The San Diego Fleet failed to capitalize on three turnovers and were held to a fourth-quarter field goal in an 8-3 loss to the Salt Lake Stallions on Saturday evening in Salt Lake City that severely damaged their playoff hopes.
The Fleet opened the game seeking to start a three-game winning streak to end the regular season that would assure them a berth in the Alliance of American Football playoffs. Instead, their third consecutive loss drops their record to 3-5 and leaves them on the brink of elimination.
The Fleet would need to win both their games, including defeating league-leading Orlando next Saturday on the road, and have second-place Arizona lose at least two of its final three games.
After going scoreless in the second half of last Sunday’s 32-15 loss to Arizona, the Fleet were held scoreless Saturday until 10 minutes, 45 seconds remained in the fourth quarter when Donny Hageman kicked a 29-yard field goal, ending a scoring drought that lasted 79:20.
The Fleet had the ball twice after Hageman’s field goal, punting after three plays on the first possession before a crowd announced at 8,405 at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the second smallest for the four AAF games played there, all but one of which drew fewer than 10,000.
The Fleet began their final possession on their own 13-yard line with 2:11 to play and no time outs remaining. After starting the drive with an incomplete pass, Mike Bercovici completed each of his next four passes, beginning with a 21-yard gain to Francis Owusu, advancing the ball to the Stallions 48-yard line.
Following a delay of game penalty and an incomplete pass, Bercovici completed a 23-yard pass to tight end Marcus Baugh, giving the Fleet a first down on Salt Lake’s 30-yard line with 39 seconds left.
But the Fleet were unable to get any closer to the Stallions end zone. Bercovici spiked the ball to stop the clock after the completion to Baugh. His next pass was intercepted by Salt Lake cornerback Steve Williams on the Stallions 12-yard line with 32 seconds remaining.
The Fleet punted on each of their five first-half possessions, two of which that began after turnovers, picking up three first downs. They punted after three plays on their first possession of the second half.
Their next possession ended on a fumble by running back Paul James, re-signed Wednesday after being waived March 4. The Fleet re-signed James after placing their leading rusher, Ja’Quan Gardner on the reserved/injured list because of a right shoulder injury sustained in the first quarter of the loss to Arizona that will require surgery.
Hageman missed a 25-yard field goal attempt wide left on the next possession which began after strong safety Ryan Moeller intercepted a pass by Josh Woodrum at the Fleet’s 23-yard line and returned the ball 42 yards to the Salt Lake 35-yard line.
The next possession ended with Bercovici throwing an interception.
Woodrum committed turnovers on two of the Stallions first three possessions.
Moeller intercepted a Woodrum pass on the Fleet’s 5-yard line to end the first possession for Salt Lake (3-5).
The Stallions had driven from their own 7-yard line to Fleet’s 1-yard line on their third possession which ended when Woodrum fumbled on a third-and-goal play.
The game remained scoreless until there was 1:18 left in the first half when Joel Bouagnon ran 2 yards for a touchdown and Woodrum passed to Jordan Leslie for a two-point conversion.
The Stallions drove 45 yards on 10 plays for the touchdown. The drive also included defensive holding and illegal defense penalties against the Fleet that gave Salt Lake two first downs.
In a game both teams committed three turnovers, the Fleet outgained the Stallions 264-245. Salt Lake led 19-12 in first downs, including a 16-3 edge in the first half. The Stallions led 37:59-22:01 in time of possession.
Bercovici completed 22 of 47 passes for 210 yards with two interceptions as his streak of passing for more than 300 yards ended at three games. Woodrum completed 21 of 32 passes for 155 yards and two interceptions.
The loss left the Fleet winless in four road games.
— City News Service
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