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Slow start, special teams errors doom Jacksonville on the road

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As good as the Sharks looked last week against San Antonio, that’s how bad they looked in Arizona. The Rattlers (3-0) handed Jacksonville (1-2) a crushing 63-38 defeat on Saturday night.

Jacksonville didn’t start out too well, giving up a big return and a long catch and run to put themselves in an early 7-0 hole after a little more than two minutes ran off the clock.

QB R.J. Archer faced nothing but pressure, and the stiff Arizona defense put him in a lot of third and fourth down and long situations. It didn’t matter early on, as Archer found WR London Crawford, and then a wide open Mardy Gilyard on fourth down to tie the game at seven.

Penalties were frequent in the first half, and while Jacksonville was the early beneficiary, they became costly on the following drive. First, one led to Arizona QB Nick Davila throwing a 33-yard touchdown pass to WR Rod Windsor to regain the lead. On the extra point, what looked like a head slap appeared to the referees as a punch to the head, causing Sharks DE Jerry Turner to be ejected from the game.

Jacksonville’s special teams went from bad to worse, as Mardy Gilyard couldn’t recover the kickoff off the net, which led to another Rattlers touchdown. To add further insult, R.J. Archer threw his first pick of the season, leading to a one-play touchdown drive and a 28-7 lead for Arizona.

The Sharks found some life on defense, with Micheaux Robinson grabbing his 30th career interception, this one from Nick Davila, in the end zone. Then, Terrance Smith, playing most of the game at wide receiver, found the end zone for the first time this season thanks to a 45-yard catch and run to cut the deficit to 28-13.

The defense stayed strong for both teams at the end of the first half. Jacksonville stopped Arizona on downs, then R.J. Archer got sacked to end the first half after a pass to London Crawford got deflected.

While there were some glimpses of hope in the second half, including a surprise scramble by Archer and OL/TE Roderick Tomlin’s first career touchdown catch, the best the Sharks could do was match touchdowns with Arizona for the rest of the game. In the midst of the defeat, Jacksonville’s special teams mistakes reared their ugly heads again, with two more botched snaps and two more missed extra points.

R.J. Archer fell back to earth after last week’s game, completing only 22 of 46 passes for 323 yards, six scores, and the one interception. London Crawford and Tristan Purifoy had a game-high six catches, and Crawford led the team with 84 yards. Terrance Smith had a true ironman effort, making two tackles and breaking up two passes on defense while snagging three catches for 73 yards and a touchdown on offense.

The defense couldn’t stop the man they call the Latin Laser, as Nick Davila only needed 13 completions in 20 attempts to finish with 211 yards passing, seven touchdowns and one interception. Rod Windsor and Maurice Purify each had a game-high three touchdown catches on the night.

Jacksonville is now behind the eight ball, but they have a chance to gain ground against the co-leaders of the South division, the 3-1 Tampa Bay Storm. The Storm come to town next Friday night, April 11, and kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m. from Sea Best Field at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

The game will be broadcast locally on WBOB AM 600, and can be seen live online through ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app. For more on the Jacksonville Sharks, including the latest news, updates, and transactions, log on to www.jaxsharks.com. For more on the rest of the Arena Football League, log on to www.arenafan.com and www.arenafootball.com.

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