NEW ORLEANS – With a spot in the playoffs at stake, the New Orleans VooDoo had the visiting Georgia Force down big early, but found themselves trailing for most of the second half after miscues, eventually falling to the Force, 55-48, Saturday night.
However, the VooDoo (8-10) still earned their playoff berth since 2004 and the No. 4 overall seed in the American Conference playoffs with the Tampa Bay Storm's 63-53 loss to Spokane later in the night. New Orleans and Tampa Bay finished with the same record but the VooDoo reached the postseason via the tiebreaker.
The VooDoo and Soul will play on Saturday, July 28 with kickoff at 6:05 p.m. CT.
“We are blessed with the opportunity to go to the playoffs. We do have some things to clean up to get to playing to the best of our ability,” said VooDoo Head Coach Pat O’Hara. “This is a great group of guys, and I have believed in them all season. Going to Philadelphia is not an easy task and we will stress that to our team this entire week.”
The VooDoo and Soul met in Week 2 this season, with Philadelphia winning 63-62. The game ended as the Soul blocked a VooDoo field goal as time expired.
The Force (9-9) clinched a playoff spot with the win and will visit No. 2 seed Jacksonville next weekend.
After a Georgia score and a botched PAT made the game 48-41 with less than four minutes left in the game, the VooDoo netted the equalizer on a nine-yard touchdown reception by Courtney Smith from Kurt Rocco, but it left enough time on the clock for Georgia to score on Bryant Moniz' third touchdown run of the game after recovering the New Orleans onside kick for the 55-48 lead.
The VooDoo recovered the Force's onside kick and an illegal block penalty put New Orleans at the Georgia nine-yard line with 47 seconds left, but on the next play a sack and fumble by Rocco recovered by Jerry Turner of Georgia sealed New Orleans' fate as the Force ran out the clock and earned the win.
Josh Bush set two new records on the night for the VooDoo, setting a new mark for receiving yards (1,799) in a season, and becoming the first New Orleans player to take a missed field goal back for a touchdown with a 55-yarder in the second quarter. Bush also tied the single-season mark for touchdown receptions with 37.
Offensively, Bush and Chris Duvalt combined for 239 receiving yards and five touchdowns on the night, as Rocco went 22-for-30 for 254 yards, six touchdowns and an interception. In the first half alone, Rocco completed all but two passes in the first and second quarters.
Moniz threw for 175 yards on 17 completions, accounting for five total touchdowns for Georgia with three coming on the ground and two coming through the air. Larry Shipp was the leading receiver for the Force grabbing six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for one with three carries for 18 yards.
Alvin Ray Jackson led all players with 7.5 tackles on the night, followed by Gladel Brutus' six unassisted tackles on the night. Georgia's Quenton Burrell and Tracy Belton had 5.5 and 5 tackles, respectively.
New Orleans winning the toss and taking the ball in the first half played into Georgia's favor in the third quarter, as the Force got the ball and scored 14 of their 21 unanswered points between the first and second half.
The Force used up 10 minutes on their first drive of the quarter to retake the lead, and then on the very next play used an onside kick that bounced off of a VooDoo player to get the ball back and score again on four plays to take a 42-34 lead for the only scoring of the entire quarter.
The VooDoo scored on all three of their drives in the first quarter, using a total of 13 plays and a little more than nine possession minutes total to score their 20 opening quarter points.
Bush set the team record on a 17-yard touchdown pass for his first score of the game to give the VooDoo a 6-0 lead after the point-after attempt failed. Duvalt was Rocco's weapon of choice on the next two scoring drives, catching 15 and 12-yard touchdown passes to put the VooDoo up 20-14 as Georgia scored on both of their drives, which included a 55-yard kickoff return by Gary Cismesia.
After the 55-yard missed field goal return by Bush to start the second to give the VooDoo a 27-14 lead, Georgia needed just one play on the ensuing drive to pull within six of New Orleans 27-21. However, a two-play, 21-yard drive that began with a recovered onside kick was capped by a seven-yard play-action pass from Rocco to Bush to put the VooDoo back up by double-digits, 34-21.
The VooDoo defense held Georgia to no yards on four plays on their next drive to get the ball back on the Force 13-yard line with a chance to put the game out of reach early, but a fumble by Joe Alajajian killed the drive and allowed Georgia to go on a six-play, 44-yard drive making the score 34-28 New Orleans.
After a nearly flawless first half where he completed nine consecutive passes in the first, Rocco threw his first interception of the game, and second incompletion of the night, on the final play heading into the break to leave the score 34-28.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: Kurt Rocco, New Orleans VooDoo
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Quenton Burrell, Georgia Force
JLS Ironman of the Game: Josh Bush, New Orleans, VooDoo
AFL Playmaker of the Game: Josh Bush, New Orleans VooDoo
Cutters Catch of the Game: Chris Duvalt's fourth quarter touchdown catch
Spalding Highlight of the Game: Josh Bush 55-yard missed field goal return
National Guard MVP: Kurt Rocco, New Orleans VooDoo
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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