A battle of the winless teams took place in Canton, Ohio as the Pittsburgh Maulers took on the New Jersey Generals. For the Maulers, they were looking to break a six-game losing streak that extends to last season. Sadly, they will have to wait until next week to try and break their skid, losing 20 to 3.
The Generals had first honors in the game and made the most of it, marching down the field for an opening-drive field goal. Maulers linebacker Reuben Foster had a gimme interception hit him in the hands, but he must have put too much butter on his pregame popcorn because it slipped through his mitts. A former Steelers sighting as Nick Sciba drilled the kick for New Jersey.
A quick Maulers opening drive stalled, but the defense stepped up once again for the team. On the eighth play of what looked like another strong Generals drive, Kyahva Tezino forced a fumble and Pittsburgh recovered near the end of the first quarter. Perhaps the Maulers best drive thus far this season ends in disappointment following the turnover. The team drove all the way down to the one-yard line, but failed to convert back-to-back QB sneaks. Still no touchdowns for Pittsburgh so far this season.
A long field to work with for the New Jersey Generals didn’t bear any fruit, and the Maulers finally capitalize. A 12-play, six-plus minute drive finally gets the black and gold on the board with a Nate Hierlihy field goal – the score now knotted up 3-3 with two minutes left in the first half.
The Generals made a good run at the two-minute offense as quarterback De’Andre Johnson hit Braedon Bowman for a 28-yard strike to put the team on Pittsburgh’s 37-yard line with under 30 seconds left in the half. Johnson takes another shot, but this time to Alonzo Moore who makes an acrobatic catch at the two-yard line – but not so fast. Officials ruled that Moore pushed off of Maulers cornerback Keith Gipson Jr. so New Jersey gets pushed out of field goal range and goes into the half still deadlocked at three.
The second half opened with more headaches from the Maulers offense. A solid drive sees the team knocking on the Generals doorstep before the drive dies at New Jersey’s 29-yard line. A 47-yard field goal attempt follows, but no dice. Hierlihy is now two-for-five on the season on kicks, including a missed extra point in Pittsburgh’s game against the New Orleans Breakers last week.
Former Wake Forest kicker Sciba doesn’t have the same issue, capping off a seven-play drive with a 47-yard field goal of his own, giving his team a 6-3 lead. Sciba finished his college career as the most accurate kicker in NCAA history (89.9%). Expect to see him compete for a starting kicker job in an NFL camp this summer.
Things just don’t seem to go the Maulers way on offense. After picking up a fortunate penalty to keep their drive alive, Pittsburgh quarterback Troy Williams hit C.J. Turner for a big 19-yard gain. The Generals defense stiffened, but a chip shot field goal attempt from New Jersey’s 12-yard line should have some returns, right? Wrong. An errant snap sees Hierlihy forced to fall on the ball for a 30-yard loss.
Into the fourth quarter and finally, there’s a touchdown. A defensive battle throughout, the Generals finally breakthrough with Dakota Prukop throwing a screen to Cam Echols-Luper who did the rest. Echols-Luper made a huge play earlier in the drive on a third down that saw him catch a big 25-yard pass, setting up his later score.
Pittsburgh coach Ray Horton made a curious decision to shuffle his quarterback’s again with James Morgan trotting back out onto the field. The switch didn’t go well. Morgan threw a backward pass that is swatted and recovered by New Jersey’s Hercules Mata’afa on the one-yard line. An easy touchdown followed for running back Darius Victor extending the Generals lead to 20-3.
Morgan’s struggles continued during the next two drives. First, facing heavy pressure, he threw a dangerous pass into double coverage resulting in an interception by former Pitt Panther Paris Ford. The very next drive, Mata’afa struck again forcing a sack-fumble, which the Generals recovered.
After a few first downs, that was all she wrote for the Maulers, who are now losers in 11 of their past 12 games. They’ll take on the Philadelphia Stars next Sunday.