Orlando Apollos Top Memphis Express in Comeback Fashion

AAF Running Backs

The Orlando Apollos needed a comeback to knock off the 2-6 Memphis Express, but they did just that, notching a 34-31 win in Memphis. In the midst of all the madness, Orlando came out of the dust with a 7th victory on the season and home-field advantage in the East title game.

Orlando Apollos Overcome Late Deficit to Defeat Memphis Express

Garrett Gilbert finished with 310 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22-for-40 passing with 2 interceptions in the Orlando victory. Brandon Silvers tallied 269 yards on 30-for-49 passing, adding a touchdown and a pick each in the process.

“I’m proud of our team for hanging in there. It could have gone either way. I told (Memphis head coach) Mike Singletary they have a good team, they’ve just been a little unlucky this year,” said Orlando head coach Steve Spurrier. “A lot happened out there. Good ballgame for television, I hope.”

“I don’t really have a whole lot to say. Our guys fought hard, came up short,” Singletary said after the game.

Johnny Football

Express quarterback Johnny Manziel made an appearance but only led one drive before leaving the contest with a concussion. He was injured assisting on a tackle after his tipped pass led to an interception in the end zone. He was down on the turf motionless for nearly a minute before walking off the field with assistance.

After a brief stint in the medical tent, he jogged to the locker room under his own power before being ruled out by the medical staff. He finished with 13 passing yards on three attempts and 18 rushing yards three carries. Singletary confirmed Manziel is in concussion protocol.

Recap

The first half was full of penalties and field goals with just one touchdown, a 3-yard run from D’Ernest Johnson for Orlando. The Apollos took a 14-9 lead into the locker room.

Orlando (7-1) started the second half with the ball and wasted no time getting back on the scoreboard. They marched 75 yards over just four plays, overwhelmingly thanks to a 65-yard touchdown pass from Gilbert to Donteea Dye Jr. to put the Apollos up 22-9.

The Express (2-6) clawed their way back into the contest, responding with a 10-play 80-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run from Terrence Magee to cut the lead to 22-17 after a successful two-point try.

On the next drive, the Express stopped the Apollos on a 4th-and-1 at their own 34. Silvers ran in a touchdown from just a yard out, but the play was negated due to an illegal formation by the Express. They had to settle for a field goal attempt but missed from 24 yards out.

The Apollos took back over at their own 20 but didn’t have possession for long. On the first play, Gilbert was strip-sacked by DeMarquis Gates and Corey Crawford scooped and scored in the aftermath. The Express took their first lead of the contest, 23-22.

With just 8:29 remaining in the game, the Express took a commanding 31-22 lead when Silvers found Dontez Byrd for a 9-yard score after trailing by as many as 13 early in the third quarter. Momentum can shift quickly, though.

On the ensuing drive, Gilbert threw what appeared to be his third pick of the game resulting in the Express having possession at the Orlando 23-yard line. However, the play was negated due to an “illegal defense” call by the upstairs officials. The Apollos retained possession and marched the field 75 yards over just six plays.

Gilbert found Johnson for an 18-yard touchdown with 5:05 remaining, pulling the Apollos within 3 points. Then tragedy struck the Express.

Memphis faced a 4th-and-7, up three, with 2:40 remaining. Punter Ryan Winslow fumbled the ball in the rain, resulting in the Apollos taking over at the Memphis 26.

Orlando scored the game-winning touchdown just 40 seconds later when De’Veon Smith punched it in from just one yard out. Any hope of a comeback for the Express died when Silvers threw a fatal interception with 1:21 remaining.

Last Word

Memphis will travel to San Antonio next week, while Orlando returns home to face San Diego.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images


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