In Week Two of the first season of the Alliance of American Football, the Memphis Express and Arizona Hotshots gave us an unexpectedly entertaining contest (considering one of these teams got shut out last week). The Express gave the Hotshots a big scare with a 12-0 halftime lead, but the Hotshots came back in the second half to win 20-18.
Memphis Express vs Arizona Hotshots AAF Week Two Recap: Arizona Hotshots Come Back to Defeat Memphis Express, 20-18
The Hotshots put up 38 points last week, so the fact that they scored zero points in the first half was a bit of a stunner. But the Express defense, which actually did play well last week despite the loss, got off to a very hot start, forcing a fumble and interception early. The Express were shut out last week mainly because of poor quarterback play. This time, Christian Hackenberg didn’t even have to do much at first.
But then the Hotshots came roaring back in the second half, getting some big plays and then capitalizing on them in the red zone. They got a go-ahead touchdown with around five minutes left. After that, Hackenberg was unable to bring the Express back down the field; although he was the subject of a somewhat controversial call when he was called short on a fourth down quarterback sneak. Hackenberg did play somewhat better this time, but he was still a bit too passive, finishing 14-for-25 and 102 yards.
Hotshots quarterback John Wolford started out iffy, throwing an early interception that helped the Express run up the score early. But he did help bring his team back from the deficit, and that helped him remain a standout even though he didn’t play as well as last week. He finished 14-for-22, 194 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Elsewhere, the running attack was also critical for the Hotshots, as they had 208 total yards rushing. Tim Cook led the way with 73 yards on 13 carries (plus the go-ahead receiving touchdown, but it was Justin Stockton who had the biggest play of the bunch, getting a 45-yard running touchdown to help bring the Hotshots closer. On the receiving end, Rashad Ross had another good game for Arizona with four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. But it was Josh Huff who led the team with two catches for 84 yards, capped by a critical 50-yard catch and run.
The biggest standout on offense for the Express was, without a doubt, Zac Stacy. He put up 101 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. On the receiving end, Reece Horn led the team this time with five catches for 56 yards. And although Hackenberg could not really be considered a standout here, his four-yard rushing touchdown was quite impressive.
The Hotshots gave up a lot of rushing yards, but they did play well at getting to the quarterback. Da’Sean Downey managed to get two sacks on Hackenberg. As a whole, Steven Johnson led the team with six tackles, with four of those being tackles for a loss. Though the team struggled early on defense, they did make some big plays down the stretch that were also helpful to the team making their comeback.
Despite losing again, the Express arguably played better defense–at least for the first half. They kind of fell apart in the fourth quarter. Still, they had some good plays. DeMarquis Gates led the team in tackles with six, also recovering a fumble. Channing Stribling and Jeremy Cutrer also each pulled in an interception, doing their part to try and shut down the Hotshots passing game.
The Express (now 0-2) looked a lot better this time in the loss, but the Hotshots (now 2-0) came away victorious and showed some impressive fight as well in being able to make a comeback win like this. Wolford will need to work on his consistency to try and have more games like Week One, but he’ll also be helped by the running game. And while the Express showed more of what they are capable of this week, they’re still being held back by their quarterback play. It’s not going to get any easier next week when they play the Orlando Apollos. Meanwhile, the Hotshots will be facing a rematch with the Salt Lake Stallions in Week Three.
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