Matt Nichols, fresh off the Greyhound, walks out onto the field for pre-game warmups
The Wranglers rode into San Antonio on Saturday fresh off a defeat against the Carolina Generals. Many experts across the country counted the Wranglers as being dead in the saddle after a defeat that many figured had crushed any playoff hopes that Houston may have had. What the so called experts hadn’t counted on however, was that even at 4-6, the Wranglers had defied the same experts as many predicted they would finish as the worst team in the league with a 2 win season. Something else they didn’t count on, starting QB Johnny Manziel getting food poison after eating tainted mayonnaise at a Columbus, TX Subway Friday evening, which paved the way for newly acquired quarterback Matt Nichols to get his first start.
San Antonio came into the game also reeling from a “must win” defeat at the hands of the Michigan Stags. Many people thought the Marshalls would come into this rivalry game with Houston with a huge chip on their shoulder and would absolutely destroy the Wranglers, and at the start of the game, they got on the board first with a 22 yard pass from Bo Levi Mitchell to Ricky Collins.
“The other coaches and I came into the game hoping that we’d get on the board first” said Head Coach Rex Ryan; “I figured, if we can get on the board first and get our confidence up, maybe we’d have a chance. Unfortunately, they got on the board first. I was really impressed with the way our offense responded.”
The Wranglers marched right back down the field and answered San Antonio’s touchdown with a 48 yard pass from Nichols to Aldrick Robinson. San Antonio would go back down the field and re-take the lead with a Nich Pertuit field goal. Matt Nichols would then lead the Wranglers back down the field with a 1 yard touchdown pass to TE Niles Paul to take a 14-10 lead into Halftime.
“Our offense was playing a helluva game going into halftime.” said coach Ryan; “I mean, we only scored 14 points you know, but Nichols was really marching the team down the field and Aaron Jones was quietly putting together a helluva game himself. I think this is the first time this season that we played a really “complete” game on offense.”
Coming out of the gate into the second half, Matt Nichols would throw a 35 yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson which lead to a shootout with San Antonio and Bo Levi Mitchell, something no one wants to be in. San Antonio would score four touchdowns in the second half, two from Mitchell (one to Ricky Seals-Jones and the other to Kendrick Ings) as well as two rushing (one from Khiry Robinson and the other from Chris Carson.)
Houston would match with two of their own, one a 14 yard run from Aaron Jones, the other a 38 yard toss to Duron Carter.
San Antonio would take the lead with 1:58 left in the 4th quarter, but kicker Nich Pertuit would miss the extra point try, bringing the score to 37-35.
Knile Davis would set the Wranglers up with excellent field position on the ensuing kickoff taking the return all the way to the Houston 45 yard line. San Antonio, after being burned by Matt Nichols all day, would bring out their prevent defense. Rex Ryan, knowing that he didn’t have to get far to kick a game winning field goal and knowing that he had the SFL’s rookie of the year in his backfield, chose to exploit the Marshall’s prevent defense by giving the ball to Jones. Jones would carry three straight times gaining 21 yards and setting rookie kicker Eric Medina up for a game winning 52 yard field goal try with three seconds left in the game.
“I know the fans in San Antonio were hoping for rookie jitters and a miss, the fans in Houston were probably a little uneasy too after Eric missed a 50 yard kick last week as well, but we had faith in sending him out there. We know he’s clutch.” said Wranglers special teams coach Bill Bates.
Rookie kicker Eric Medina hit the ball dead center and sent the Marshall’s to the locker room with their second consecutive loss, 38-37.
For the game, QB Matt Nichols got the game ball. Nichols was 12/15 for 216 yards and 4 TD’s. Aaron Jones didn’t have his name called much this afternoon but he continued to showcase his case for SFL Rookie of the year, adding 151 yards to his season total of 1,588 yards. Jones would also score a TD on the ground, bringing his season total up to 10. WR Aldrick Robinson had a breakout game for the Wranglers today and became the first Wrangler WR on the year to eclipse 50 yards in a game by gaining 137 yards on 6 catches.
On the defensive side of the ball, Coordinator Bryan Cox abandoned the 3-4 and ran a lot more 4-3 fronts today, which put Adolfus Washington back at his natural position. Washington would record two sacks of Bo Levi Mitchell today.
The Wranglers gained a lot with this weeks win, to date, the Wranglers have beaten some of the leagues best teams: Dallas, Seattle, and San Antonio. Matt Nichols has shown that he should be leading the team and that the Wranglers could finally have their franchise QB. Mostly, the Wranglers gained respect. No one thought the Wranglers could be anywhere near .500 leading up to Week 12, but they’ve scrapped their way to five wins and have shown the league that they’ve finally come together as team, put it all together, and can win games.
Finally showing that they can win games has also gotten the attention of ownership.
“I’m going to revisit the contract that we have with Greyhound this week.” said owner Ryan Clark; “I’ve been in talks with Southwest Airlines to be the official carrier of the Houston Wranglers. No more bus rides guys!”
The Wranglers (5-6) host the Memphis Bombers (3-8) this week at TDECU Stadium, this week the Wranglers could get to .500 for the first time this season.
As always, tickets are still available.