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Florida Tuskers Clinch Spot in Championship Game with 27-24 Win Over Las Vegas Locos

October 31, 2009 by  

The Florida Tuskers continued their unbeaten run through the UFL with a hard-fought 27-24 victory over the Las Vegas Locomotives on Saturday night in front of 11,354 fans at Tropicana Field. With the win and their 4-0 record, the Tuskers solidified an appearance in the inaugural UFL Championship Game on November 27. The loss drops the Locomotives to 1-2 on the season.

“It wasn’t one of our better games,” said Tuskers’ Head Coach Jim Haslett. “Las Vegas mixed it up. But I think the fact that we still won shows the character of the team.” It was the Locos who came out with a head of steam to open the game. On the first play from scrimmage, Marcel Shipp busted off a 14-yard run. But the Tuskers’ defense continued to show why it’s one of the top units in the UFL as they shut down Las Vegas on the opening drive to force a punt.

The defenses for both teams took over in each of the next few series as turnovers became the theme. In the Tuskers’ first offensive series, tight end Jermaine Wiggins fumbled on his own 29 and Locos’ linebacker Brandon Moore recovered. The Tuskers’ defense responded as Jerome Carter, who started at free safety in place of the injured Dexter Jackson, picked off Las Vegas quarterback J.P. Losman in the end zone and returned the ball 81-yards to the Locos 19-yard line. On Florida’s second play of the drive, quarterback Brooks Bollinger was intercepted by Trey Young while trying to reach running back Michael Pittman.

The first quarter ended with Las Vegas the more dominant offense as they controlled the ball for 11:55 compared to only 3:05 for the Tuskers. The Tuskers’ offense struck first to open the third quarter as wide receiver Marcus Maxwell scored for the second week in a row on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Bollinger (his 10th on the season) to give the Tuskers a 7-0 lead. The Locos responded by marching down the field only to have the drive result in no points as kicker Graham Gano missed a 41-yard field goal.

Las Vegas’ defense then forced a three-and-out and after Todd Sauerbrun’s 20-yard punt, Locos’ Head Coach Jim Fassel went to his bag of tricks. He dialed up a flea-flicker that resulted in a 60-yard touchdown from Losman to wide receiver Tab Perry, who beat safety Jerome Carter to tie the game at 7-7.

Tuskers’ Head Coach Jim Haslett responded with a gadget play of his own. Florida faked a punt and Shaud Williams scampered 29 yards to give the Tuskers a fresh set of downs. Tuskers tight end Keith Heinrich then fumbled after a five-yard gain and the ball was recovered by Las Vegas defensive back Nick Turnbull, who returned it 43 yards to the Tuskers’ 22-yard line. Locos’ running back DeDe Dorsey punched the ball in on the next play for a 14-7 lead. Dorsey became the first running back to go over 100 yards against the Tuskers’ defense as he recorded 139 yards on the game.

“He (DeDe) is so explosive and just really, really good,” said Fassel. “Marcel Shipp is great, and at first we really used DeDe to keep Marcus fresh. We will keep using (DeDe) more and more.”

For the first time all season, the Tuskers went into halftime trailing. The teams traded points to start the third quarter. The Tuskers struck first as Bollinger again connected with Maxwell for a 46-yard touchdown to even the game at 14. Las Vegas responded with an eight-play drive that resulted in a 40-yard field goal by Gano. Florida kicker Matt Bryant would connect on a 30-yard field goal to even the game at 17.

Midway through the third quarter, the Tuskers’ explosive offense came to life on a seven play, 86-yard drive that was capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Tatum Bell, who led Florida with 65 rushing yards. Las Vegas would answer quickly though as Dorsey rambled 71 yards to the Tuskers’ two-yard line. On the next play, Losman found a wide-open John Madsen for a touchdown to even the score at 24.

Bollinger, the UFL’s leading passer, answered by driving his team down the field on a series that included the Tuskers’ longest pass play of the season, a 53-yard strike to wide receiver Taye Biddle. A 40-yard field goal by Matt Bryant capped the drive and gave the Tuskers a 27-24 lead with 4:38 left in the game.

After each defense forced punts, Las Vegas had one last chance as they got the ball back on their own 22-yard line with 1:49 remaining. They moved the ball to the Florida 35 yard line with 46 second remaining when on second and two Losman was sacked for a six yard loss by Tuskers’ nose tackle Claude Wroten. Two incompletions later, the Tuskers had recorded their second win over the Locos in two meetings this season.

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