The AAF Week 6 is in the books and this past weekend proves the AAF continues to surprise. No, I’m not talking about the once-perfect Orlando Apollos losing to the Arizona Hotshots. I’m talking about the signing of Johnny Football himself.
That’s right. Johnny Manziel. In the AAF. After Memphis Express quarterback, Zach Mettengberger, goes down against the Salt Lake Stallions, the Express wasted no time signing Manziel. And why not? Both Manziel and the Express have hit rock bottom already so it’s like a match made in heaven.
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Yes, I went there. What.
In all honesty, this is a great move for the Express and also for the AAF as a whole. More people should be watching with him under center and Memphis should be getting more fans in the stadium. “Should” being the operative word. I’ll believe it when I see it. I do hope this is the spark the 1-5 Memphis Express needs in the second half of the season.
Speaking of Memphis…. let’s get right down to it.
(1-5) Memphis Express @ (2 – 4) Salt Lake Stallions
I have said this before, but it warrants repeating. Salt Lake Stallions are not their record. A series of unlucky losses have contributed to their 2-4 status. However, the Stallions defense continues to impress, leading the AAF as the best run defense in the league. They held the #4 rushing leader, Zach Stacy, to 11 carries, for only 31 yards, and only 2.8 yards per carry. While Stacy did score their lone receiving touchdown, that TD came from a mere 4 catches for 27 yards. In fact, the Stallions bottled up the run game to a paltry 49 yards for the whole game.
And, then there’s the Stallions’ defensive end, Karter Schult. He has always been considered under-sized for a defensive player and has overcome this stigma his entire football career.
Karter Schult leads the AAF in sacks with 7, racking up 2 in this game against the Express. I don’t care who you have as your quarterback, Schult is going to make you pay and feel it for days afterward.
As long as the Stallions defense continues to create turnovers, of which they had 3 against the Express, the offense has a chance to score points. Woodrum needs to mind his interceptions as he has 5 already on the season. Memphis made some key stops on defense to hold the score to 19-9 for a majority of the game as well as creating 3 turnovers for the Express.
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We will see how Johnny Manziel will contribute to the Memphis Express’ offense moving forward. It seems pretty clear to me that Christian Hackenberg and 3rd stringer Brandon Silvers aren’t the answer. If they can create some explosive, down-field plays with Johnny Football, the Express have a chance to redeem themselves before the season is over.
(3-3) Arizona Hotshots @ (5-1) Orlando Apollos
Do I have to talk about this game? Dang it. Fine. I suppose King Leonidus from the movie 300 sums up this game. “…even a god-king can bleed”.
The formerly 2-3 Arizona Hotshots used their momentum from a near 4th quarter comeback against the San Antonio Commanders to make sure the world knew the Orlando Apollos are actually human.
As an Apollos fan myself, this game was nail-biting and ultimately depressing after the offensive line ended the game on a false start penalty to run 10 seconds off the clock while they were on the 4 yard line getting ready to score and win the game.
Despite the o-line debacle, the game came down to the Hotshots getting all up into quarterback Garrett Gilbert’s grill and getting him and Spurrier, off their game. Gilbert came into this matchup with a 62.3 passing completion rate and zero interceptions. In this game, he threw his first interception and a pass completion rate of less than 50.
Although wide receivers, Jalin Marhsall and Charles Johnson, shined with a touchdown each, it wasn’t enough. This is the first game the Apollos have scored less than 20 points. Running backs, De’Veon Smith and D’Ernest Johnson, were held to 9 carries and less than 45 yards each. Clearly, the Hotshots defense came to play.
On the offensive side of the ball, Jhurell Pressley continues to impress as the leading rusher in the AAF. He had 13 carries for 57 yards and a rushing touchdown as well as a receiving touchdown on one target. The Apollos did do a decent job of containing #2 AAF receiver, Rashaad Ross, to 5 receptions on 10 targets and 51 yards.
This game really boiled down to the Hotshots’ defense putting pressure on Gilbert and Spurrier, being unable to make half-time adjustments like he had in weeks 1 – 5. There were also some questionable 4th down attempts, which the Apollos should have kicked a field goal for points instead of trying to go for it.
