The Salt Lake Stallions were back in action Saturday night when they played against the Orlando Apollos at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Apollos were the best team in the AAF coming into the game. The team was undefeated, having started the season with three consecutive wins. Salt Lake was coming off of their first win of the season, one where they took down a previously undefeated Arizona team.
The game was originally scheduled for kickoff at 2 PM, but the quality of the matchup led the AAF to flex the game to the primetime Saturday night slot. A slot where kickoff is at 6 PM local time. This originally seemed like a huge boost for the Stallions. An evening kickoff is more convenient for most fans to attend, and the 6 PM timeslot would surely bring in a larger number of viewers on the television as well.
Things were looking good until about two hours before kickoff, when it started to snow. And it continued to snow until after the game had ended. The snow finally let up an hour after the final play. This was what head coach Dennis Erickson had wished for the week prior. He was hoping for the snow in order to make the Apollos uncomfortable, since they played their previous game it what was surely a miserable 73 degrees. Steve Spurrier, the head coach of the Apollos, probably hasn’t seen snow in 15 years, so this environment would be a major change for him and a team composed of a lot of college athletes from Florida.
While Erickson might have hoped to receive an advantage on the field with the snow, it wasn’t great in the stands for the fans. The snowstorm was definitely a deterrent to fan attendance. The announced attendance was 9,302 fans, down by 1,000 from the previous week. This means that the actual attendance was down as well from whatever the true number was.
Despite the unfavorable conditions, fan engagement was as strong as the previous week, if not stronger. Everyone who came to the game simply embraced the snow and had a memorable viewing experience. The environment at Stallions games continues to be strong, even if the attendance numbers aren’t as high as the team would prefer.
Ultimately, the weather conditions didn’t seem to affect the Apollos all that much. They ended up winning the game 20-11, and they didn’t trail at any point during gameplay. Obviously, the weather in Orlando must not be that different from Salt Lake at this time of year.
Yep. Exactly the same. Unrelated question, how much are plane tickets to Orlando, and then how much does it cost to live in Orlando for the rest of someone’s life? Just curious.
The football itself was excellent. Dudes were sliding all over the place, but the offenses still executed and moved the ball well. Orlando finished with 363 yards of offense compared to 265 yards for the Stallions. Both teams ended up with 100 yards in the rushing game, but the difference came in the passing game. Salt Lake only managed 149 yards of passing while Orlando gutted the Salt Lake secondary in the second half and finished with 240 yards through the air.
The Stallions were also killed by their inability to convert third and fourth-downs into first-downs. The Stallions went 1-9 on third-down attempts and were only 1-3 on fourth-down. It was a part of the game that Erickson called “fricken awful”. Those are the actual words, they’re not being censored.
Thus, we end up with Salt Lake falling to 1-3 on their season, but they’re still only a game outside of first place in the West Division of the AAF. Every other team in the West is currently 2-2 on their season, so the Stallions are still in the thick of things despite a slow start to the season.
Orlando remains the only unbeaten team in the AAF. If the Apollos stay undefeated, maybe we need to consider implementing relegation into the NFL. The Apollos could play whichever team finishes with the worst record in the NFL, with the losing team getting sent to the AAF and the winning team getting the first pick in the draft. Who says no here besides terrified
Cleveland Browns Arizona Cardinals fans?
The AAF is still only a few weeks into its history, but the games remain very fun to watch. Getting to watch football in February is the equivalent of having to eat regular Oreos. Regular Oreos are inferior to the perfect cream-to-cookie ratio of Double Stuf Oreos, but they are still Oreos nonetheless. They are delicious, I will never turn them down, and I will consume a whole package of them in one night. That’s the AAF. It’s still football, which means it’s still wonderful.
Here are some more stray observations or fun moments from the second Salt Lake Stallions home game of the season. Things just keep improving every week.
Perhaps the best improvement of the week was the Stallions officially added a live mascot to their pregame entertainment. His name is Stryker, and from the looks of it, he is a very good horse.
