August 4, 2013
US Airways Center
By Emily Zahner and Kahlil Najar
PHOENIX, AZ—The San Jose SaberCats were eliminated from the Arena Football League playoffs Sunday night, as they were defeated by the defending champion Arizona Rattlers 59-49. San Jose’s QB Russ Michna completed 20 of 36 passes for 238 yards and five total touchdowns (one rushing), but mistakes cost the Cats and Michna’s impressive play was not enough to move on to the second round.
Coming in to tonight’s game, every favored team had advanced to the next round, creating an opportunity for the SaberCats to become the first upset of the playoffs. Last season, the Arizona Rattlers dealt the SaberCats a heart breaking defeat, but on the backs on QB Russ Michna and wide receivers Jason Willis and James Roe, the Cats clawed their way back into the post season to find some revenge. With the top two scoring teams in the league, this first round game was expected to be high scoring and intense. With the odds against them, the Cats would turn the ball to Michna, who began this game with a successful 4-0 record against Arizona.
In the first possession, the Cats struggled and prevented from building the momentum they were looking to carry into this game. San Jose was unable to make any forward progress, and on the turnover, the Rattlers took no time to get the first score, going up 7-0 just seconds into the game. It didn’t take the Cats long to get on the board, as the next possession they were able to convert for a score. At the end of the first, the game was tied 14-14, but it took less than two minutes into the second for the Rattlers to score again. After questionable officiating and physical play, the first half came to a close with the Rattlers leading 28-21.
A potential turning point of the game for the Cats occurred in the third quarter when Arizona’s kicker Garret Lindholm missed the opportunity for a field goal and defensive back Clevan Thomas returned the miss 49-yards for a San Jose touchdown. This turned the momentum to the Cats, and one score later, they had brought the score to 35-35. Arizona’s QB Nick Davila faltered, and threw an interception to Huey Whitaker who returned the pick-6, giving San Jose their first lead 42-35. Arizona kept pressing, and at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the score was tied 42-42.
In the fourth, the Cats turned the ball over at the one yard line that the Rattlers managed to return to regain the lead, and it was all Rattlers from there. Russ Michna had to take matters into this own hands, running for the touchdown with 3:27 left in the game, shortening the deficit to 56-49, but it wouldn’t be enough. More mistake by the defense cost San Jose, and Arizona punched their ticket to the next round with a final score of 59-49. The San Jose SaberCats end their thrilling season 13-6.