More heartbreak for Gamblers as Generals win on last play

More heartbreak for Gamblers as Generals win on last play

May 22

By RJ Young
FOX Sports Writer

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Someday, perhaps Lady Luck will lend a helping hand to the Houston Gamblers. Sunday was not that day.

For the second straight week, the Gamblers lost on the final play of the game, this time 26-25 when New Jersey Generals quarterback Luis Perez pushed the ball across the goal line — with a helpful shove from running back Darius Victor.

It was the fifth straight win for New Jersey (5-1), which hasn't lost since a Week 1 defeat against still unbeaten Birmingham. And it was yet another heartbreaker for Houston, which fell to 1-5. 

Last week, the Gamblers fell to Pittsburgh when Vad Lee connected with Bailey Gaither for the game-winner as time expired. 

The week before that, Houston lost to New Orleans when Kyle Sloter hit Jonathan Adams on a 29-yard TD pass with 10 seconds left.

Gamblers looked like they caught the break they needed

This one might have been particularly tough to take for Houston, as it looked like the Gamblers had it won after Chris Odom stripped Perez and Tomasi Laulile picked up the loose ball and rumbled 58 yards for a touchdown to make it 25-20 with 5:50 remaining.

But it was not to be. Perez led a 15-play, 80-yard drive for the game-winner, converting two fourth downs along the way.

The first came at the two-minute warning when he scrambled to buy time before finding Woody Brandom for a 15-yard gain on fourth-and-2. The second came on the final play of the game when Perez's fourth-down dive appeared to be initially stopped, before he fell across the line.

Thorson did his part for Houston

Houston quarterback Clayton Thorson has had an up-and-down season, but he brought his A-game on Sunday.

The 26-year-old had his most efficient game of the season, completing 15 of his 19 pass attempts for 171 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception. His 78.9% completion percentage and 121.8 passer rating were both season highs by a long shot.

Generals were ball hogs

The Generals owned the time of possession battle in this game, controlling the ball more than twice as long as Houston did, 40:25-19:11. 

Some of that difference was due to New Jersey's final drive of the game. But the biggest reason for the disparity was the third quarter, in which Houston failed to take a single offensive snap.

How does that even happen? Here's how.

The Generals received the ball coming out of halftime and embarked on a 14-play drive that ate up 9:29 of the clock. The Gamblers eventually stopped the drive, then blocked Austin Jones' field goal attempt. 

Houston's Donald Payne recovered the ball, but in the course of his return, he fumbled. Brandom recovered for New Jersey, and the Generals started another drive that ate up the rest of the third quarter, eventually ending — mercifully — with a 3-yard TD run by New Jersey's Trey Williams.

After it was all over, Generals lineman Evan Heim was asked if he'd ever played an entire quarter before. His answer was succinct.

Generals have a star in KaVontae Turpin

Lost in all the chaos of the game's finish was a dominant performance by Turpin. The 5-9, 155-pound speedster out of TCU was a force that the Gamblers struggled to corral.

While nine different New Jersey receivers caught passes Sunday, nobody had close to the impact of Turpin, who led the team in targets (11), receptions (10), receiving yards (106) and touchdowns (two). No other receiver was targeted more than five times, caught more than three passes or compiled more than 29 receiving yards, and no other receiver caught a touchdown pass either.

This is the second straight big game for Turpin — last week, he caught five passes for 106 yards, and his 39-yard punt return in the fourth quarter set up a field goal in his team's upset of the New Orleans Breakers.

The speedy receiver seems to be finding his groove, which should make the Generals even more dangerous moving forward.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young." Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young, and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.