SaberCats Media Relations
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose SaberCats (1-0) started their 2012 season with a bang, defeating the Arizona Rattlers (0-1) 71-70 in overtime in front of an animated 13,733 fans at HP Pavilion on Saturday night. Quarterback Mark Grieb was 34-59 for 432 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions, wide receiver James Roe caught ten passes for 100 yards and three touchdowns, and wide receiver Ben Nelson also had six receptions, 116 yards, and three touchdowns and receiver Huey Whittaker added his 100th career touchdown.
“It was a great win for us, the way our team battled back, I couldn’t ask for anything more.” Owner/Head Coach Darren Arbet said following the exciting season-opening win. “Playing against Arizona who is tough team, this is just a good way to start the season. I think our team can always get better, we will go back and look at the tape, make adjustments, and come out next time (March 24th at Utah) playing even better.”
The Rattlers drew first blood on the opening drive, as reigning league-MVP quarterback Nick Davila found wide receiver Maurice Purify for a four-yard touchdown. After a SaberCats’ turnover on downs, a quarterback sneak gave the visitors a 14-0 lead, which held into the second quarter.
Grieb hit Roe for a touchdown to start the second quarter, putting San Jose on the board. On Arizona’s ensuing possession, Davila connected with wide receiver Kerry Reed for a 41-yard scoring strike. Arizona’s extra point attempt failed, leaving the score at 20-7 with 10:42 remaining. After both teams traded scores, with 34 seconds left in the half, defensive back Rushard Dodd-Masters returned Arizona’s kickoff to their three-yard line and fullback Tommy Taggart took the handoff and charged in for the touchdown to cut the Rattlers lead to 34-28.
After a fumble deep in Rattlers’ territory, Arizona mounted a drive of its own, culminating in a four-yard touchdown pass to Purify that put Arizona on top 41-28. The SaberCats answered back, as Grieb found a wide-open Nelson for the score. The Rattlers combination of Davila and Purify struck again as the former Nebraska Cornhusker hauled in a 29-yard pass to make it 48-35 Arizona. Kicker Jacob Harfman’s booming kick high off the left screen was returned untouched for a touchdown by Rattlers defensive back Virgil Gray to make it 55-42 Arizona to end the third quarter.
Grieb’s perfect throw found Nelson in the end zone to open the fourth quarter and on the extra point attempt, Vince Hill recovered brilliantly from a botched snap as he picked up the ball, broke multiple Arizona tackles and converted the two-point attempt. Arizona marched down field, with fullback Odie Armstrong punctuating the drive with a short rushing touchdown. After a failed extra point attempt, Arizona led 61-50. Grieb then hit Whittaker over the middle for Whittaker’s 100th career touchdown to move San Jose within four at 61-57.
Arizona wide receiver Trandon Harvey attempted a one-handed catch against the boards but was unable to hang on, and Dodd-Masters snatched it out of the air for the interception to give San Jose possession at Arizona’s 12-yard line. Grieb continued his productive evening, hitting Roe for a first-down and went right back to him for the touchdown, giving San Jose its’ first lead of the game, 64-61, with 0:53 remaining in the final period.
Arizona recovered San Jose’s onside kick on the SaberCats’ nine-yard line, but San Jose stepped up defensively and held the Rattlers’ to a 24-yard field goal, evening the score at 64-64. Harfman’s attempted game-winning 24-yard field goal with two seconds remaining, missed wide left and the game went into overtime.
In overtime, Grieb found Goodson for two first downs, hit Nelson crossing the field, and connected with Roe for a seven-yard score to give San Jose the lead 71-64. After Davila hit Reed on consecutive plays to reach San Jose’s 11-yard line, Harvey hauled in an 11-yard pass to close the gap to 71-70. Arizona attempted a game-winning two point conversion, but Davila’s pass was deflected by Dodd-Masters, giving San Jose an exhilarating opening-night win.
ABOUT THE SAN JOSE SABERCATS
The ArenaBowl XVI, XVIII and XXI champion San Jose SaberCats, opened their 16th season in the Arena Football League Saturday night. 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 2012 season tickets. Make sure to follow the SaberCats on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news on the team.