The Alliance of American Football began the Week 6 chapter of its inaugural season with two games on Saturday.
Both the Memphis Express and Salt Lake Stallions entered their afternoon matchup at 1-4, searching for scraps on which to build a foundation. The Express' quarterback woes got even worse at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City—forcing them to sign a big name after the game in Johnny Manziel.
Later on in Orlando, the AAF's lone undefeated team struggled to stay that way against the visiting Arizona Hotshots. However, a penalty in the closing seconds decided whether the Apollos improved to 6-0.
Below is a look at Saturday's results, recap and highlights.
Week 6 Results—March 16
Salt Lake Stallions (2-4) def. Memphis Express (1-5), 22-9
Arizona Hotshots (3-3) vs. Orlando Apollos (5-1), 22-17
Salt Lake Stallions 22, Memphis Express 9
Quarterback Josh Woodrum led the Stallions offense on a commanding opening drive, which set the tone against the AAF-worst Express defense. After 5:42 had drained off the clock, Woodrum found tight end Nick Truesdell wide open over the middle for six.
Things did not start off as smoothly for the Express offense, as the league's sack leader Karter Schult pummeled Express quarterback Zach Mettenberger on his first snap of the game. Mettenberger agonized in pain and was forced to limp off the field, replaced by Brandon Silvers.
Mettenberger would not return to the game with what was officially described by team reporter Dylan James Rubino as a left ankle injury.
The first quarter ended with another Stallions touchdown—this time from Woodrum to tight end Anthony Denham—which helped to open up a 16-0 lead.
However, Silvers played like anything but a third-string quarterback in Mettenberger's place. Silvers tossed for 186 yards and a touchdown—his first in the AAF—to running back Zac Stacy, which cut the Stallions' lead to 19-9.
The Express touchdown was made possible by a Stallions fumble, Express' 10th forced turnover of the season. The 11th on the year followed shortly afterward with an interception by Arnold Tarpley, but the Express were unable to capitalize before the half as Silvers fumbled the ball—his lone mistake of the half.
The Express forced two more fumbles in the second half, including one while the Stallions were pressing for another touchdown at the goal line, but the offense couldn't capitalize.
The light offensively for the Express was wide receiver Reece Horn, who became the first 100-yard receiver in Express history. Horn finished with 129 yards through the air.
The Express will now shift their focus to the health of Mettenberger for their Week 7 game against the Birmingham Iron next Sunday. Although, the status of Mettenberger may have been hinted at when the Express signed former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel later Saturday night.
The Stallions will try to piece together a winning streak against the San Antonio Commanders next Saturday.
Arizona Hotshots 22, Orlando Apollos 17
The moment it became most apparent that Arizona had the Apollos on the ropes came when, down 14-9, head coach Steve Spurrier decided to go for it on 4th-and-goal with 2:10 in the third quarter. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert failed to convert, highlighting the Hotshots' game-long staunch defensive effort.
The Hotshots held the Apollos on fourth down three times throughout the game, and the league's top passer looked like a shell of himself through the first three quarters. Gilbert was picked off for the first time this season at the hands of Hotshots linebacker Steven Johnson.
However, it was the Hotshots defense that allowed Orlando back in the game during the fourth quarter.
Unnecessary roughness and pass interference penalties for a combined 55 yards extended an Apollos drive early in the fourth quarter, Gilbert found wide receiver Jalin Marshall for a pretty 17-yard touchdown. Just like that, after a successful two-point conversion, the Apollos took a 17-14 lead.
On the following drive, the Hotshots were on the receiving end of favorable pass interference penalties and were also able to take advantage. Ultimately, running back Jhurell Pressley punched in a touchdown from one yard out to help put Arizona back on top 22-17.
Orlando had possession at the two-minute mark at the Arizona 45 when Gilbert coughed up a fumble, and Hotshots defensive end Olubunmi Rotimi recovered.
The Apollos got the ball back with around one minute remaining and no timeouts. Gilbert drove the team down inside the Arizona 10, but when he went to spike the ball to save time for one more shot at the end zone, the offense was called for a false start.
The penalty included a 10-second runoff, ending the game and handing the Apollos their first loss.
Even in an off performance, Gilbert finished with 268 yards and two touchdowns, while Marshall led all receivers with 98 yards.
Arizona Hotshots running back Tim Cook led all rushers with 71 yards.
Next up for Arizona will be the San Diego Fleet next Sunday, while Orlando will travel to Atlanta to take on the Legends next Saturday.