NEW ORLEANS — VooDoo defensive back Eddie Moten overcame a Sunday afternoon of defensive mistakes and offensive miscues with a game-ending play at the New Orleans Arena.
Moten’s interception in overtime sealed a 51-45 victory over Orlando, the end of a regular-season opener which will be remembered for what went wrong as much as all that went right.
Still, it’s the kind of game that could inspire the VooDoo (1-0), which are coming off their second playoff berth in the Arena Football League. When quarterback Kurt Rocco struggles, as he did Sunday, and when the defense doesn’t play much better, there’s still a chance to win.
Moten made sure that occurred, stepping in front of Kyle Rowley’s pass to Prechae Rodriguez in the end zone.
“I just wanted to make sure I got to it, and caught it,” Moten said. “It was up for grabs, I needed to come down with the win.
“We need this win.”
Minutes earlier, Rocco threw his third touchdown of the game to start overtime, a 17-yard pass to Courtney Smith. But Gary Cismesia missed the extra point. Orlando (0-1) needed a touchdown and extra point to win, but Moten ended such hopes.
“We made our mistakes, but we kept fighting,” VooDoo coach Pat O’Hara said. “That’s what I liked about it.”
Here’s what O’Hara didn’t like: Rowley threw for 319 yards on 25-for-48 passing. Rodriguez, who finished with nine catches for 176 yards, caught three of Rowley’s five TD passes.
For the VooDoo, Rocco completed just 18 of 40 passes for 220 yards and one interception, his sluggish showing a combination of Orlando’s aggressive pass rush and its defensive backs jamming VooDoo receivers at the line of scrimmage, further throwing off timing, and Rocco missing throws, failing to get rid of the ball fast enough.
Still, it a lesson he’d prefer to learn from coming off a win.
Smith caught two of Rocco’s TD passes. Smith finished with six catches for 63 yards. Brent Jones had five catches for 85 yards.
“We started off bad; a lot of it was on me,” Rocco said. “I wasn’t throwing the ball accurately. As the game went on, when we changed wide outs, there was some confusion as far as who was doing what.
“It’s a good thing our defense kept us in the game so we could come back and make plays.”
The VooDoo led 17-16 at halftime, then watched Rowley led three scoring drives in the third quarter. Orlando led 36-31 early in the fourth quarter until VooDoo defensive back Efe Osawemwenze intercepted Rowley, returning it seven yards for a score. Orlando then tied the game at 38-38 with Tim Cheatwood’s sack of Rocco in the end zone.
Three minutes later, Rocco found Derek Lee for a 4-yard TD pass.
Orlando forced overtime when Rowley found Jason Geathers from 12 yards out with three seconds left in regulation.
All that was left was Rocco’s best throw of the day and Moten’s best play on a pass.
“I was just happy to catch it,” Moten said. “Orlando is supposed to be one of the better teams in the league this year. We just wanted to come out and make a statement, and I believe we did that.”
The VooDoo host the Iowa Barnstormers on Saturday at the New Orleans Arena.