Arizona Rattlers start fast, hold on to beat the Nebraska Danger
Arizona quarterback Jeff Ziemba had struggled with consistency in the first three games of the season, throwing a combined five interceptions as the Shepherd University product learned to adjust to the indoor game.
Despite Week 1 starter Verlon Reed being cleared to play, Ziemba earned another shot under center and responded to the tune of 9 of 12 passing for 119 yards and 3 touchdowns Saturday night as the Rattlers (3-1) handed the Nebraska Danger (3-1) their first loss of the season, 62-49, in front of 9,763 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“The game is starting to slow down a lot for me,” Ziemba said. “Coaches are starting to break it down for me, going through progressions, getting my feet quicker, getting through my reads and finding the right guys.”
Arizona’s onslaught started from the opening kick-off as defensive back Nathan Lindsey forced a fumble that was recovered by kicker Sawyer Petre. On the first play from scrimmage, Rattlers running back Shadrach Thornton took a pitch, broke a couple tackles and found the end zone from 17 yards out to give Arizona a 7-0 lead.
Nebraska answered on the ensuing possession as former University of Arizona quarterback Jesse Scroggins, making his first start of the season, called his own number, plunging into the end zone from a yard out to pull the Danger even.
The teams traded scores until the 2nd quarter when Rattlers’ linebacker Ryan Langford blocked a field goal to give Arizona the ball deep in Nebraska territory. On the next play, Thornton found paydirt once again to give the Rattlers a 28-14 advantage.
After the defense forced another missed field goal, Ziemba executed a quick 3-play drive that culminated in a 21-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Amos to give Arizona a 21-point lead that they would maintain until halftime.
The Danger would rally in the 2nd half, managing to get a couple stops and turning them into points, even pulling within six points in the game’s final minute, but Nebraska failed to execute and onside kick and Rattlers’ running back Darrell Monroe scored his second touchdown of the game to seal a second straight home win for Arizona.
“I thought we beat a good football team tonight,” head coach Kevin Guy said. “We came out ready to play with some confidence. I saw some guys having fun out there, and I’m very proud of the men and how they executed.”
– Monroe and Thornton combined for 109 rushing yards on 21 carries and 5 touchdowns. Arizona leads the league in rushing, averaging 119 yards/game.
– Monroe had the play of the night in the 2nd quarter; catching a ball in the flat, spinning out of a tackle, keeping his balance and racing up the sideline for a 22-yard gain.
– Just before the half, Rattlers’ defensive lineman Joshua Gordon dropped into coverage and came up with an interception against the boards to keep Nebraska out of the end zone.
– Nebraska struggled with discipline, committing 11 penalties for 72 yards; while Arizona had just 3 infractions for 35 yards.
The Arizona Rattlers play the final game of a 3-week homestand on Saturday March 31st as they welcome the Cedar Rapids Titans to Talking Stick Resort Arena. Kick-off is at 6:05pm.
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