SaberCats Corral Outlaws 59-41 in Season Opener
Tuesday March 31, 2015
Taking the ball under center, SaberCats’ quarterback Erik Meyer looked across the middle of the field and found the always reliable Ben Nelson for a 14-yard first down, his first completed pass as a SaberCat. The SaberCats shook off the season opener jitters en route to a 21-0 first quarter lead. The SaberCats got on the board first, when Odie Armstrong took the handoff in for a two yard touchdown. Meyer followed that with 32-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Gray, after an offside penalty on Outlaws’ defensive end Terrance Carter allowed for a free play.
On the Outlaw’s opening drive, SaberCats defensive backs Virgil Gray and Eric Crocker were both flagged for defensive holding in the secondary. The ball hawking Gray found his redemption though, picking off Outlaws’ quarterback J.J. Raterink in the end zone two plays later. On the ensuing two Outlaw possessions, Gray and the rest of the SaberCats’ defense forced a turnover-on-downs, including a goal-line run stop.
On the contrary, Meyer led the San Jose offense on six straight first half scoring drives. The former Spokane Shock duo of Meyer and wide receiver Adron Tennell were officially reacquainted, as Tennell hauled in a one-handed reception, as he crashed over the boards for a 29-yard touchdown, giving the SaberCats a 21-0 first quarter lead. Tennell hauled in five receptions for 84 yards in his SaberCats debut.
In his debut with San Jose, the 2013 AFL Most Valuable Player distributed the ball around, throwing for 294 yards on 18-of-29 passes and six touchdowns, while tossing at least one touchdown pass to each of his four receivers. Gray led all SaberCat receivers with seven receptions for 89 yards.
The ageless wonder, SaberCats’ wide receiver Ben Nelson got into the fray as well, catching two first half touchdowns from Meyer, to bring his AFL career total to 172 touchdown receptions. Nelson totaled four receptions for 60 yards.
Scoring the first points for the Outlaws’ franchise, Raterink was able to run in two touchdowns to cut the SaberCats lead to 42-13 at halftime. The Outlaws’ maneuvered the ball into the redzone on five separate occasions in the first half, but only capitalized twice.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Outlaws marched down the field and scored when Las Vegas native, Tysson Poots, caught a four yard touchdown reception from Raterink, his first of three touchdowns on the night. Poots finished with seven receptions and 123 yards to lead all receivers
After the SaberCats offense surrendered their first turnover on downs, the defense answered the call. After defensive end Luis Vasquez stripped Raterink, David Hyland scooped up the ball and was tripped up at the five yard line. The SaberCats would extend their lead to 49-20 after Meyer found Tennell for the second time in the end zone. There was a bit of a scare for the SaberCats after the pass, when Meyer was taken down by a host of Outlaw defenders and was seen icing his hand between possessions.
Similar to the 2014 season, where he took over for starting quarterback Russ Michna, Nathan Stanley assumed the role from Meyer but was unable to find the same immediate success. Coming off of the edge, Terrance Carter sacked Stanley on fourth down to force a turnover. Taking over on downs, Raterink connected with rookie wide receiver LaDon Hudson on a seven yard touchdown pass, to bring the Outlaws to their closest mark at 49-34.
After the SaberCats recovered an onside kick and scored on Armstrong’s second rushing touchdown, the Outlaw’s answered when Poots climbed the ladder, snagged a one-handed reception, broke a tackle and raced into the end zone. The score cut the SaberCats lead to 56-41 midway through the fourth quarter. After Meyer returned to the lineup, the SaberCats extended their lead to 59-41 on the leg of 2014 AFL Kicker of the Year Nich Pertuit, who connected on a 25-yard field goal.
Despite being outscored 17-28 in the second half, San Jose held on thanks in large part to the arm of Erik Meyer and their havoc creating, opportunistic defense. .
ABOUT THE SAN JOSE SABERCATS
The ArenaBowl XVI, XVIII and XXI champion San Jose SaberCats finished their 19th season in the AFL with a Pacific Division Title after making their return in 2011. Fans and sponsors can go to thesanjosesabercats.com or call 408-673-3400 to sign up to receive the latest news and updates about the SaberCats, as well as to purchase 2015 season tickets. Make sure to follow the SaberCats on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news on the team.