Houston rolled into Tampa Bay a 7.5 point favorite and looked to stay undefeated while the Vipers looked for their first win of the year. The Roughnecks also were reaching for a 3-0 start.
June Jones, the head coach of Houston, was going up against former mentor defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville. Glanville had coached alongside Jones with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors in 2005 and 2006. While a coach in Atlanta, Glanville also drafted Jones in 1977.
Tampa Bay would strike first with a 48-yard field goal from Rensselaer Polytechnic’s own Andrew Franks.
The Vipers would nurse a 3-0 lead until the Roughnecks second possession. Under extreme duress Roughnecks quarterback, P.J. Walker would find the wide-open Cam Phillips for an 84-yard touchdown strike. Phillips ran an in-and-out route that froze the secondary inside and allowed him to score.
Early in the second, Tampa Bay would put together a seven-play 69-yard drive that culminated in a seven-yard scoring run by Viper quarterback Quentin Flowers. Houston struggled in the drive stopping the run, especially when Flowers scrambled or in keeper situations.
The Flowers scoring run would be Tampa Bay’s first offensive touchdown of the year.
Houston’s James Butler ran for 49 yards on the next drive, nearly matching his game-high in yardage in just one drive. P.J. Walker would then scramble eight yards for the Roughnecks touchdown to lead 15-10.
Tampa Bay would insert Taylor Cornelius at quarterback because of his passing ability, and he drove the Vipers to the one. He would then score on the quarterback keeper with 0:03 left on the clock. The Vipers would convert on the two-point conversion to tie the game at 18-18 at the half.
Houston started off the third quarter and would drive six plays for a score. Phillips would rustle in his second touchdown catch of the day from 24 yards out as the offensive line picked up the blitz allowing Walker to find him. Phillips ran a slant route and would break a tackle and spin into the end zone to give Houston a 26-18 lead.
Cornelius would start the second half for Tampa Bay, and after a Houston field goal miss, he would lead Tampa to another score. Dan Williams would take the short pass and run 20 yards to paydirt. Conversion failed, and Houston still led 26-24.
The play of the third quarter was a 28-yard P.J. Walker run. It was the conclusion of the play, not the run, which caused some controversy. Walker stumbled at the end of the run untouched and then threw the ball backward. A Viper player picked up the ball and ran for a score, but the officials said Walker had given himself up.
Tampa Bay would get a 43 yard Franks field goal to take a 27-26 lead on their first fourth-quarter drive.
Houston would respond though.
After a critical pass interference call put the Roughnecks in Tampa Bay territory, Walker would hit Phillips for a 17-yard slant route and a touchdown. It was yet another Walker to Phillips touchdown with P.J. looking down the barrel of a Viper’s blitz. Houston regains the lead, 34-27.
Tampa Bay’s next drive would go down to the Roughnecks two but the Houston defense was too much and the Vipers would turn it over on downs.
Houston, looking to run out the clock and put away Tampa, would get stopped on their next drive and nearly got a pick.
With 1:53 the Vipers would be looking for the comeback.
But alas Roughneck linebacker DeMarquis Gates would pick off Cornelius with 1:12 left to keep the Tampa Bay Randy Ortons winless.
Stars Of The Game
For Houston, the Walker/Phillips show rolls on. Cam Phillips reeled in eight receptions for 194 yards and three touchdowns. It brings Phillips league-leading touchdown reception total to seven.
P.J. Walker had another stellar performance. He would go 24/36 306 yards the three aforementioned scores and 34 yards rushing.
James Butler made the most of his seven carries gaining a season-high 72 yards.
For Tampa Bay quarterback Taylor Cornelius played the majority of the snaps going 16/31 for 193 yards and a touchdown and a pick. Cornelius and Quentin Flowers gave the Roughneck defense fits with their running, but it was baffling that Flowers wasn’t inserted in a fourth-quarter drive that stalled at the two.
Jalen Tolliver led the Vipers in receiving with eight grabs for 104 yards.
DeMarquis Gates not only had the game-sealing interception for Houston but also had a game-high eight tackles.
Houston (3-0) head to Dallas next Sunday to take on their rivals the Renegades. Tampa Bay (0-3) will play the second Sunday game hosting the DC Defenders.
Follow me on Twitter for more great content @vidal_espinoza.
Discuss this and everything to do with sports at the Overtime Heroics forums!
Be sure to check out our partners at Repp Sports! They offer the first-ever crowd-sourced, no carb, no sugar, energy drink called RAZE, and much more! Use the link above or add the promo code OTH1 at checkout to get 15% off your order!