The Ron James era of Pittsburgh Power football opened tonight with a dramatic 48-47 victory over the San Jose SaberCats in front of a crowd of 4,309 at CONSOL Energy Center. With the win, the Power even their record to 1-1 on the season while the SaberCats fall to 2-1.
Power quarterback Tommy Grady threw for five touchdowns without an interception. Wide Receiver Prechae Rodriguez led Pittsburgh’s offensive stats with nine catches for 91 yards receiving and four touchdown grabs. Jack Linebacker Latarrius Thomas held the defensive front for the Power with eight tackles. Thomas, Sergio Gilliam, and Virgil Gray each made an interception in tonight’s game against the SaberCats.
SaberCats’ quarterback Nathan Stanley, in his second career start, had a game-high 260 yards while throwing five touchdowns. Receiver Reggie Gray recorded game-highs 126 yards and 12 catches. On the defensive side for San Jose, defensive back Clevan Thomas recorded 10 tackles.
The Power took advantage of a pass interference play in the game’s opening drive and converted it into a score when Grady found Rodriguez for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Julian Rauch added the extra point giving Pittsburgh the early lead over San Jose 7-0.
On the SaberCats first play from scrimmage, Stanley was intercepted by Thomas at the San Jose 10-yard line. Four plays later, Grady found Rodriguez for a 9-yard touchdown pass. Rauch’s extra point put the Power up 14-0 at the 9:11 mark of the quarter.
The Power’s defense forced another SaberCats turnover when Justin Lawrence recovered a Stanley fumble at the San Jose 22-yard line. Pittsburgh turned the miscue into points as Grady scored on a 1-yard keeper. Rauch’s extra point closed out the first quarter scoring with the Power leading 21-0.
The second quarter started with Virgil Gray picking off Stanley in the end zone, but Pittsburgh could not come away with any points from the turnover. On San Jose’s next possession, Stanley found Huey Whittaker for a 5-yard touchdown pass, getting the SaberCats on the board for the first time. Nick Pertuit’s extra point was good and with 7:31 remaining in the first half, the Power’s lead was cut to 21-7.
Aaron LeSué took the ensuing kickoff down to the San Jose 11-yard line. On second and goal from the 8 yard line, Grady found a wide open Rodriguez for the duo’s third touchdown of the game. Rauch added the extra point to give the Power a 28-7 advantage.
Pittsburgh added to their lead when Grady connected with Rodriguez in the corner of the end zone with 29 seconds remaining in the half for a 4-yard score. The play was set up by a Rodriguez acrobatic catch over the boards, earning him the Cutters Catch of the Game honor. Rauch’s point after made the score 35-7.
San Jose’s J.J. Payne scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 4 seconds remaining in the half. The point after was wide. On the kickoff, the SaberCats’ David Hyland had a net recovery in the end zone for a touchdown making him the AFL Highlight of the Game. Pertuit converted the point after to close out the first half with the Power leading 35-20.
The SaberCats opened up the third quarter scoring with a Whittaker 3-yard touchdown pass from Stanley. Pertuit’s extra point was good and the Power lead was cut to 8 points at 35-27. The Power answered when Grady found Shaun Kauleinamoku in the corner of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Rausch made the point after and at the 5:01 mark of the 3rd quarter, Pittsburgh led 42-27. Whittaker answered with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Stanley just before the end of the quarter. Pertuit’s kick was good, making the score 42-34.
Pittsburgh fullback Tommy Taggart scored the first touchdown of the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run. Rauch missed the extra point and with 10:48 remaining in the game, the Power was up 48-34. Gilliam intercepted Stanley on San Jose’s next possession resulting in a touchback. On fourth and 10 at the own 5 yard line, Grady found Kauleinamoku for a 31 yard catch down to the SaberCats 14-yard line. But the San Jose defense stopped the Power from putting the game out of the reach when the SabreCats’ Kenny Okoro broke up Grady’s pass on fourth and 1 from the 5-yard line.
San Jose came back with a 6-play, 45-yard drive capped by Reggie Gray’s 8-yard touchdown catch from Stanley. Pertuit’s extra point was good and with 48 seconds remaining, it was now a 1-possession game with the Power leading 48-41.
On the ensuing kickoff, San Jose’s Marc Schiechl recovered the onside attempt at the SaberCats’ 14-yard line. San Jose drove the ball down to the Power 3-yard line and with 10 seconds left, the SaberCats’ were flagged for a delay of game penalty pushing the ball back to the 8-yard line. On the next play, Stanley found Gray for an over-the-board touchdown catch with 3 seconds left. With the Power leading 48-47, the SaberCats opted for a 2-point conversion, but Gilliam knocked the ball out of Jason Willis’ hands to solidify the Pittsburgh victory.
The Power return to action on Friday, April 4, visiting the San Antonio Talons. Kickoff at Alomodome is 8:30 pm ET. The game will be broadcast on TribLIVE Radio.