The Los Angeles Wildcats (2-3) scored 27 consecutive points to mount a comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Vipers (1-4) to earn their second win at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The Wildcats got off to a slow start, their first snap led to QB Josh Johnson throwing his second interception of the season that the Vipers capitalized on with a field goal. The game felt like a lopsided affair as the Vipers offense was able to continue its momentum, gaining a 24-6 lead in the final minutes of the first half.
As the sun began to set over the City of Angles, the Wildcats’ offense began to rise. Josh Johnson found his rhythm and was able to lead the team to the biggest comeback of the season, throwing for four consecutive touchdowns.
A major contributor to this comeback was how well Norm Chow’s offense was able to distribute the ball. Nine different receivers caught a pass from Johnson, who went 28 for 36 with 288 yards, 4 TDs, and one interception on the night.
“Honestly, I think it’s still coming together. Because we have so many different guys who step up week in and week out,” Johnson said in the postgame press conference. “It’s just us coming together as a collective. We’ve got to lean on all 52.”
Marc Trestman decided to start Taylor Cornelius under center following his success last week against DC. The QB was able to bring life to Tampa, putting up 300 passing yards and two TDs on a night where their ground game took a blow with an injury to RB Jacques Patrick.
Down to the Wire
The Vipers found themselves within 10 yards of the endzone in the final minute while trailing by a score. But the game would end the same way it started; with an interception. A miscommunication between Taylor Cornelius and TE DeAndre Goolsby led to the pass being picked off by Jack Tocho, sealing the game for the Wildcats.
“We’ve got a very disappointed Viper locker room. I was really proud of our guys. Played our tails off but the fact of the matter is we’re a 1-4 football team,” Vipers’ head coach Marc Trestman said. “We have to accept that. We think we played a really good football team tonight in LA.”
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Winston Moss and the Wildcats played efficiently on the field, scoring all five times they made it into the red zone. Johnson looked poised in the pocket and was able to find his outlets when they needed to score. Saeed Blacknall, Brandon Barnes, and DeQuan Hampton all caught touchdowns, stepping up in the absences of Nelson Spruce and Elijah Hood. WR Tre McBride also scored a touchdown while fighting through a rib injury that saw him briefly leave the game.
“We’re sharing the love, we spread the ball around,” McBride said. “The offense isn’t going to revolve around one person. Coverage is going to dictate who gets the ball, and if it’s man then whoever gets open is going to get the ball. We’ve all got an internal drive of our own that nobody standing across the line can beat us. As receivers, we take pride in that.”
League on Notice
Once the Wildcats found their stride, they were able to fire on both sides of the ball. Their defensive play was highlighted by a fumble recovery that was returned 23 yards for a touchdown by DT Boogie Roberts.
“It’s every fat boy’s dream to get into the endzone,” the 289-pound Roberts said. “We work on the scoop and score drill every day so it felt like another rep in practice. Shoutout to Ced [Cedric Reed], he got the sack. Without him it wouldn’t have been a fumble, it’s a whole team effort.”
After inconsistencies rattled the team throughout the beginning of the season, the Wildcats are looking like they have things figured out. Josh Johnson has proven himself as a natural leader on the field and has a case in the MVP race. Los Angeles should be able to compete with any team and challenge for the second playoff spot in the West as the XFL enters the second half of the season.
“This is a special group. These guys are so passionate. They’re very emotional and they want to win. We truly want to win for each other,” Head coach Winston Moss said as he closed the press conference. “As long as we stay in a brotherhood mindset, that’s tough to beat.”
The Wildcats will look to keep rolling in Emerald City as they take on the Seattle Dragons Sunday on ESPN 2 at 7 p.m. ET. The Vipers will return home and look to keep their playoff hopes alive as they face off against the St. Louis BattleHawks Saturday on Fox Sports 2 at 5 p.m. ET.
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