On Saturday night, the New Orleans VooDoo matched the effort of the Arizona Rattlers, the three-time defending champions of the Arena Football League.
Then the second half ended the VooDoo’s chance at their biggest upset of the season.
B.J. Coleman led Arizona to three consecutive scores to start the third quarter and the VooDoo, unable to respond, dropped a 46-39 decision in front of several hundred fans at the Smoothie King Center.
New Orleans (2-5) was aiming to win back-to-back games for the first time this season. Instead, the franchise’s baby-step improvements will have to wait another week.
Backup quarterback Brian Reader (313 yards, four touchdowns, one interception), who started with Adam Kennedy sidelined with a shoulder injury, suffered from accuracy issues, missing open receivers. Other times, Reader’s passes fell out of the hands of receivers.
“Like coach (Dean Cokinos) said, we made a lot of plays. We left a lot out there,” said Roger Jackson, who finished with 10 catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns, all team highs. “It’s not exactly how we wanted it to end, but at the same time, we came together as a team. We know what to build on.”
While Coleman was building on Arizona’s 26-14 halftime lead, the VooDoo suffered their worse offensive stretch of the game. Jackie Chambers fumbled on the first possession of the third quarter. But Cortez Stubbs stepped in front of a Coleman pass in the end zone, returning possession to the VooDoo.
Seven plays later, Reader and Jackson failed to connect on fourth-and-1, leading to Rod Windsor’s 14-yard rushing TD for Arizona.
The VooDoo ended the next possession with Reader unable to convert on fourth-and-8. Arizona capitalized as Coleman found Darrin Moore for a 10-yard score.
Reader then threw an interception on his first pass of the next VooDoo possession. Another Arizona score — a 5-yard run by Mykel Benson — gave the Rattlers a 40-24 lead.
“We were in the game with the defending champs, but we faded. We have to rise up,” said VooDoo defensive back Tracy Belton, whose first-quarter performance included stopping Arizona on fourth down. Jackson’s first TD catch gave the VooDoo a 7-0 lead.
“We just have to fix the little things. The defense has got to do the defense’s job. We can’t worry about the offense when the defense gets a stop. If the offense doesn’t get a score, we’ve got to get back out there and stop them again.”