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Green Bay's growing pains

Andrew Pekarek
Tuesday April 14, 2009

It was an ugly Friday night for the Green Bay Blizzard in front of 7,231 of its fans at the Resch Center.

But as disappointing as the 53-28 loss to the Manchester Wolves was, it was probably just what the young team needed after beating the Tennessee Valley Vipers, the defending ArenaCup champions, two weeks ago.

Why? Because you learn more from a tough loss than a big win, and Friday’s contest was about as tough a loss as there is to swallow.

The Blizzard turned the ball over four times and scored only one touchdown in the second half, which happened with only 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game, and after quarterback Gino Guidugli was benched.

“We didn’t put the ball in the end zone,” Blizzard head coach Bob Landsee said. “Our offense was absolutely pathetic, from top down.”

Guidugli threw three interceptions and completed just 47 percent of his passes. He took a seat midway through the fourth quarter after Manchester’s Jack linebacker Rob Green, who already picked off Guidugli twice in the third quarter, tipped a pass that almost turned into the signal caller’s fourth INT.

Guidugli had time to throw most of the night, but the Blizzard receivers didn’t find any openings in the Wolves’ defense, and the results were Guidugli forcing passes, running from pressure after holding onto the ball and misfiring passes in all directions.

“Everybody has those days,” Blizzard WR/LB Robert Garth said. “It wasn’t just Gino, we had receivers running into each other out there. You can’t put the whole thing on the quarterback.”

The Resch Center crowd, however, did put the blame on Guidugli, booing the QB after not being able to score on a fourth-down play inside the Manchester 10-yardline with 12:08 to play in the fourth quarter and the score 39-20.

Garth, the elder member of the Blizzard having played eight seasons in arenafootball2, has seen a lot of games where teams have comeback from a few scores down late, but his younger teammates haven’t.

“I think by us being young, a lot of guys revert back to the outdoor game when you are down 14-15 points it’s over.”

Garth also said the most disappointing thing was to lose that way at home, but hinted that the loss will serve as a motivational tool the rest of the season.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys. I’ve got more years by myself than everyone else combined.”

The man known as “Superman” was almost right. The Blizzard roster has 20 years of af2 experience;  eight of those years belong to Garth.

The other 12 years belong to eight players, and the team played 11 rookies on Friday night.

Also, years credited to the experienced players don’t account for full af2 seasons played, it simply signifies the player has played in at least one game in a previous season.

Guidugli, who has two years of credited experience, has never played a full season. He started eight games in 2007 before signing with the CFL’s B.C. Lions and came back last season to start the team’s final three games.

In those games, however, he looked like an unflappable veteran of 10 years, which is why his performance on Friday night was so surprising.

Despite the youthfulness of the Blizzard, Garth thinks this is probably the most talented team he’s been around.

Blizzard defensive tackle Zarnell Fitch, who spent time with three NFL teams, is one of the talented rookies on the team, and may not know everything about the Arena game yet, but does know what it’s not.

“We know this is not Green Bay Blizzard football. This is not what coach Landsee is teaching,” Fitch said.

The game played by the Blizzard on Friday night isn’t what Landsee is  teaching, but the pain felt from the lopsided loss will serve as a reminder as to what happens when you don’t follow the coach’s lessons.

Getting a little bit of redemption

Coming into the game, the Blizzard was hoping to get a little payback after Manchester knocked Green Bay out of the playoffs last season at the Resch Center by pulling out a 55-54 win.

But it was Manchester WR Steve Savoy who ended up getting some revenge instead. Last season, in the teams’ regular-season meeting in Week 3, which the Blizzard won 72-31, Savoy was knocked out of the game after receiving a hard hit while going over the middle.

Savoy didn’t play in the teams’ postseason contest, but was able to get some redemption on Friday night. The former Utah Ute caught 10 passes for 156 yards and two TDs.

He set the tone early, catching a 45-yard TD pass from James Pinkney on the first play from scrimmage. Then, on the 2-point conversion, Savoy was the holder and took the ball in what looked like a designed play instead of a bobbled snap, and plowed over Fitch, who is 6-foot-3, 323 pounds, to give the Wolves the 8-0 advantage

Andrew is a senior at UW-Green Bay and has written for the student newspaper. He began following arena football in 1998 as a fan of the Green Bay Bombers (IFL). Was a programming intern for Sports Radio 107.5 & 1400 The Fan and is currently pursuing a career in radio broadcasting.
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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