Before his team was on the field Sunday night for his debut with the American Football Alliance, Arizona Hotshots coach Rick Neuheisel could only make a promise.
Regardless of the number of fans who came to watch the game in person at Sun Devil Stadium or who chose to watch him on TV via the NFL network, Neuheisel said, "They will see a great effort."
"I can not tell you that it will be perfect," added Neuheisel. "We have only been together for a very short time. But I'll tell you that fans are going to be entertained because it's a fun group and when they start playing this song (Lil Jon) 'Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots & # 39; , I guarantee you will get a little bounce in your footsteps. "
With a frenzied attack and offensive defense that forced three turnovers, the Hotshots did not disappoint and they more than confirmed the words of their coach with a 38-22 win over the Salt Lake Stallions.
The Hotshots did not offer statistics on attendance, but the small crowd estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 people was heard and seemed to really appreciate the experience of the FAA.
Quarterback John Wolford, taking the lead in front of Trevor Knight, who was ranked # 1 on the depth chart, scored four touchdowns and 275 yards to trigger Hotshots. Wolford, a notable former Wake Forest player who ended his university career with 8,794 yards and 59 touchdowns, including 19 other goals, repeated several times at Stallions High School with 18 out of 29 passes.
"It's exciting, you're part of a start-up, everything is a first," Wolford said to the question of how he felt about being part of the Hotshots debut. the first pass, the first completion, the first hit, so it's fun.
"I thought the league had done a good job so far. Everything is extremely well managed and we had good football tonight, so we can be proud of it. "
Wolford was so precise with his throws that he even made comparisons with Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints by NFL Network analysts Maurice Jones Drew and Marvin Lewis. But Wolford, who spent time with the Jets last summer, was not the only one to stand out from the Hotshots in their first game of the season.
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Wide receiver Rashad Ross, formerly of Arizona State, caught five passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns. His 36-yard touchdown on a sloped road in the second quarter allowed the Hotshots to climb from 16 to 8 in the second quarter, then to the third, he caught a 4-yard wiping from Wolford in the corner of the end zone. who helped. Arizona increases its lead to 27-16.
"It was great to come back to my stadium and perform as I did," Ross said. "I no longer play football since OTA and pre-season with the Cardinals, so showing that I still have it, my talent and that I have a chance, it's just great." . "
Offensive fielder Jhurell Pressley, who played collegiate in New Mexico, rushed to a 64-yard high in 18 carries and captured a 30-yard touchdown pass. He also participated in a two-point conversion.
Several players shone on the defense, including cornerback Robert Nelson Jr., linebacker Steven Johnson and defensive end Will Sutton.
Nelson had an interception and a handful of passing defenses, not to mention some powerful tackles that inflamed the crowd. Johnson, who has played 74 NFL career games with four different teams, was also intercepted and led the Hotshots into the tackles. Sutton, the ASU's former outstanding player, has been a disturbing factor in the front and has regularly put pressure on quarterback Josh Woodrum of Salt Lake until that point. Woodrum leaves the match in the second half with a hamstring injury.
The Stallions were forced to call in Matt Linehan, but he was unable to defeat Arizona's over-arching defense, which limited Salt to 240 yards. The Hotshots, meanwhile, totaled 416 yards.
"It was pretty simple for me. They kicked us at the back, "said Stallion coach Dennis Erickson. "It's pretty basic football. … we just made too many mistakes. They have good players. This quarterback played very well.
Wolford, who was a student in finance at the university, was preparing for life after football a year ago at the same time. He did an internship at a small private equity firm in Winston-Salem, New Brunswick, and was ready to take a full-time position until he was able to train. with the Jets.
A handful of AAF crews were already interested in him and when he was eventually released by the Jets, the Hotshots were able to sign him. He was the star of the night in Tempe, of course.
"It's amazing what can be done when you have the right type of student," said Hotshots head coach Rick Neuheisel. "The players in this league have such a buy-in."
Wolford opened the scoring by hitting striker Gerald Christian with a 5-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first quarter. He was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2015 NFL draft when he was last picked by the Cardinals, but Christian was relevant to the Hotshots with their first touchdown in franchise history. Larry Rose III converted the conversion to two points with a pass in the end zone.
Nick Folk, the 11-year-old NFL veteran who played collegiate in Arizona, scored a 53-yard goal in the second quarter and added a 32-yard goalkeeper in the fourth quarter to close the scoring.
Follow Bob McManaman from Arizona Republic on Twitter @azbobbymac.
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