Week 6 of the AAF season is underway and the tension is starting to become palpable as every game carries more and more weight.
The Memphis Express and Salt Lake Stallions got things started on Saturday. Both teams sat at 1-4 and were looking for a much-needed win (here’sthis weekend). The Express lost quarterback Zach Mettenberger early on to an ankle injury (and ) and never got much established in a 22-9 loss.
However, Saturday’s nightcap was a perfect game for some #AAFterDark action between two of the highest-scoring offenses in the Alliance: Arizona and Orlando. The Apollos were heavy favorites at 9.5 points, but the Hotshots pulled the surprising 22-17 upset to stop a three-game slide.
CBS Sports was with you every step of the way, so be sure to check below for the latest scores, highlights and updates from Saturday’s action.
Salt Lake Stallions 22, Memphis Express 9 (Final)
Arizona Hotshots 22, Orlando Apollos 17 (Final)
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Hotshots get go-ahead touchdown, seal win with fumble recovery
Arizona and Orlando played a back-and-forth game all night, but it was the Hotshots who came away with the surprising 22-17 victory. After falling behind 17-14 in the fourth quarter, Arizona responded with its own go-ahead touchdown courtesy of running back Jhurell Pressley — his second of the game.
However, it’s appropriate that Arizona’s defense, which limited the best offense in the AAF to a season-low 17 points, made the play of the game in the biggest upset of the season. With the Apollos driving in plus territory, the Hotshots got a key strip sack on quarterback Garrett Gilbert. The recovery allowed the Hotshots to burn some critical time off the clock, and even though Orlando nearly completed an improbable comeback in the final seconds, this play ended up being the difference-maker in the game.
With a final possession in the last minute of the game, Orlando got enough big passing plays to try for one more opportunity at a game-winning touchdown deep in Arizona territory. However, in attempting to spike the ball with 6 seconds remaining, the Apollos were called for a false start. A 10-second runoff gave them their first loss of the year. Arizona did an excellent job at both pressuring Gilbert and creating tight windows in the passing game on the back end. The result: the Apollos averaged just five yards per play, looked off all night and weren’t able to muster up enough plays when it mattered the most.
Orlando reclaims lead on 99-yard scoring drive
If you’re going to literally drive the length of the field to score, being down in the fourth quarter is a heck of a time to do it. The Apollos, who had been off all night on offense outside of their opening drive, found a way to string together its most impressive possession of the night — and maybe of the season. With a little help from a big-time defensive pass interference call on the Hotshots, Orlando capped off its drive with a touchdown pass from Garrett Gilbert to Jalin Marshall. It was Gilbert’s 10th touchdown pass of the season and Marshall’s third scoring grab. Orlando has been off practically all night with bad throws, poor route communication and some excellent defense by the Hotshots. But they connected here when it mattered, proving it’s tough to keep this offense down forever.
Hotshots take first lead on Orlando
Orlando isn’t used to trailing, but it clearly has a fight on its hands at home against the Hotshots. Arizona’s offense got a big gain thanks to receiver Rashad Ross and capped off its drive with a nice little swing pass to running back Jhurell Pressley out of the backfield for six. Quarterback John Wolford sold the pump fake and kept the ball for the successful two-point conversion to make it 14-6. It’s still only a one-possession game, but this is the first time Orlando has trailed since the fourth quarter of its Week 2 win at the San Antonio Commanders.
Apollos score first, but Hotshots keep things tight
Orlando came into Saturday’s game against Arizona as big favorites (9.5 points), but things have been tight so far with the Apollos holding on to a 9-6 lead over the Hotshots. Orlando did what it usually does — get on the board first. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert connected with star wideout Charles Johnson for a touchdown on the first drive of the game.
However, Arizona responded with two field goals from kicker Nick Folk, including a monster 55-yarder to get on the board. Both offenses have been able to move the ball, but so far both defenses have generally done a good job of keeping the other team out of the end zone following the opening possession.
Stallions get much-needed win despite losing turnover battle
No one ever said winning had to be pretty. Despite losing not one, not two, not three, but four turnovers, Salt Lake City got a much-needed 22-9 win over the hapless Express, who were without quarterback Zach Mettenberger for practically the entire game. The Stallions had little problem moving the ball, totaling 340 yards on a decent 5.3 yards per play and 6.6 yards per pass, where the offense did most of its damage. However, they simply couldn’t hold on to the ball.
Memphis’ defense has been living off of turnovers all season long and was active in prying the ball loose with three fumbles plus one interception. And, yet, the Express offense wasn’t able to do much with the extra possessions. Memphis scored just six points off of the four takeaways (and the Express had two turnovers themselves).Certainly, there was no shortage of opportunities and that’s going to drive coach Mike Singletary crazy. At the same time, no team should have to win in spite of four turnovers. That’s going to drive Stallions coach Dennis Erickson crazy. So, yeah, this was as frustrating a game as you’ll find.
Express lean on WR Reece Horn, fumble to get on the board
Salt Lake City had an opportunity to put the Express away in the first half, but a pair of turnovers have given Memphis life. The Express looked like they were about to be down at least 20 points when the Stallions coughed up the ball in plus territory, which was recovered by linebacker DeMarquis Gates.
That led to a nice bounce-back scoring drive by Memphis. Quarterback Brandon Silvers has been connecting with Reece Horn often down the field. Through 30 minutes, Horn already has six catches for 99 yards and has been a legitimate vertical threat. His best catch of the day, seen below, was followed up by a Zac Stacy touchdown grab out of the backfield to make it a 19-9 game.
After a Josh Woodrum interception, Memphis was in position to score again before Silvers fumbled the ball on a very Tuck Rule-like play. Turnovers have hurt both teams, but credit the Express for battling back. A 10-point game is far more manageable given the early hole and losing Mettenberger to injury.
Stallions take early lead, Mettenberger leaves with injury
The start to Saturday’s game between Salt Lake City and Memphis could not have started any better for the Stallions … or any worse for the Express. Salt Lake’s offense marched right down the field on its first possession and scored thanks to a heavy dose of possession passing from quarterback Josh Woodrum, who hit tight end Nick Truesdell for a score. The Express were playing soft zone coverage and Truesdell made a nice move to get open up the field.
Then, Memphis quarterback Zach Mettenberger got sacked on the first play from scrimmage by Karter Schult. Mettenberger landed awkwardly and appeared to be favoring his left ankle. He was forced to leave the game with Brandon Silvers coming off the bench to lead the offense.
Express’ leading pass rusher out vs. Stallions
Memphis enters an important road game vs. the Stallions on Saturday without top pass rusher Corey Vereen, who was one of the top performers in Week 4 in the Express’ win over San Diego. Vereen, who leads the team with four sacks, is inactive. Vereen has been battling a knee injury for a couple of weeks now and had full participation during Friday’s practice. However, he wasn’t healthy enough to give it a go against the Stallions.