NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans VooDoo overcame some early mistakes to defeat the Jacksonville Sharks Saturday night in The Graveyard, 65-55. With the win, the VooDoo now, for the first time since returning to the AFL, has sole possession of first place in the South Division.
The VooDoo's opening drive would turn out to be a perfect microcosm of the game. On first down, Rocco threw incomplete for Josh Bush. On second down, Rocco bounced a pass to Quorey Payne. On third down, Rocco missed Courtney Smith. Faced with a 4th and 10 on their own 5 yard-line, Rocco delivered a perfect deep ball that hit Payne in-stride, allowing the receiver to easily score and propel New Orleans to a 6-0 lead.
Just like on that first drive, the VooDoo (8-7) were able to overcome early mistakes, take the lead, and then put Jacksonville in their rear-view mirror. After trailing the Sharks 19-14 following a Rocco interception that was returned for a touchdown, the VooDoo put together a seven-play, 45-yard drive that ended in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Rocco to Smith.
"We made some mistakes and still won, so that's kind-of a good thing because our team knows there's room to improve and room to get better, and we'll continue to do that." VooDoo Head Coach Pat O'Hara said.
"We've put ourselves in a good position with our division record of 5-1. We're at 8-7 right now, but that won't just launch us into the playoffs." Said O'Hara. "We have three games left, two of them division games. I'm very proud of our guys, but my message to them is that we have to go right back to work."
After taking that 20-19 lead mid-way through the second quarter, the VooDoo answered every Jacksonville score with a touchdown of their own. From that point on, the Sharks (7-8) were able to pull within four points on five separate occasions, but the VooDoo never relinquished the lead.
Despite throwing for 262 yards with 7 touchdowns, Rocco wanted none of the credit after the game. Instead, he praised the New Orleans' defense; "They played tremendous. They give us turnovers, they give us four-and-outs, and they played their hearts out." Rocco said. "I'll be honest; they are the backbone of our team, they are the leaders of our team and offensively, we need to step it up."
The fans in the Graveyard were vocal and into the game all night, something that Jacksonville was probably hoping to avoid. "We needed their help (the fans), we had a good showing, and they were loud." O'Hara said. "It affected the outcome of the game...they had a delay of game towards the end, they had a couple of penalties that were clearly caused by the crowd noise. That's something to be proud of. We need 'em, we need all our fans."
The VooDoo will now focus on their upcoming game at the San Jose Sabercats (10-6) next Saturday night. Kickoff is slated for 9:30 p.m. CT.
Russell Athletic Player of the Game: Kurt Rocco, NOV
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Demarcus Robinson, NOV
JLS Ironman of the Game: Josh Bush, NOV
AFL Playmaker of the Game: Josh Bush, NOV
Spalding Highlight of the Game: Kurt Rocco, NOV TD Pass 2nd Quarter TD pass to Josh Bush
National Guard MVP: Kurt Rocco, NOV
About the New Orleans VooDoo
The New Orleans VooDoo will play in the New Orleans Arena, an SMG managed facility directly across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Single game tickets for VooDoo regular season home games are on sale now by calling 504-875-3900. For more information call (888) 277-5526 for Vice President and Director of Operations, Jason Coffel. To shop all things VooDoo, visit www.voodoostuff.com and get your gear today.
About the AFL
Since its inception in 1987, the AFL has afforded the fast-paced and exciting game of Arena Football to millions of fans in a myriad of markets across the country. The NFL Network will once again broadcast an AFL National Game of the Week for the entire regular and post season on Friday nights at 8:00 pm EST, culminating with the ArenaBowl Championship Game in August.
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