It's excellent #Football weather❄️❄️❄️ for a great @aafstallions game here @Rice_Eccles !!! Stryker the Stallion can't wait to see you all #ICEtheRICE #winterishere #ICEtheVisor vs @aafAPOLLOS pic.twitter.com/ABTAHx0dEF— Elisabeth Osmeloski (@elisabethos) March 3, 2019
Also, at one point before the game, Stryker was running around the field and almost got run over by the cart they had shoveling the snow off field. They barely avoided having the first live mascot to die in AAF history. Which would have died first, the cart or the horse?
The former Utah Ute with the biggest impact on the field was Gionni Paul. Paul was everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, finishing the game with nine tackles, tied for the most of any player on the team. Trevor Reilly was also solid defensively, finishing the game with five tackles of his own. Kaelin Clay didn’t do much in this game, he was only targeted on one throw and didn’t have a chance to return a single punt.
This week’s winner of “Oh that’s what happened to…” goes to Garret Gilbert! Gilbert is the starting quarterback for Orlando, and he had an excellent game. If Gilbert’s name sounds vaguely familiar, may I remind you of a long-ago time when the Alabama Crimson Tide had yet to win a National Championship in the 21st Century. Somehow this was only nine years ago. Let’s return to the 2010 BCS National Championship.
This was simpler time when only two teams were allowed to compete for a title, and nobody was ever mad about which two teams were selected by faceless computers to compete for a championship. Undefeated Alabama was facing undefeated Texas in the championship game this year. Alabama success came from future NFL running back Mark Ingram and future AAF running back Trent Richardson. Texas had been carried by star quarterback Colt McCoy. Unfortunately, this was the game that saw McCoy get knocked out of the game on Texas’ fifth play of the game. The quarterback that replaced him? A true freshman by the name of Garrett Gilbert.
Gilbert played admirably for a true freshman, but he ended up throwing four interceptions and Texas lost by 16 points. This was the official coronation of the Alabama dynasty, and the start of the downfall of the Texas dynasty. Gilbert eventually ended up transferring to SMU to finish his college career, and here we are nine years later with him leading the Orlando Apollos. Time marches on for all of us.
Here is Steve Spurrier wearing what he normally does to coach football:
Here is Steve Spurrier coaching in Salt Lake City:
Steve Spurrier was not meant to coach in the snow. pic.twitter.com/s9rknFGeFp— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) March 3, 2019
Something about him in cold weather attire seems so wrong. It would have been a strong flex for Spurrier to still wear his visor, but even this man had to bow to the elements. Also, this was the first time that Spurrier has ever coached a game in Utah. This man has been coaching since 1978. The AAF is blazing all sorts of trails.
The Apollos are apparently sponsored by Sprite because they made sure to have a Sprite bottle on the podium for Steve Spurrier and Garret Gilbert’s press conference after the game. This raises the question, why has caffeine free Diet Coke not started sponsoring the Stallions? 90 percent of their sales have to come from the Utah market.
There needs to be a petition started to change the song the team plays after the Stallions score a touchdown from Flo Rida’s “My House” to pretty much any other song. Maybe they should change it to “Careless Whisper” if for no other reason than it would be absolutely hilarious.
The snow made it feel like it wasn’t actually the month of March, but instead we were stuck in nightmarish loop that only allows us to live the months of November-February over and over again. This was confirmed when the Yule Log was displayed on the videoboard several different times during the game and “Let it Snow” was blared over the speakers. It almost felt like Christmas again.
The moment that hit the closest to home was definitely when they started playing “All by Myself” and showing people on the jumbotron sitting alone with nobody near them. We’ve all related to that song on a very personal level at some point in our lives.
The best joke made by the PA announcer that half the stadium probably didn’t fully understand was when standout linebacker, Greer Martini, made a tackle in the open field. The announcer yelled, Greer Martini on the tackle, shaken not stirred!” If you’re confused, I’ll explain it for you. I think he was referencing how when one is tackled, his body is often shaken by the defender, but rarely is his body stirred. This is because one is usually stirred from sleep, but most football players are awake on the field. I’m surprised so many people didn’t pick up on that.