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SaberCats Clinch Playoff Berth, Knock Off Talons 62-35

Sunday July 7, 2013

 SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose SaberCats (11-4) clinched a playoff berth on Saturday night against the San Antonio Talons (8-7) with a 62-35 win in front of 8,976 fans at HP Pavilion. San Jose quarterback Russ Michna was efficient in the win, completing 15-of-28 passes for 182 yards and 5 touchdowns with zero interceptions. Defense definitely told the story, as the SaberCats held San Antonio to 13 points through the first three quarters and forced three turnovers on downs and intercepted three passes.

"We're starting to gel, The guys see what's in front of us now and they know they have to stay focused, take one day at a time. Every man has to be great and they understand that, It’s not just one guy, it’s about "we" and they understand that,” said SaberCats Owner/Head Coach Darren Arbet. “Whatever their role is on a given play, or a game they understand they're doing it for the football team."

San Antonio opened up the scoring with a three-yard touchdown pass on fourth down from quarterback Rohan Davey to wide receiver Brent Holmes, giving the Talons an early 7-0 lead. The SaberCats would answer back with a three-yard touchdown completion of their own, as Michna found wide receiver Huey Whittaker for his 19th receiving score this season. However, a missed extra point kept San Antonio in the lead 7-6. After the San Jose defense held strong to force a turnover on downs, thanks to a clutch tackle by defensive back Clevan Thomas, the offense put the SaberCats ahead for the first time on the night. Michna connected with wide receiver Fred Williams on a short pass in the flat that turned into a 37-yard touchdown, giving San Jose the lead 13-7 after one quarter of play.

After a penalty on fourth down initially cost the SaberCats defense a stop, defensive end Jabari Fletcher intercepted Davey off of a deflection on the very next play. San Jose would extend their lead to 20-7, as wide receiver Jamarko Simmons, returning from a five game absence, took a Michna handoff and flipped into the end zone from four-yards out. On the Talons’ next possession, the SaberCats thought they had forced their third turnover on the night as a sack and forced fumble by linebacker Francis Maka turned into a Whittaker recovery for a touchdown. However, it was ruled that Davey’s arm was moving forward and therefore, an incomplete pass. Not to be dissuaded, on the same drive, defensive back JC Neal broke up a Davey fourth down attempt to officially give the San Jose defense their third stop of the game. Two plays later, Williams broke free and made a brilliant one-handed catch in the end zone on a 28-yard pass from Michna, giving the SaberCats a 27-7 lead with just under one minute in the half. After wide receiver Jason Willis successfully recovered an onside kick, San Jose couldn’t quite connect for some last second points, and took the 20-point lead into halftime.

By virtue of winning the coin toss, the SaberCats received to open the second half and struck immediately. After Williams returned the kickoff to the Talons one-yard line, Fletcher powered his way into the end zone, extending the San Jose lead to 34-7. The SaberCats defense once again turned up the heat on San Antonio, as heavy pressure forced Davey into a hurried throw that the Hall-of-Fame selection Thomas intercepted and took 27-yards to the house. The Talons would answer with their first points since the 12:32 mark of the first quarter, as Davey connected with wide receiver Jomo Wilson from 14 yards out, trimming the San Jose lead back to 28 and ending a 41-0 San Jose run. An onside kick recovery by Simmons gave the SaberCats offense a short field, and Michna took advantage by finding Whittaker on fourth down from four-yards out, pushing the margin to 48-13 with under four minutes left in the third quarter. San Jose’s defense continued its onslaught of the San Antonio offense, taking away time and space to force their third turnover on downs at the end the third quarter.

Opening up the final frame, the SaberCats offense couldn’t deliver on the short field, turning the ball over on downs. The Talons would instantly take advantage, as Davey was able to find Holmes wide open for 47-yards, and a successful two-point conversion brought the score to 48-21 in favor on San Jose. After yet another San Antonio failed onside kick attempt, Michna hooked up with Whittaker for the third time, this one on a screen pass, putting San Jose back on top by 34. The SaberCats defense once again held strong, as Thomas intercepted Davey in the end zone with a great diving catch and danced around the entire San Antonio offensive unit for the 53-yard touchdown return, his second on the night. The Talons, still playing hard, marched down the field as Davey found offensive lineman Moqut Ruffins on a screen pass to close the gap to 62-27. After the SaberCats offense stalled, Talons defensive back Carlton Brown returned a missed field goal 56-yards for a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion brought the score to 62-35 with one minute remaining. San Jose would run out the clock to secure the 27-point victory over San Antonio and clinch a playoff berth for the second consecutive season.

The story of this contest was the dominance of the SaberCats defense. With relentless pressure all night, the team held Rohan Davey to only 18-of-38 passing with three interceptions. While they officially recorded no sacks, the defensive front provided a continuous nuisance to the San Antonio offense. They also held the Talons without a point for 35-minutes from the first to third quarters. On the whole, the defense forced six stops, with two interception returns for touchdowns Thomas being the icing on the cake. Defensive back Ken Fontenette led the team with nine tackles, and J.C. Neal added two key pass break ups. The trio of defensive backs was also responsible for holding San Antonio’s top receiver, Jomo Wilson, to just four catches for 38 yards and a score

On the offensive side, the SaberCats were efficient but deadly. Russ Michna struck for five touchdowns through the air; three to Mr. Reliable Huey Whittaker and two to Big Play Fred Williams. The offense also pounded in two scores on the ground, with one each for Simmons and Fletcher.

San Jose makes their final road trip of the regular season next week when they travel east to battle the Pittsburgh Power (3-12) on Saturday, July 13 at Consol Energy Center in Week 17 on the Net 10 Wireless Arena Football League Game of the Week and look for the season sweep. The game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network and KNBR 1050 at 4:00 p.m. PT.

Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -----
San Antonio Talons .. 7 0 6 22 35
San Jose SaberCats .. 13 14 21 14 62

Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: SJ – WR Fred Williams
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: SJ – DB Clevan Thomas
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: SJ – WR/KR Fred Williams
Cutters Catch of the Game: SJ- DB Clevan Thomas’ diving interception in the endzone and frenetic return for a touchdown.
AFL Highlight of the Game: 53-yard diving interception and touchdown return with 8:00 to play by SJ-DB Clevan Thomas.

ABOUT THE SAN JOSE SABERCATS
The ArenaBowl XVI, XVIII and XXI champion San Jose SaberCats, are in their 17th Arena Football League season. Fans can log on to thesanjosesabercats.com, call 408-673-3400 and follow the SaberCats on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@SJSaberCats) for all of the latest news and information on the team. Please contact the front office at the above phone number for information on 2014 Season Ticket Packages.