The Saturday slate of Alliance of American Football began at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City as the winless Stallions hosted the undefeated Arizona Hotshots.
The Stallions didn't end the day winless, though, as they notched their first win of the season in their home opener by a score of 23-15.
This Week 3 meeting was a slow burn compared to these two's first game in Week 1, which Arizona won 38-22 at home. Part of that had to do with the third-quarter exit of Hotshots quarterback John Wolford, who entered Week 3 leading the AAF in touchdown passes, leaving Trevor Knight to finish under center.
Saturday night saw Steve Spurrier's Orlando Apollos improve to 3-0 against a struggling 0-3 Memphis Express squad. Express quarterback Christian Hackenberg continued an uninspired bout in the AAF—starting early with an interception on Memphis' opening possession.
Here's a look at Week 3 results, recaps and highlights.
Week 3 Results—Feb. 23
Salt Lake City Stallions (1-2) 23, Arizona Hotshots (2-1) 15
Orlando Apollos (3-0) 21, Memphis Express (0-3) 17
Salt Lake City Stallions 23, Arizona Hotshots 15
Coming into this game, the circled matchup featured Hotshots quarterback John Wolford and Stallions defensive end Karter Schult, who leads the league in sacks with four (one coming in this game).
Wolford was under constant pressure throughout the first half. At one point in the second quarter, Wolford's mic picked up the quarterback lamenting how often he was getting hit on the broadcast.
The first quarter ended with the Stallions up 3-0 thanks to this 54-yard field goal from Taylor Bertolet:
The game's first touchdown came with 11:40 remaining in the second quarter when Stallions quarterback Josh Woodrum connected with receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El for 25 yards. Salt Lake held a 9-0 lead.
Midway through the second quarter, Hotshots kicker Nick Folk redeemed himself for an earlier miss by making a 48-yard attempt. With seconds remaining in the half, the Hotshots finally found the end zone on a short pass from Wolford to receiver Rashad Ross—his fourth of the season:
Arizona went into the locker room tied 9-9—after an overturned two-point attempt—despite a lack of offensive production for the majority of the first half.
The Hotshots' fortunes took a turn on the first play of the third quarter when Wolford was intercepted by Greer Martini for the Stallions' first pick of the season. Seconds later, running back Branden Oliver punched it in from one yard out—putting the Stallions up 15-9.
The fourth quarter began with the Stallions leading 15-12. The score stayed that way until midway through the final quarter when Salt Lake went for it on 4th-and-goal. Joel Bouagnon carried the ball toward the goal line, and the ruling on the field was not a touchdown, but after a Salt Lake challenge, the call was overturned.
A successful two-point conversion gave the Stallions a 23-12 lead, the largest of this game and the season for the team. Knight tried to bring the Hotshots back, but a field goal from Folk proved too little too late.
After missing Week 2 with a hamstring injury, it was surprisingly Woodrum who demanded attention at the quarterback position in this game. Ultimately, Arizona couldn't overcome its slow start or the loss of Wolford.
Orlando Apollos 21, Memphis Express 17
Orlando's offense wasted no time, which is to be expected from an offense leading the AAF coming into this week by averaging 38.5 points per game. The Apollos' first touchdown came on a four-yard rush by D'Ernest Johnson within two minutes of the game's start.
Tom Alexander @TheTomAlexander
D'Ernest Johnson runs for 7 yards on the first play. Memphis gets flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty. Garrett Gilbert follows that with a 26-yard completion to Charles Johnson over the middle and a 23-yard pass to Rannell Hall. 1st and Goal. 🏹#TakeAim #ORLvsMEM @aafAPOLLOS
The Express did not enjoy the same hot start, as Hackenberg was picked by Keith Reiser on his team's first possession.
The Express offense was sparked slightly by a conversion on 3rd-and-13 with 2:45 left in the first quarter. However, that drive ended with a missed 41-yard field goal by Josh Jasper.
The first half expired with Orlando up 9-0 with neither team scoring in the second quarter.
The Express' halftime adjustments including putting Zach Mettenberger in at quarterback for the struggling Hackenberg. Within five minutes, Mettenberger struck gold with a 28-yard touchdown pass to receiver Devin Lucien—the first touchdown pass in franchise history.
Memphis' momentum was short-lived, as Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert found receiver Rannell Hall as he was being forced out of bounds down the right sideline for a 37-yard touchdown on 4th-and-8, putting Orlando up 15-6 with 6:40 left in the third.
Gilbert took matters into his own hands with 9:08 left in the fourth quarter with a 28-yard touchdown run on an option play that totally fooled the Memphis defense:
Just when viewers may have thought Memphis was done for, the Express embarked on an inspiring drive capped by a 40-yard Mettenberger touchdown pass to Gerrard Sheppard with 5:32 left in the game. After a successful two-point conversion, Orlando's lead was cut to 21-17.
However, the Apollos offense didn't allow Memphis to get the ball back—running out the clock and securing their third win in three games.