Rattlers make AFL history in rout of Talons
Perhaps the Arizona Rattlers toughest opponent on June 14 was complacency.
Seeking the best start to a season in Arena Football League history against the team with the AFL's worst record, the Rattlers pulled away in the second half to claim a 70-34 win over the San Antonio Talons at the Alamodome.
"Trust me, we don't overlook these games,” said Rattlers Head Coach Kevin Guy, whose team has now won 17 in a row dating back to last season. “We coach harder these weeks than we do for San Jose or Spokane – I don't need to motivate them during those weeks.”
The win moved the Rattlers to 13-0 this season while the reeling Talons, devastated by injuries and an unstable ownership situation, fell to 1-12.
“As far as the record goes, it is good for our fans and you have to give credit to our players,” Guy explained. “But our goal is to win another championship.”
Rattlers quarterback Nick Davila, who continued his MVP push with seven touchdowns and no interceptions, agreed with his head coach.
“The record means something because it shows the hard work everyone has put in for this organization,” said Davila, who has now thrown for 96 touchdowns against just seven interceptions this season. “But the main goal is to stay focused, get better every week and win another title.”
An announced crowd of 5,692 seemed more like 2,500 with a section representing Rattler Nation near the visitors' bench area. On paper, the game seemed like a huge mismatch but the scrappy Talons kept it close, at least for one half.
The Rattlers took a quick 14-0 lead as Davila hit Rod Windsor and Maurice Purify with a pair of scoring strikes. Fullback Mykel Benson got the Talons on the scoreboard with a 1-yard bulldozer-like touchdown before Davila responded with a pinpoint 19-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Tysson Poots.
After another Benson 1-yard score, former Rattler Garrett Lindholm changed momentum when his kickoff hit the bar and he recovered the loose ball. Lindholm nearly scored on the play before being piled on at the Rattlers' 1.
This time, Talons quarterback Matt Bassuener sneaked over the goal line and San Antonio had cut the lead to 21-20. Lindholm then missed the extra point.
Davila was not fazed. He connected with Windsor from 15 yards out and after the Arizona defense forced a stop, Purify did the honors with a 1-yard TD catch with just 9 seconds before halftime.
“You have to take what the defense gives you,” Davila explained. “The defense will dictate where the ball goes. And I have to give credit to my offensive line – they kept the pocket clean all night.”
After the break, the Talons responded with another Benson score before Arizona stepped on the gas. Three consecutive Rattlers touchdowns put the contest out of reach at 56-27 with 10 minutes left in the game.
Backup quarterback Jason Murrietta made the most of his one pass attempt with 6:01 left, throwing a TD to Purify on a highlight-reel diving catch.
For the game, Davila connected on 18-of-24 passes for 232 yards. Purify and Windsor each caught three touchdowns with Poots and Kerry Reed hauling in one score each. Alex Singleton also rushed for two touchdowns.
Defensively, Arizona recorded just one total sack but the pressure was on Bassuener all game long. The San Antonio quarterback, replacing an ineffective Shane Boyd, threw for 172 yards and one touchdown while tossing three picks. “We've done pretty well all year getting that defensive push,” Guy said.
Marquis Floyd continued his hot streak, recording all three Arizona interceptions.
“We have some ballhawks back there and they are playing well,” Davila added.
Guy said the Rattlers can still improve defensively.
“We have to cut down on the penalties that allowed them to continue drives,” Guy explained. “We let them escape a few times on fourth down. We will work on pursuit to the ball and tackling this week.”
Both Davila and Guy were not with the team during a portion of the week leading up to the Talons game. The duo attended the funeral of Davila's father in California.
“This was a first-class sign of respect of my father, who Coach Guy knew,” Davila said of his friend and coach making the trip with him to the west coast. “It was awesome for him to show up and support me not as a football player, but as a person.”
Guy said off-the-field adversity is bringing the Rattlers closer together as a team.
“We will kind of get back to normal this week and move forward as a team,” the head coach said. “Even though we are undefeated, we have had some things to deal with off the field. But we've found ways to overcome it.”
With the AFL's first perfect regular season five wins from reality, the Rattlers are taking nothing for granted. Still looming on the schedule are tough road contests at the San Jose SaberCats and at the Spokane Shock, along with a grueling cross-country trip to face the Orlando Predators.
“Our eyes are on the prize – that's where our head is at right now,” Guy said.
Matt Loeschman is the business editor/city reporter at the Williamson County Sun and a color commentator for SHN Sports in Georgetown, Texas. As a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, he bleeds burnt orange but is also an avid fan of the Arizona Rattlers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Stars, Texas Stars, Houston Rockets, Houston Dynamo and Austin Aztex. With nearly 20 years of experience in print journalism and radio, Matt has covered sports ranging from high school to the pros along with local news. He has followed the AFL since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter @MattLoeschman.