NEW ORLEANS — Zack Eskridge got a second chance to make his first football impression for the New Orleans VooDoo, an opportunity Saturday night to show what he could do with a week of preparation.
Still, the final outcome for the VooDoo proved to be another loss.
The VooDoo offense continued its scoring struggles while also failing to protect its quarterbacks. And on defense, the VooDoo allowed three long touchdowns, all part of a 57-38 loss to the San Jose SaberCats in Arena Football League action at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The VooDoo’s miscues ruined several positives in the second quarter, including Quorey Payne’s 57-yard kickoff return and Demarcus Robinson’s safety of San Jose quarterback Russ Michna.
The VooDoo (1-4) have lost their past four games. San Jose (3-2) ended a two-game losing streak.
“Losing four in a row isn’t a good feeling,” VooDoo defensive lineman Marlon Favorite, a former LSU standout, said. “But we’ve got 13 more games. We’ve got to continue to improve and find a way to get better.”
The VooDoo, which played the first Arena Football League game in the Superdome since 1999, will play its next three games on the road, starting with next Saturday’s game at the Tampa Bay Storm.
Saturday’s game marked Eskridge’s first start. One week ago, he was thrown into action in the second half because of Kurt Rocco’s knee injury. His played improved against San Jose, but Eskridge fell short of leading enough scoring drives to win in a pass-first league.
Huey Whittaker, sitting in a zone, intercepted Eskridge early in the first quarter, returning it 10 yards for San Jose’s first score.
Eskridge, who finished with 67 yards passing with two touchdowns (one passing, one running), also had two interceptions.
“It’s kind of a live and learn situation,” Eskridge said. “Things like that have to happen for you to learn from them.”
Under Eskridge, the VooDoo managed just one offensive touchdown in the first half — with 3:40 left in the second quarter, Eskridge found Chris Duvalt for a 9-yard score. The VooDoo led 17-14.
But San Jose countered with the one of Michna’s six TD passes. Michna connected with Jamarko Simmons from 47 yards. San Jose scored 26 consecutive points.
Michna later threw TD passes of 45 and 35 yards. He finished with 312 yards on 23-of-35 passing. Whittaker made his biggest impact against the VooDoo at receiver, finishing with eight catches for 97 yards and three scores.
Meanwhile, Eskridge was knocked out of the game with back injury in the second half, allowing backup Bill Stull, signed earlier this week, to make his AFL season debut. Stull completed 8-of 14 passes for 97 yards, leading the VooDoo to two scoring drives in the fourth quarter.
“He did a couple of things good. We had a very limited plan in today for him, if he got in the game,” VooDoo coach Pat O’Hara said of Stull. “I think he did pretty well with it. He was under duress, too.
“We’re going to address that (pass protection) situation.”
Eskridge was sacked once, and Stull twice.