HELL FREEZES OVER — EXPANSION SIN DEFEATS DEFENDING CHAMPS
By: Jim Wallin (LFL360.com)
LAS VEGAS– Mere hours into his tenure, Las Vegas Head Coach Dion Lee stared into his crystal ball and boldly predicted that his rookie-laden Sin team would make the playoffs and go undefeated en route to winning the Lingerie Bowl. Until recently, few bought into this vision. However, after a thrilling 28-20 upset win over the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Temptation, the expansion franchise not only finds themselves playoff-bound, making history in the process, but also half of the way to fulfilling their head coach’s once-maligned prophecy.
On a night where both teams showcased their well-balanced offenses, it was defense that ultimately decided the game, as Las Vegas DE and Game MVP Sunshine Misa-Uli (43 total yards, TD, 1.5 tackles, INT) intercepted Los Angeles QB Ashley Salerno (4/11, 51 yds., 2 TD, 2 INT) in the end zone to turn the tide and enable the home team to score the inter-conference win. Preceding the ill-fated Temptation drive (7-plays, 32 yards), Sin RB Tracee Thomas (9 att., 32 yds., TD) rushed for a one-yard touchdown, capping off a 15-yard drive after an impressive defensive stand, which ultimately proved to be the game winner.
The difference in the see-saw game proved to be turnovers, as the Las Vegas defense once again turned in a multiple takeaway effort, scoring two key interceptions (one, first half, one second half) against the much-heralded Salerno en route to gaining the upper-hand in a close affair and prevailing in large part due to the fulfilled opportunism.
The two teams traded blows in the first half, with Las Vegas commencing the scoring on their first drive (5 plays, 38 yards, 3:46) behind a balanced assault, as QB Nikki Johnson (10/16, 126 yds., TD, 7 att./14 yds., TD) completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to TE Carrie Walters (5 rec, 44 yds., TD) to propel the home team to an early 6-0 advantage.
Los Angeles responded 32-seconds later behind a perfectly executed 35-yard seam route from Salerno to WR Amber Reed (72 total yards, 3 TD) to knot up the score at six.
The Sin quickly matched firepower, as Johnson located WR Cassandra Strickland (3 rec., 62 yards) on a broken play as Johnson mishandled a bad snap deep in Vegas territory, but located the powerful runner for a 37-yard gain. Johnson finished off the drive with a touchdown and successful conversion attempt to extend the ‘Vegas lead to 14-6.
The Temptation returned to their patented formula for success, as Salerno used her quickness and mobility to gain yardage and her arm to find the sure-handed Reed in the corner of the end zone for her second touchdown of the game at the 13:05 mark, with Tessa Barrera extinguishing the home team’s advantage by reeling in a Salerno two point conversion passing attempt.
After the Temptation made a key defensive stop, their offense capitalized quickly, as Reed conquered the Sin defense for the third time in the half; a 15-yard touchdown run to give L.A. their first lead, 20-14.
But the Sin didn’t panic.
Instead, Johnson led another successful mission, bringing the raucous crowd to their feet with a six-play, 35 yard, game-tying drive. Both teams entered the half deadlocked at 20, but Las Vegas’ defense tightened from there, allowing zero second half points.
On this night, Las Vegas used a well-balanced offense and opportunistic defense to punish Los Angeles, vaulting Coach Lee’s team into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference and clinching a playoff berth, making history as the first-ever expansion team to accomplish the feat.
This setback marks the first defeat for the Temptation since an October 23, 2009 road game against the Dallas Desire, breaking their record-setting 11-game winning streak, including playoffs.
Los Angeles (1-1) returns home to prepare for an important inter-conference battle on December 16 against the Seattle Mist (1-1). The Las Vegas Sin (3-0) close out the regular season gunning for a perfect regular season record on January 21, hosting the Green Bay Chill (1-2).
Photos courtesy of: Joe Petro/LFL PHOTOS, Mark Rigney – Official Photographer of the Los Angeles Temptation
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