As far as first tests go, the United Football League certainly didn’t fail in Thursday’s inaugural game.
As promised, the quality of football was high in the Las Vegas Locomotives’ 30-17 victory over the California Redwoods at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Las Vegas quarterback J.P. Losman, the UFL’s marquee player, picked apart the California defense for 226 yards and two touchdowns on 21-for-31 passing, and the game was close throughout.
“That was a (darn) good football game,” Las Vegas coach Jim Fassel said. “Anyone who snuck into that one probably went back and paid. They got their money’s worth.”
But the UFL didn’t pass with flying colors, either. The announced attendance was 14,209, but there appeared to be far more empty seats than that.
Still, everyone focused on the positives after the game.
“We’re going to put a good product on the field and let people see it,” Fassel said. “I don’t know how many were here, but I bet at least all the people who were sitting near or behind us are going to tell their friends, ‘That was a hell of a football game.’”
Fassel noted that the fans were exceptionally loud for big plays.
“It’s phenomenal. I’m having such a great time,” said Richard Kleitman, a fan decked out in a Locomotives jersey and hat. “For something like this, it should be packed.”
Kleitman said the game exceeded his expectations — and that was at halftime, when the Locomotives trailed 14-10.
The Redwoods scored the UFL’s first touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter when quarterback Shane Boyd took off for a four-yard scramble on a third-down play to go ahead 7-3.
Not that the Locomotives didn’t have a chance to make history by being the first team in the end zone. On its initial drive, Las Vegas drove 63 yards to California’s one-yard line.
But running back Marcel Shipp, who ran for 69 yards on 17 carries, fumbled a Losman toss and California recovered.
“I think we were kind of feeling our way through in the first half,” Losman said. “Once we came out in the second half, I think guys realized things were on the line and went for it. You could see the difference.”
With the Locomotives ahead 20-17 near the end of the third quarter, its drive stalled at the Redwoods’ 35-yard-line.
Instead of punting, Fassel called on kicker Graham Gano for a field goal attempt. Gano, an All-American and Lou Groza Award winner last year at Florida State, easily knocked the 53-yarder through the uprights.
“We had his range prior to the game, but we were outside of that range,” Fassel said. “So he came over and I said, ‘Can you make it?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’”
The Locomotives defense stepped up on the next possession to force the Redwoods to punt. With nearly 10 minutes remaining, the Locomotives received the ball on their own 14-yard line.
Then, the DeDe Dorsey show started. Dorsey, Shipp’s complement at running back, guided Las Vegas down the field before finally scoring on an eight-yard touchdown.
Dorsey finished with 63 yards on nine carries. The drive took seven minutes off of the clock and ensured a Las Vegas win.
“We knew we had to put points on the board and put it away with a drive that eats up the clock,” Dorsey said. “We did that.”
The Locomotives celebrated the victory but were already looking forward to next Wednesday’s home game against the Florida Tuskers.
“I think the same people who came out are going to come out again,” Losman said. “And they’re going to tell their friends and the word will get out that Vegas should check it out.”
This article came out of the Las Vegas Sun.
I had a chance to watch the game for the most part, and as excited as I was, I stayed skeptical.
These players played some High quality football. The guys who were really impressive were the guys in the trenches. The skill players made plenty of mistakes tonight, and the offensive and defensive linemen really got my attention. It makes me wonder how Simeon Rice will perform on Saturday. Goosebumps! J.P. Losman played very well and I remember why he was a first round pick. He got hassled in the pocket quite a bit, but he stayed composed. The tailbacks will be guys to watch this season.
The presentation of this game was....fantastic! The UFL takes some things from the NFL certainly, but the UFL has added some subtle differences that made the game a whole lot of fun to watch. Getting in with the players right after the touchdowns was a real treat, and Flutie as well as Stewart gave me a sense of real....validity with this sport. I have to admit that I was captivated by the introduction, and the intro really did rival the NFL's.
The fans are what really did it for me though. Those fans were nuts, and it sounded like a lot more than the estimated 15,000 that were there. Even though it's still pros, it seems like there will be more comradery and loyalty to the teams and leagues. I will admit that I Found it peculiar that 1 team gave the other team receivers, but then again, it's just 1 game. None of these teams have developed heated rivalries like Bears vs. Packers, Cowboys vs. Redskins, Steelers vs. Ravens, etc. I don't think it'll be long before that happens though. This will start heating up.
The tickets were a really good marketing move by this league. I believe the most expensive single tickets for this game was only $40. That would be the front row seats in the middle of the sideline. With growing popularity, these games will fill as a great warmup to NFL games, and with the All-American Football League returning next spring, the UFL didn't have a whole lot of room to work with, but they've made it work! This league will take over against college football as the minor league of the NFL so long as they don't get too ambitious.
Like previous football leagues, the UFL has instituted several mostly minor rules changes that will differ from the NFL's rules. Though the league has indicated it would mostly adhere to standard rules, there are a few differences, as follows:
- No Tuck Rule - The Tuck rule is one of the most controversial rules in the NFL. In the NFL, if a passer brings his arm forward in a passing motion and then loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body, it's considered a forward pass (and thus an incomplete pass if the ball hits the ground). In the UFL, it would be called a fumble.
- Touchdown celebrations - Celebrations, individual or group, will only take place in the endzones and on the bench area.
- Fumbling out of the endzones - If the ball is fumbled out of the endzone, it will be placed back at the spot of the fumble, pending which team last had possession.
- Intentional grounding - A quarterback is allowed to intentionally ground the ball anywhere behind the line of scrimmage if he is under pressure.
- Instant replay - All reviews will be viewed upstairs by the replay official and he will only have 90 seconds for review.
- Overtime - Both teams will be guaranteed at least one possession. When a team scores, the other team will get a last chance to score on the next drive. Similar to the College football rule.
- Officials - instead of the traditional black-and-white uniforms, UFL referees wear a red polo shirt with black pants.
- Play Clock - While the NFL has a 40 second play clock, the UFL has a 25 second play clock, which results in more plays and maintains a faster pace.
Los Angeles - YOU ARE FINALLY GETTING A PRO FOOTBALL TEAM! THE UFL! This isn't bad news for the 2nd biggest populated area in the country. This is a good move for a town starving for a professional football team to call their own. The UFL is very smart for this.