Rush Lose First Home Game Off the Net; Reduce Playoff Chances
He would drop back three steps, take a second, and then put the ball just into the perfect place.
In using these words, one could think that I am referring to one of the great quarterbacks in the Arena Football League. But on Saturday night, these words would perfectly describe San Jose Sabercats kicker Nich Pertuit.
With the Chicago Rush holding a half game advantage over San Jose for the fourth playoff spot in the National Conference going into this game at Allstate Arena, it was critical for both teams to come out with a win.
If there was ever a night in which it could be said that a kicker was the MVP of a game, this was the night.
With the Rush having a strong kick returner in All-Arena performer Reggie Gray, Pertuit had a challenge to meet, and he more than stepped up to it.
On the night, Pertuit had four touchbacks which started the Rush back at their own five yard line each time. He had a net of 47.5 yards per kickoff in the game which is a great “feet” in itself.
After a touchback on his first kickoff, Pertuit would have the next one come off of the bottom part of the net, which took Gray by surprise. He would pick it up and then fumble the return, which was recovered by Sabercats DB Mervin Brookins at the Rush four yard line. After a penalty, The Sabercats would score two plays later on a nine yard pass from QB Mark Grieb to wide receiver Fred Williams. This gave the Sabercats an early 21-7 lead, one the Rush would never recover from.
Early in the second quarter and the Sabercats holding a 28 -13 lead, Pertuit did it again! He hit a ball that came off of the bottom of the net. Gray was unable to handle it. It went by him and headed towards the back-up, who on this play was Rush fullback JJ Payne. The ball went through Payne’s hands and was recovered by the Sabercats at the Rush two yard line.
“He had me spooked all night,” said Gray after the game. “I never knew which way the ball was coming off the net.”
Pertuit would have three more touchbacks and two more balls that Gray was unable to control. One was returned by back-up Jared Perry for 25 yards and the other by Gray after he picked it up, but only got out to the Rush one yard line.
The Sabercats took advantage of these errors and scored on all but one offensive possession on the night en route to 75 -61 victory. The victory gives the Sabercats a half game lead over the Rush for the for the final playoff spot in the conference. It also gives San Jose the first tiebreaker if the two teams are tied at the end of the season as they have beaten the Rush in both of their games this season.
“We turned the ball over three times. You are never going to win a game when you turn the ball over three times.” Said Rush head coach Bob McMillen. “It’s mental football. Those guys get paid on the other side too. They knocked the ball out. They caused the fumbles. Their kicker goes out and hits a great ball off the iron and they recover it. When you turn the ball over twice early in the game, it is tough to fight back.”
The Rush now find themselves in a position that they have never been in before in team history and that is on the outside looking in with the playoffs not far away.
The road will not be easy as they play the division leading San Antonio Talons (12 – 3) next Sunday afternoon at home.
After the game next Sunday, the Rush go on the road, where they are only 2-5 on the season, to play games against the highly competitive Milwaukee Mustangs and the best defensive unit in the league in the Cleveland Gladiators.
Even if the Rush win all three of their games, they will certainly need some assistance if a playoff run is in the cards.
“We have three games left and we have to win all of them. It’s plain and simple. We also need some help from some other people. We’ve got to win the rest of them and hopefully somebody else makes a mistake.”
Sabercats wide receiver Fred Williams put up an impressive performance with 269 total yards. He scored touchdowns by receiving, rushing, and kick returning.
In the loss, Rush quarterback Russ Michna put his name in both the organization and AFL record books.
- He passed for 375 yards in the game. This helped him to exceed his own single season record of 3,860 yards that he set in the 2010 season. He is now at 4,023 yards on the season with three games still to play.
- His seven touchdowns in the game passed former Rush QB Matt D’Orazio (82) for touchdowns thrown in a season. Michna now has 83.
- He also passed Pat O’Hara and is now 24th on the AFL list for career passing yards.
Also, Michna continued his streak and has now not thrown an interception in five straight games.The victory for the Sabercats was only their second at Allstate arena in seven games