness the debut of new Rampage head coach Sparky McEwen, who was the teamís offensive coordinator from 2001-2003. Expectations were high, but the team and its fans received a cold dose of reality Friday night as they lost to the Arizona Rattlers by 20 points, 58-38. In the process, Grand Rapids also lost their 12th consecutive regular season home game dating back to April 19, 2003. The streak began, ironically enough, with an 82-81 overtime loss to Arizona.

Rampage QB Nick Browder got things off on the wrong foot when he fumbled the ball twice on the teamís opening drive. The second fumble was recovered by Arizona, and the Rattlers scored the first points of the game soon afterwards. (Another fumble and recovery by the Rattlers on the opening drive was nullified by an Arizona penalty)

On the ensuing kickoff, WR/DB Derin Graham got the scoring started for the Rampage with a 56-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was the first of his 4-year career. After a missed extra point, the Rampage trailed 7-6.

Miscues and missed opportunities were the order of the day in the first half for Grand Rapids. In the second quarter, the Rampage got the ball at midfield when Arizona was flagged for two penalties on a kickoff. But Grand Rapids was not able to take advantage of the field position and the drive ended with a missed field goal attempt. Browder fumbled the ball a total of three times in the first quarter and again on the first play of the second quarter.

With only eight seconds remaining in the first half, the Rampage finally scored their first offensive touchdown of the game when FB/LB Travis Reece ran the ball in for a 1-yard touchdown. Grand Rapids was down 28-13 at the half.

At halftime, McEwen told his team they had to be patient and disciplined. "You canít turn the ball over in this game if you expect to be successful," he said.

Graham found the end zone again in the third quarter with his second kickoff return for a touchdown, this time for 55 yards. In doing so, he tied the team record. "It feels great," Graham said after the game, "but we have to get that win. I thank my teammates for the good blocks. It was a good return set up for me." For his efforts, Graham was named Ironman of the Game.

In the fourth quarter, Browder fumble the ball on the snap from center, but this time he was able to pick it up and hit WR/DB Josh Bush for a 39-yard touchdown strike.

For the Rampage, Browder was 20 of 36 passing for 212 yards. He tossed 2 touchdowns, committed five fumbles and was sacked once. Bush caught 6 passes for 91 yards and 1 touchdown while OS Chris Jackson had 9 catches for 73 yards and no touchdowns.

After the game, McEwen was pleased with the teamís all around energy. "They played hard," he said. "They did some solid things, but weíve got to make more plays." McEwen also talked about his quarterbackís performance. "Heís got to go out there and heís got to get his feet wet and heís got to fight. The thing is now, can he come back from this. This was his first game out of the gate and it didnít go well. But you know, heís going to continue to work hard, Iím going to continue to work hard and were all going to get through this."

Rampage fans who were expecting an instant reversal of the teamís losing ways got a reality check that the rebuilding of the team is not complete. It is a work in progress. Perhaps the fans need to practice a little patients and discipline of their own as the team continues to improve on the field.

NEW TEAM RUSHING LEADER

FB/LB Chris Avery rushed only one time during the game, but it went for 22-yards on the Rampage opening possession and established him as the teamís all-time leading rusher. He now has 423 career rushing yards, surpassing the record formerly held by Chris Ryan with 413 yards. "Itís an honor to break (the record)," said Avery, "but unfortunately, it really doesnít mean too much to me with the loss tonight."

GAME AWARDS

Arizona QB Sherdrick Bonner was 16 of 26 passing for 202 yards and 6 touchdowns. He was named Offensive Player of the Game. Arizona OL\DL Wendell Gaines was named Defensive Player of the Game.

UP NEXT

The Rampage travel to Denver next week to take on the Colorado Crush. Then they have a bye in week three before returning home on February 19 to take on the Austin Wranglers.



 
Randy Snow covered the Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena Football League for ArenaFan from 2003-2008. He also covered the Fort Wayne Fusion of arenafootball2 in 2007. From 2004-2008 and in 2010, he was a member of the Arena Football League Writerís Association and, since 2011, has been a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association. Randy lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan but will travel just about anywhere for a football game or a great football story. He runs the web site www.theworldoffootball.com and hosts a podcast with his son, Adam, called ďThis Week in The World of Football.Ē
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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