The Georgia Force played host to the New Orleans VooDoo Saturday night at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in an Arena Football League South Division match-up and were never really in the game as the VooDoo scored early and went on to a 57-35 victory. The game was not as close as the score would imply.
The Force won the coin toss and decided to kick off to the VooDoo. On the first play from scrimmage Kurt Rocco found WR Quorey Payne wide open across the middle for a 30-yard touchdown seconds into the contest giving the visitors a quick 7-0 advantage. Georgia QB RJ Archer, starting behind center after missing two of the last three games, tried to get the points back fast with a deep ball to Larry Shipp that was picked off in the end zone by Demarcus Robinson. New Orleans took advantage of the turnover by scoring their second TD at 7:22 of the opening stanza when Rocco found Josh Bush for a 2-yard score, extending the VooDoo lead to 14-0.
Georgia got their first points of the night when Archer found CJ Johnson for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 2:00 minutes left in the first quarter to cut the New Orleans lead to 14-7. Rocco wasted no time leading the VooDoo offense down the field then carrying the rock in himself for a one-yard TD as time ran out in the quarter. After the extra-point by Matt Denny the Force found themselves down 21-7 heading to the second quarter.
Archer responded by guiding the Force down the field, culminating with a two-yard TD pass to Jake Allen with 12:21 left in the half. Carlos Martinez was good on the PAT and the Force trailed by only seven, 21-14.
That would be as close as the Force would get to a win on this night as Rocco came right back with a 29-yard TD pass to Bush with 9:46 left in the first half. Denny missed the PAT giving the VooDoo a 27-14 lead. After the New Orleans D got a stop against the Force offense, Rocco found the big offensive lineman Brad Paul wide open on a screen for a 13-yard score with: 18 seconds left in the first half to push the New Orleans lead to 34-14. The Force tried to add some points before time ran out but the half came to an end with Georgia trailing by twenty, 34-14.
The Force received the kick to start the second half of play and were able to cut the VooDoo lead to 34-21 when Archer connected with Larry Shipp with just under 10:00 minutes remaining in the quarter. Rocco quieted the home crowd again when he and Bush hooked up for another score with 7:30 left in the third quarter. Denny missed his second extra point of the game, but the VooDoo lead was 40-21.
With just under a minute left in the quarter Rocco found LJ Castile for a 13-yard touchdown that gave New Orleans a 47-21 lead going to the final quarter.
With 8:19 to go in the fourth quarter Rocco again found Castile for a TD, this time on a 10-yard pass. With New Orleans holding an insurmountable 54-21 lead Archer and Shipp connected for a two-yard score that cut the VooDoo advantage to 26, 54-28.
Down 26-points with about seven minutes remaining in the game, Georgia coach Dean Cokinos had no choice but to attempt an onside kick. Martinez did a good job of bouncing the ball off a VooDoo defender and the Force recovered the onside kick. Trying to get back in the game Cokinos called the same play that led to Archers first INT, this time the result was a 42-yard TD toss and catch between Archer and Shipp that brought the Force to within 19, 54-35.
The Force again attempted an onside kick but New Orleans came up with the ball this time. The Georgia D held and forced the VooDoo to go for three. Denny was good on the try giving New Orleans their final margin of victory, 57-35.
The Force offense failed to break the 40-point barrier for the fourth time (all losses) this season and have scored 50+ points only four times (all wins). The only teams in the AFL averaging less than 50-points a game are the Pittsburgh Power (46.8), Georgia Force (44.9), Orlando Predators (40.4) and the Kansas City Command (37.8). The Force lost to the Command last week when they managed only 27 points. Coach Cokinos acknowledged that a team cannot win in this league without being able to score 50+ consistently and the Force have only accomplished that feat 33 percent of the time.
The Georgia defense is the second best scoring defense in the AFL giving up 50.2 PPG, but due to the lack of support from the offense the team is 6-6 and will have to fight to earn a post-season berth.
The Force scored the fewest points of any team this week (35) and a look at the stats highlights the subpar performance. Archer, who was clearly rusty after missing two of the last three weeks, completed only 26-of-50 pass attempts for 286 yards with four touchdowns but was picked off three times. Kevin Eakin came in to mop up and was 0-for-1 with an INT. Johnson led the receivers in catches (8) and totaled 82 yards with one TD while Shipp had seven grabs for 88 yards and scored twice. Allen contributed five catches for 59 yards and a TD.
The Georgia defense did record a sack (Caleb Bostic) and an interception (Ahmad Hawkins) but it was a squad effort with three players totaling 3.5 total tackles to lead the team. Mario Norman, Roger Brown and Hawkins all had three unassisted tackles and one assist.
Johnson (4 returns for 95-yards) and Shipp (3 returns for 55 yards) both did a good job returning kicks and Martinez had another perfect night going 5-for-5 in extra points. Martinez also prevented a New Orleans TD on a kickoff return when he made the tackle with no one behind him.
Rocco was outstanding for the VooDoo, going 21-for-24 passing for 293 yards and seven touchdowns without an INT. Brian Zbydniewski came on to close out the game and was 0-for-1 with an interception. Bush (7 catches for 119 yards and three TDs) and Castile (9 receptions for 107 yards and two scores) were Rocco’s primary targets with Payne and Paul both contributing touchdown catches.
The VooDoo defense was led by Jeremy Kellem with 10 tackles (9 UA, 2A), Gladel Brutus added 7 (6 UA, 2A) and Robinson who contributed 5 tackles, all unassisted, to go along with two interceptions and a pass deflection.
While it is difficult to find positives in this offensive performance there were a couple. Firstly, the O-line didn’t allow any sacks after surrendering eight in the last two games; secondly Shipp seems fully recovered from the shoulder injury that kept him out of last week’s game. In a post-game interview Shipp said he is at 100 percent and “ready to get back to practice to fix the problems”.
Georgia (6-6) will face the Jacksonville Sharks (6-5) at the Arena at Gwinnett Center next Saturday in another critical divisional contest. With the loss to New Orleans, the division is wide open with four of the five teams in the South in the running for the title. Going into Week 14 the Sharks are 6-5, the Tampa Bay Storm and Force are both 6-6 and New Orleans is 5-6. The only team out of the chase is the Orlando Predators at 1-10.
Watch for Force roster news and a preview of next Saturdays contest with the Sharks later this week.
Arena Football News
The Georgia Force are members of the South Division of the American Conference in the AFL. The Force play home games at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, located off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth.
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