A week after getting taken to the woodshed themselves, the Georgia Force turned the tables and handed out a thorough beat-down of the visiting--and formerly undefeated--Chicago Rush on April 14 in Arena Football League action, 70-49.
The Force (3-2) showed no southern hospitality to the Rush (4-1), nor did they seem particularly concerned that Chicago was the last unbeaten team in the AFL. Defensive back Tracy Belton intercepted Rush QB Russ Michna on the second play of the game, and that play set the tone for the entire contest. The Rush committed five turnovers while the Force committed none, and aside from a three-minute span late in the third quarter, Georgia had its way all night.
Force QB R.J. Archer threw six touchdown passes--all in the first half--with Brandon McRae playing catching three of them, including one in which he flipped over the side wall in the end zone and landed on the concrete on the other side, still clutching the ball. McRae finished the night with seven receptions for 67 yards to go with his three scores, and he took home honors for being the Offensive Player of the Game and the Playmaker of the Game. His acrobatic touchdown reception also earned him the Catch of the Game and the Highlight of the Game. Archer was named the game's MVP.
There wasn't much need for a passing attack after the midway point in the game. Comfortably leading 49-20 at halftime, the Force turned to FB Mykell Benson for much of the second half, and his nine-yard touchdown run to cap the opening drive of the third quarter put the Force up 56-20. Benson ran wild for 47 yards and two touchdowns on the night, adding to his 14-yard touchdown reception late in the second quarter. He was named the Ironman of the Game.
On defense, DBs Roland Cola and Marrio Norman each joined Belton in intercepting Michna, as did LB Jeremy Grier. Linebacker Caleb Bostic recovered a Michna fumble, too, after DL Broderick Stewart throttled the visiting quarterback for a sack.
For the Rush, there wasn't a lot that went well, but WR Reggie Gray did tie the franchise record for career touchdown receptions during the evening. Gray caught seven passes for 133 yards and his 69th and 70th touchdowns. Gray now shares the team record with Orlando Predators WR Bobby Sippio. Gray tied Sippio's single-season franchise record last season with 53 touchdown receptions, and he now has 17 in this young season.
Rush WR Jared Perry followed up his monster game last week with another outstanding performance in Georgia. Perry hauled in nine receptions for 106 yards and two scores.
Jack linebacker Kelvin Morris was named the Defensive Player of the Game, registering three tackles--two of which went for a loss--and a sack. Morris also ran the ball twice for five yards, ending both of his runs in the end zone for Chicago touchdowns.
The visitors showed a brief sign of life late in the third quarter, scoring 23 unanswered points to close the gap to two possessions--56-43 in Georgia's favor. Part of that run was thanks to DL Xavier Brown planting Archer in the end zone for a safety. Michna followed that up with a 40-yard touchdown strike to Gray on the very next play to close out the third quarter, and when the ensuing kickoff caromed off the iron and bounced around on the turf, things looked very promising as several Rush players closed in on the loose ball.
However, it was not meant to be. The ball took a fortunate hop for the Force and hit the dasher board. Out of bounds. Force ball. Georgia marched down the field, capping the drive with a rushing score from Benson, and when the next two Chicago drives ended in turnovers, the coffin was nailed shut.
The Force maintain their tie with the Tampa Bay Storm atop the South Division and have travel plans to Orlando on April 20 to take on the Predators (0-5). The Rush saw their Central Division lead cut in half by way of the loss combined with victories by the San Antonio Talons and the Iowa Barnstormers, and they'll return to Allstate Arena for a home tilt against the Milwaukee Mustangs (2-2) on April 21.
The author is a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and holds media credentials with the Chicago Rush and the Arena Football League. You can follow him on Twitter at @RedZoneWriting and on Facebook.