The Arizona Hotshots went into hostile territory on Saturday night and left an official crowd of 18,358 in Spectrum Stadium in shock. The Hotshots did the unthinkable by knocking off the previously unbeaten Orlando Apollos. The Hotshots sent a message to the rest of the AAF that they can beat any team, anywhere.
In a game matching up the league’s two best offenses, the fun got started early when the Apollos marched 75 yards on 12 plays and capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Garrett Gilbert to Charles Johnson with 8:13 left in the first quarter. However, the Hotshots defense stiffened up and kept them in the game early as their early offensive drives stalled out, but the Apollos could not capitalize.
— Arizona Hotshots (@aafhotshots) March 17, 2019
The Hotshots special team unit also stepped up for the offense early as kicker Nick Folk hit field goals of 55 and 53 yards in the first half. This provided confidence for a normally shaky special teams unit and kept the Hotshots within reach in the first half. The Hotshots offense would finally break through with 4:32 left in the first half as John Wolford would complete a 9-yard pass to Jhurrell Pressley to take a 14-9 lead.
The Hotshots defense sent a big message to the Apollos offense on the next drive as Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert was intercepted for the first time this season. Hotshots linebacker Steven Johnson made the big play and put the Hotshots in a perfect position to take a two-possession lead. Despite starting the drive in Apollos territory, the Hotshots offense stalled out, and they did not score any points. However, punter Jeff Locke would step up and punt the ball to the Apollos 3 yard line. The punt ensured the Hotshots would take a 14-9 lead into the locker room.
— The Alliance (@TheAAF) March 17, 2019
A defensive struggle ensued in the third quarter. The Hotshots defense forced a huge turnover on downs on their own 5-yard line. The Apollos offense drove all the way down the field to the Hotshots 5-yard line but in true Steve Spurrier fashion, a field goal wasn’t good enough, he wanted a touchdown. The denial by the Hotshots defense kept them in the lead and allowed them to take their 14-9 lead into the fourth quarter.
— Orlando Apollos (@aafAPOLLOS) March 17, 2019
However, as every good team does, the Apollos responded. Garrett Gilbert hooked up with Jalin Marshall on a 17-yard pass for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion was good, and the Apollos took a 17-14 lead with 9:45 left in the game. The momentum and atmosphere instantly changed inside Spectrum Stadium as the Apollos appeared to hit their stride. However, the Hotshots had other plans.
The Hotshots have struggled to keep momentum on offense but tonight was a new opportunity, and they took advantage. The offense went on a 9 play 75-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard run by Jhurrell Pressley for a touchdown. The 2 point conversion was successful, and the Hotshots took a 22-17 lead with 5:17 remaining in the game.
— Arizona Hotshots (@aafhotshots) March 17, 2019
Unfortunately for the Hotshots, the Apollos offense is deadly and 5:17 is a lot of time to do damage. On the other hand, 5:17 is also a lot of time for the Hotshots defense to make a final impression, and they did. The Apollos offense drove into Hotshots territory until the two-minute warning. The first play after the two-minute warning, Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert fumbled after being sacked by Rykeem Yates, and the Hotshots recovered.
In true Hotshots fashion, they could not run out the clock. The Apollos used their last two timeouts, and the Hotshots offense went three and out. Luckily, punter Jeff Locke came through one more time as his punt was downed at the Apollos 18 yard line, forcing them to have to drive 82 yards if they wanted to win.
The Apollos only had 55 seconds and no timeouts remaining to march the 82 yards for a game-winning touchdown. Of course, if any team would be capable, it would be the Apollos. On the second play of the drive, Garrett Gilbert hit Sean Price on a 48-yard pass to put the Apollos in Hotshots territory.
Two plays later, Gilbert delivered another 26-yard strike to Jalin Marshall down to the Hotshots 8-yard line. However, time was of the essence as Marshall was tackled in bounds and the Apollos had no timeouts. Gilbert spiked the ball with four seconds remaining, but the Apollos made one more mistake that proved to be fatal as Quinterrious Eatmon was called for a false start.
League rules require a ten-second runoff for any penalty committed inside the final two minutes. The Apollos had no timeouts remaining to stop the runoff and the game ended with the Apollos 8 yards away from victory. The Hotshots stun the AAF by knocking off the Apollos 22-17.
The Hotshots defense proved Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert is human. Gilbert came into the game as the league’s most efficient passer. However, on this day Gilbert proved to be the less efficient passer with a stat line of 23/48, 47% completion percentage, 268 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 70.5 QB rating.
Hotshots Game MVP’s
RB Jhurrell Pressley: 13 carries, 57 yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 1 reception, 9 yards, 1 touchdown reception
LB Steven Johnson: 8 solo tackles, 4 assisted tackles, 1 interception
Kicker Nick Folk: 2 for 3 on field goal attempts, field goal makes of 55, 53 yards