If it felt like the two teams were trudging through mud the first three quarters, your eyes weren't deceiving you. Two teams that before the season were expected to have some of the most promising offenses in the league ended up shooting blanks for much of the first three quarters. Los Angeles and Dallas both had their chances, and often times had drives that looked promising but kept shooting themselves in the foot. Five turnovers and nine points later, something finally had to give.
And then Josh Johnson finally found Nelson Spruce in the back of the endzone with 11:52 left in the 4th quarter, and we were off to the races.
Three minutes later, Cameron Artis-Payne found the endzone to give the lead back to Dallas. After getting the ball back and receiving a huge boost from a Flynn Nagel punt return, Landry Jones found TE Donald Parham rolling out to his right for a score to put Dallas up 10 with just under 5 minutes to go.
Literally 15 seconds later, Josh Johnson found Nelson Spruce again, who had beat his man down the center of the field and connected for a 44-yard bomb to send the balance of the game back into a tizzy. On the ensuing three-point play, Johnson found Adonis Jennings to make it a one-point game.
Dallas took over and salted the game away. Jones hit his guys, Artis-Payne found the openings. With a little over a minute left, Artis-Payne bolted down the left sideline, found daylight, and made his way to the endzone to put the Renegades up by 7. Los Angeles Quarterback QB Josh Johnson was sacked on a fourth-down attempt, and the Renegades walked out of Carson, California with their first victory on the season.
Cameron Artis-Payne played a huge role in the Dallas offense, running for a yard short of a hundred, but finding the endzone twice in the pivotal fourth quarter. Donald Parham was targetted 11 times on the afternoon and brought in five of those. Spruce was productive for the Wildcats, bringing in two big touchdowns. Outside of Spruce, the Wildcat offense seemed vacant for the second consecutive week.
This is the Dallas squad we expected. The offense made more sense with Landry Jones under center, and the deep shots flowed much more freely than they did last week. Hal Mumme said that as much as they wanted to run the Air Raid, they loved running the ball too, and Artis-Payne found the edge in the gameplan and took full advantage of it.
Landry Jones still needs to be better. Jones finished with over 300 yards passing, and all of this still on an injured ankle. He hobbled and scampered about, surprising himself, saying in postgame comments that, "The thing I'm most proud of are those scrambles -- I couldn't believe it." In that same breath, however, he acknowledged his play wasn't up to the same caliber that he expects. "It's not a secret, I didn't play well today." Jones had two bad interceptions on the day, to go along with a lost fumble.
The Wildcats are still looking for answers. I commented last week about how Wildcat fans can take ease that it's just the first week. Last week, they had life at the end of the game, and Sunday was much of the same. But the offense was dormant even with Johnson under center. A week after firing their defensive coordinator after the first game, the Wildcats still allowed Dallas to roll over them in the fourth quarter, breaking what had been a great performance for the defense. Now sitting at 0-2, Los Angeles will need to find answers quickly and often to compete for the championship.
Dallas (1-1) will head to Seattle to take on the Dragons who are coming off a fourth-quarter victory of their own, and Los Angeles (0-2) will welcome the undefeated D.C. Defenders coming off a mauling of the New York Guardians.
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