CHICAGO - In desperate need of a victory to change their fortunes, the New Orleans VooDoo invade Allstate Arena to take on the Chicago Rush Saturday evening. Game time is 7 p.m. and you can listen to it live on Rush Radio 99.5, WRNO.
Coming off of a 56-49 loss at home to Pittsburgh to fall to 1-5 on the season, VooDoo coach Derek Stingley has made many roster changes, so many that you virtually need name tags to place names with faces.
The latest change is the most significant. Hoping to jump start a struggling offense, Stingley has turned to 10-year veteran Chris Wallace at quarterback, replacing Danny Wimprine.
New Orleans is last in the league in scoring, averaging just 37.5 points per game while allowing 51.2 points per contest. New Orleans ranks sixth in the AFL in total defense and fourth in kickoff returns.
A 10-year veteran, Wallace was signed a week ago by the VooDoo. He played for the Arena League Orlando Predators from 2001-2003 and spent the rest of his Arena years in AF2.
The 6'1, 200-pound Wallace played college football at Toledo. He was out of football in 2010. Wallace guided the Florida Firecats to the Arena Cup championship in 2004.
Wimprine, a former John Curtis Christian star, is coming off of his most productive game, a throwing for six touchdowns with no interceptions in the loss to Pittsburgh.
Wimprine has struggled with turnovers. He lost two fumbles a week ago and had lost three fumbles this season where the ball simply slipped out of his throwing hand. He has thrown nine interceptions on the season to go with 22 touchdown passes, completing 58 percent of his passes.
As a team, New Orleans tops the league with 19 turnovers in six games and are a minus nine in turnover margin.
As you might imagine, the classy Wimprine, an unquestioned team leader, took the news hard but handled it with dignity. He has worked extremely hard all week long, remaining positive, and has vowed to try to win his job back.
New Orleans is led by wide receiver/kick returner P.J. Berry, who has 53 catches for 550 yards and eight touchdowns and has returned 32 kicks for an average of 21.5 yards and two touchdowns. Berry is the league's reigning Ironman of the Week for his 242 all purpose yards and three touchdowns against Pittsburgh last week.
The VooDoo will be without fullback Tommy Taggart, who was injured at practice earlier this week. Taggart, who was a solid offensive lineman, moved to fullback for the last two games following an injury to Jason Schule.
As a result, the VooDoo will likely go with Vaalyn Jackson, a defensive lineman, at fullback while tight end Moqut Ruffins is expected to take as over as the long snapper on kicks.
Linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson leads the defense with a team-high 33.5 tackles, including three for losses. He leads the VooDoo with a pair of interceptions and has a fumble recovery.
The Rush come in at 4-2 on the season, averaging 52.3 points per game while allowing 45.3 points per contest. The Rush lost a 58-51 decision at home against Kansas City last week. Chicago committed five turnovers, including a fumble at the Command one-yard line as they were about to produce a game-tying score.
Chicago has struggled in the passing game, ranking dead last in the league and are last in the AFL in total offense. Chicago is plus six in turnover margin.
Veteran quarterback Russ Michna has completed 65 percent of his passes for 29 touchdowns.
Chicago is fourth in the league in rushing, led by Johnnie Kirton, who has 119 yards on 33 carries with six touchdowns and Michna, who has 24 carries for 83 yards and four scores.
Reggie Gray is the top receiver and threat for the Rush. Gray has 42 receptions for 618 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The Rush are set for a historic moment as the team will retire Head Coach Bob McMillenâ€™s jersey in a ceremony during an extended halftime Saturday night.
The former #44 played fullback/linebacker in the AFL for 13 seasons. His jersey will be the first-ever retired by the Chicago Rush franchise.
Selected as one of the 20 Greatest Players in AFL history, McMillen played the last five years of his 13 season career with the Rush. McMillen helped lead Chicago to the 2006 ArenaBowl XX Championship.
McMillen rewrote the Rush record book, setting single game, season and career records for rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns. Overall, he finished his career second on the AFLâ€™s all-time leading rushing list with 1,508 yards and fifth all-time in rushing touchdowns with a total of 85.
Upon retiring, McMillen joined the Rush coaching staff and he is now Chicago's first-year head coach.
Based on the way both teams have performed this season, a low-scoring game could be in the offing.
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