I’m interested to see if the Hotshots continue on their upward trajectory week 7 when they host the San Diego Fleet. Apollo fans better pray that the game against the Atlanta Legends is a get-right win. Otherwise, I may just hang my head in shame for the rest of the season.
(4-2) San Antonio Commanders @ (2-4) Atlanta Legends
The San Antonio Commanders’ defense is the shining star of this past weekend’s games. Coming into week 6, the Commanders had 8 turnovers since week 4. Four of those turnovers came in the first half of week 5. They tacked on another 4 turnovers against the Legends, resulting in a whopping 12 turnovers over the past 3 weeks.
Unlike the offensive stall against the Arizona Hotshots in week 5, the Commanders kept the pressure going all 4 quarters to end the game 37-6.
Quarterback, Logan Woodside, may be one of the best in the AAF at utilizing several different key positions to get the job done. He threw 17/23, 164 yards, 2 TDs, 1 2pt conversion and zero interceptions. He found wide receiver, Mekale McKay, and tight end, Evan Rodriguez in the end zone, and spread the ball around to 8 different pass catchers. Even running backs Kenneth Farrow II Trey Williams, got in on the action. Farrow also rushed 9 times for 35 yards and a touchdown, while Williams impressed with 6 carries for 32 yards 5.3 yards per carry.
The same impressive offense cannot be said for the Atlanta Legends, who again struggled on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Aaron Murray struggled to make connections with his wide receivers and even tried to put the entire team on his back in the 3rd quarter.
The Legends also struggle in the red zone, failing to convert on crucial downs for points. After center, Parker Collins got hurt, back up, Freddie Burden and Murray simply were not on the same page, bungling several offensive snaps and hand-offs. Where the Commanders were able to capitalize on defensive turnovers, the Legends struggled to do much of anything, pulling Murray near the end of the game for the 3rd stringer Peter Pujals. Let’s just be happy the Legends didn’t put in Simms, I suppose.
We’ll see how Atlanta can handle the Apollos who are looking for a get-right win after losing to the Hotshots.
(4-2) Birmingham Iron @ (3-3) San Diego Fleet
Welcome back, Luis Perez! As exciting as Keith Price was for the Birmingham Iron in his debut, there is still something special about Perez being the quarterback. Maybe it’s the chemistry you can almost feel from the players around him or maybe it’s simply because of his YouTube story, either way, the Iron are always a treat to watch.
The Iron benched Perez for backup Keith Price in week 5 when he failed to throw a single passing touchdown and threw his 4th interception. Price took a beating in his short stint in this game, getting injured in the first quarter. Perez stepped back into his role as quarterback and fired a 20 yard laser to Quinton Patton to start off the drive. It was statement he had to make and the Iron heard him loud and clear.
Perez went on to throw not just his first passing touchdown, not his second, but ultimately 3 passing TDs going 27/49, for 359 yards. Even after 2 interceptions, Tim Lewis stuck with Perez for the rest of the game. Perez and leading running back Trent Richardson led their team to a 32-29 victory.
Oh yeah, Trent Richardson. He scored 2 touchdowns. Surprise, surprise. Not.
Mike Bercovici, and Fleet offense found some rare holes in the Birmingham Iron defense. Running back, Terrell Watson, caught and rushed for 2 touchdowns, and wide receivers, Francis Owusu and Ben Johnson, found the end zone. The Fleet tied the game late in the 4th quarter at 29-29.
Perhaps it’s a cruel or joke or an ironic twist of fate, but the Fleet end up losing this game with a walk off field goal by Nick Novak. Remember the Fleet beating the Stallions in the same way last week?
The Iron proved they have the ability to have an explosive offense, if Perez can contain his turnovers. For the Fleet to succeed, they must do better than 2 for 12 on 3rd down conversions and 1 for 4 on 2 point conversions. That should lead to more points on the board so that the game won’t come down to a last minute field goal either for or against them.