(Monday, July 25 – Denver, CO.) Were the Atlanta Empire as good as their No.2 ranking after beating Austin and were the Denver Rush as bad as their 57-point loss to Seattle? Both of these questions would be answered on a beautiful Summer night in Loveland, Colorado. Despite Denver’s horrific loss to Seattle, many believed the team’s performance was far better than the scoreboard indicated primarily because of the play of Quarterback Jessica Poole who manages to pick up first-downs and an offense that also identified a legitimate threat in the speedy Wide Receiver Krystal Wright. Atlanta came into the game riding serious momentum primarily because of the play of its League MVP favorite Jessica Salazar.
If Denver was to have any hope it would need a continuation of its game versus Seattle offensively and defensively the front three would have to seriously improve. Early on the Denver offense did just that with Poole orchestrating a 7-play 28-yard drive, however, as in the Seattle game, Poole would turn it over on an interception to Atlanta’s Salazar. One of the league’s feel-good stories is 19yr. old Atlanta QB1 Bailey Hodgins wasted no time in guiding her offense on a 7-play 42-yard drive, however, the rookie QB did not end the series like Poole with a foolish mistake, instead, Hodgins relied on the legs of its powerhouse Running Back Salazar who scored from the 2-yard line to give the Empire an early 8-0 lead.
0n the subsequent drive the Denver offense once again would move the ball but would implode and turn it over on downs as Atlanta’s Keyon Harrison tackled Poole on a 4th and 11, ending the Denver drive at its own 22-yard line. In the 2nd Quarter, the much-heralded Atlanta offensive coordinator Dominque Robinson once again put his hopes on the arm of Hodgins and she would respond, connecting with Wide Receiver Lauran Ziegler on a 26-yard touchdown reception extending Atlanta’s lead to 14-0.
The Denver offense would once again look like the ‘Bad News Bears’, a complete disconnect from its season-opening performance vs Seattle, on this drive managing -1 yards on 5 plays as the offense looked completely unorganized. Most importantly the Denver offensive play-calling stood out, whoever was calling the plays needed to watch its own team’s film vs Seattle. The Denver offense completely abandoned its misdirection offense headed by Krystal Wright would shined with jet-sweeps and other misdirection play-calling that provided the big-play opportunity. In the 1st half, the Denver offense relied too often on a rather predictable Quarterback run attack, and the Atlanta defense was waiting on it.
At Halftime, Atlanta had a commanding 22-0 lead and it could have been worse. Denver was out-matched on both sides of the ball in the 1st half and more importantly out-coached in what was the poorest offensive play-calling exhibition throughout the first half of the season, for any team.
The 2nd half saw the Denver defense finally tightening up in holding Atlanta to only 6 points but its offense continued to struggle. In fact, former QB1 for the Rush Vana Medrano would replace Poole as Denver attempted to stretch the field with Medrano’s arm strength however Mattie Freeman of Atlanta would intercept Medrano on her first and only pass attempt. At this point, the Denver offense had appeared to throw in the towel from a play-calling standpoint.
Denver’s defense did provide its offense with opportunities in the 2nd half as it continued to hold Atlanta out of the end zone, shutting out the Empire offense in the 2nd half. However, Denver’s offense simply did not look very well organized and ready for the moment.
On a night when Atlanta Empire head coach Dane Robinson was celebrating a birthday, the gift he really wanted was for this defense to post the first shutout in X League history. Late in the 4th Quarter, Denver’s offense would generate an impressive drive all the way down to Atlanta’s 4-yard line. With the game out of hand, the only suspense that remained was whether or not Atlanta’s defense would preserve its shut-out? An unsuspected hero for the Empire would emerge in Kayla Weller who sacked Poole on the final two plays and Atlanta would indeed pitch the first no-no of the 2022 season with a final score of 28-0.
Denver will now ponder the direction of its franchise after giving up an average of 42.5 points in two games, albeit the two games being against the two toughest teams in the league in Seattle and Atlanta. Will the Rush franchise bring back head coach John Hassien and his staff? A decision is expected on the Monday following the X Cup, September 12.
With the win, the undefeated Empire (2-0) have punched their ticket to the Playoffs and will now await the result of the Seattle vs Chicago game on August 6 to see if they earn the No.1 seed in the Playoffs.
The X League Playoffs will be played on Saturday, August 27 at ACCESSO SHOWARE CENTER in Kent, Washington with the No.1 seed facing the No.4 seed, while the No.2 and No.3 seeds face off.
|Passing Yards (Net)||95||84|
|Total Offense Plays-Yards||40-198||30-215|