Week 3 of the AAF began Saturday featuring two of the Alliance’s top teams. Both were challenged, with one suffering their first loss of the season while the other got an unexpected scare.
The Arizona Hotshots suffered their first loss of the year to the the Salt Lake Stallions 23-15. The Hotshots needed to come from behind in Week 2 to beat Memphis, but couldn’t pull off a similar feat this week without quarterback John Wolford.
Then, the Memphis Express traveled to the Orlando Apollos for what Vegas thought was going to be a huge mismatch. The line, per Westgate SuperBook, opened at -15.5 for Orlando. Instead, one heck of a football game broke out with the Express going with Zach Mettenberger in the second half.
CBS Sports was with you every step of the way during Saturday’s action. Be sure check out the updates below for the all the highlights and storylines.
Salt Lake Stallions 23, Arizona Hotshots 15 (final)
Orlando Apollos 21, Memphis Express 17 (final)
Check these out …
- How to watch Week 3 games
- Picks against the spread
- Power Rankings
- Five players to watch
- Five things to love (and not love) about the AAF
Zach Mettenberger dropped dimes, but not enough to win
What a difference Mettenberger has made for Memphis’ offense since starting the third quarter. The backup threw for two touchdowns in a loss to the Apollos, his latest being a gorgeous bomb on a — wait for it — 3rd-and-19 for a crucial score. The problem? Mettenberger didn’t start sooner, otherwise the Express may have had an even better chance to upset the Apollos. As it was, Orlando was able to do what it did a week ago against San Antonio and run the ball in the fourth quarter when it absolutely needed to drain the clock.
As for Mettenberger, he hasn’t been taking tons of snaps during the week in practice — in fact, he missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness — but he showed nice patience and movement in the pocket while obviously displaying a heck of an arm. Frankly, Memphis’ quarterback woes should be over after tonight, regardless of the outcome. No team has improved as much from Week 1 to Week 3 as Memphis has, and with Mettenberger in the fold, that first win could be coming in earnest.
This is the tip drill to end all tip drills
There are tip drills, and then there’s this completion by Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert to tight end Matt Weiser — who, it should be noted, was not the intended receiver. This near catch-interception-catch touched four different players on its way to being caught for, somehow, a positive gain. If football was a game of HORSE, your opponent would be royally screwed.
Garrett Gilbert tosses incredible TD strike on the run
Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert was the AAF’s leading passer after two weeks and will probably still be the leader after three. Of all his plays thus far, this might be his prettiest. Facing a fourth-and-8, and with Memphis having closed the gap on the scoreboard, coach Steve Spurrier opted to keep his offense on the field. What resulted next was a spectacular throw on the run from Gilbert to Rannell Hall for long bomb touchdown to put the Apollos back up 15-6. Just when you think Memphis has something going, the Apollos show just how easy they can make it look.
Zach Mettenberger gets Memphis back into the game
After Christian Hackenberg threw his third interception of the season (and nearly tossed his fourth), Memphis finally pulled the plug. Coach Mike Singletary began the third quarter against the Apollos with Zach Mettenberger.at quarterback. Immediately, Mettenberger led the Express down the field and tossed a beautiful dime for a touchdown to bring his team to within three points of the heavily favored Apollos. With Hackenberg playing so poorly, one had to wonder when we were going to see Mettenberger; conversely, what was keeping Mettenberger off of the field to start with? In any case, this is a good start and Memphis has suddenly made this a game.
Early interception gets Apollos rolling vs. Express
Apollos defensive back Keith Reaser earned Defensive Player of the Week honors from the AAF in Week 2 for a decisive pick-six in a 37-29 win at the San Antonio Commanders. Reaser is picking up where he left off against the Express, picking off Christian Hackenberg’s first pass of the night. That led to a 31-yard field goal to give Orlando a 9-0 lead. The Apollos moved the ball at east to start, but the Express defense has tightened up since. Still, another Apollos touchdown might be too much for Memphis to overcome.
Late touchdown secures Stallions’ first victory
Salt Lake City was close to pulling an upset in Week 2, but finally got its first W of the season in a 23-15 win over the Hotshots. The fact that Arizona lost starting quarterback John Wolford to a back injury early in the third quarter didn’t help, but credit to Salt Lake’s defense for holding one of the AAF’s best offenses to 15 points while grinding out a victory with a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ate up more than eight minutes in the fourth-quarter, punctuated by a leaping Joel Bouagnon score. Trevor Knight, who entered the game after Wolford’s injury, finished with just five completions on 14 attempts. The Hotshots went 2-of-10 on third-down conversions and lost the time of possession battle, 36:03 to 23:43.
John Wolford out as Stallions pull ahead again
Arizona has been in a battle with Salt Lake City, and potentially losing quarterback John Wolford doesn’t help. Wolford’s first pass of the third quarter was picked off and nearly returned for a touchdown (running back Branden Oliver later scored), but more importantly, Wolford was slow to get off the field after getting rocked on the pass and was later ruled out for the rest of the game with an unspecified injury. Trevor Knight took over on the next series, but missed his first six passes.
Hotshots equalize with late second-quarter touchdown
Despite being outplayed for much of the first half, Arizona was able to tie things up with Salt Lake City 9-9 thanks to a touchdown catch by leading wideout Rashad Ross. The former Arizona State stud already has six catches in the game as the Hotshots were able to march down the field on their scoring drive. The fascinating, and sometimes frustrating, thing about Arizona is that they can legitimately play from behind because of the explosiveness of their offense. Players like Ross and Josh Huff always seem to come up big when it’s needed most.
Salt Lake touchdown puts Arizona in trouble again
The Hotshots got off to a slow start in Week 2 at Memphis, but were able to come back for the 20-18 win. Well, Arizona once again finds itself playing from behind, but unlike Memphis, Salt Lake City is a more dangerous team — even if they entered the day 0-2.
The Stallions have moved the bell well early, and the key difference is third-down conversions. Arizona has found itself in multiple third-and-longs already while the Stallions have been able to convert more manageable third downs, including this touchdown pass to De’Mornay Pierson-El.
Salt Lake QB Woodrum back after hamstring injury
Salt Lake Stallions quarterback Josh Woodrum missed last week with a hamstring injury he sustained in a Week 1 loss to the Hotshots. Though he participated in practice on Friday, he was still listed as questionable for Saturday’s game. But about 30 minutes prior to the start against Arizona, the Stallions noted on their Twitter account that he was back and ready to play. Austin Allen, the Week 2 starter, was designated the third-string quarterback.