Fast Rush start buries Rampage
The Rush scored three times in the first four plays of the game to get out to a 15-0 lead and beat the Rampage 64-35 in front of what was reported to be a sold-out crowd.
“I'm just disappointed as a staff; obviously I don't think we had these guys ready to go,” Rampage coach Steve Thonn said. “We had a great crowd and it's just so disappointing we came out and played like that.”
The Rush (2-1) jumped out to a 15-0 lead on a quarterback sack for a safety by John Sikora, a 45-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Russ Michna to Damien Harrell and a net recovery on the ensuing kickoff by DeJuan Alfonso.
“You dream of starts like that,” said Chicago coach Mike Hohensee.
Michna, who started in place of Shedrick Bonner who left the team to witness the birth of his first child, found Harrell again from 22 yards out for a 22-0 lead before six minutes were elapsed and the rout was on.
“The guys laid it all on the line,” Hohensee said of his team. “We had a short week of practice but like against San Jose they laid it all on the line.”
The Rampage (0-2) scored their only touchdown of the first half on an Adrian McPherson scramble of five yards with five minutes left in the first quarter and went into the locker room down 29-7.
“Our guys weren't ready to go right off the bat and we struggled the whole first half executing anything,” Thonn said. “We are a young team and I think a lot of these guys got too down because something like that happens.”
Michna, who was named offensive player of the game, added three more touchdown passes in the second half as the Rampage got no closer than 22 the rest of the game.
“We did it with our back up quarterback, we had some guys banged up, we got guys banged up,” Hohensee said. “We're a young team and we're going to get better.”
Michna ended up 18-of-26 for 245 yards and five touchdowns. His favorite target was Harrell, who caught eight balls for 114 yards and two scores, including the five of the first six completions.
McPherson's night lasted just one half of play. He was 10-of-18 for 105 yards without a score, and was sacked twice. He also ran six times for 28 yards.
James McPhearson took over in the second half. The former Georgia Force backup to Chris Greisen hit 17 of his 25 passes for 204 yards, four touchdowns and one interception that was returned by Dennison Robinson for the final Rush touchdown.
“James does a good job of going back there and getting rid of the ball very quickly,” Thonn said. “He's been with me for a year down in Georgia and he knows the offense very well. We had to get some kind of rhythm going on offense, and especially in arena football, if you don't get any kind of rhythm going you're in trouble.”
Anthony Hines caught eight balls for 114 yards to lead Grand Rapids.
The Rampage was playing their second game in five days, having lost to San Jose Monday. Thonn said that was no excuse for the way his team played.
“That's our schedule,” he said. “We can't use that as an excuse. Making mistakes has nothing to do with the short turnaround. It's on us. We played a bad game.”
Grand Rapids will go on the road for their first road game of the season March 24 against the Kansas City Brigade. Chicago, meanwhile, hosts Colorado two days earlier in the third of a series of four home games in the first five.
“We'll coach them on the things they did right and the things they did wrong,” Hohensee said of his team. “We just get better.”
Notes: The announced attendance was 10,384, but there were many pockets of empty seats. ... Rampage kicker Brian Gowins, who sat out the game with a concussion suffered making a tackle against San Jose Monday, was a sideline reporter for the Rampage's Internet broadcast. ... Offensive lineman T.J. Watkins was the fullback for the Rampage, as Chris Ryan was placed on injured reserve. ... AFL commissioner David Baker was in attendance at the game. ... Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna was greeted with a smattering of boos amongst applause as he was introduced for the pre-game coin toss. ... The Rush have won the last five games against the Rampage, and haven't lost in Grand Rapids since March 29, 2003. ... Prior to the Grand Rapids game Michna had just two carries for eight yards and a touchdown as his only stats of the season. ... Rush wideout Donovan Morgan was shaken up badly in the last minute of the game but walked off the field under his own power. His status for the Colorado game was unclear.
Chip Burch has been covering the Rampage since 2005. He is a sports reporter for WSCG AM-FM in Greenville Michigan, where he currently resides.