The Las Vegas Locomotives clinched a berth in the United Football League’s Championship Game tonight with a 16-10 come-from-behind over the California Redwoods in front of 4,312 fans at Spartan Stadium. The Locos scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and intercepted a Redwoods pass with four seconds remaining in the game to thwart California’s last scoring threat.
Las Vegas will face the Florida Tuskers in the inaugural UFL title game Friday, Nov. 27 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. The UFL’s final regular season week will feature each squad in its final tune-up, as Las Vegas hosts the New York Sentinels and Florida travels to California.
For nearly three quarters, the Redwoods maintained the upper hand in a sluggish battle dominated by field goals and untimely penalties. Las Vegas, after early struggles on offense, began to find its rhythm late in the first half and scored on its last four meaningful possessions to overcome the Redwoods. California outgained Las Vegas 333-226 for the game—including a 146-82 advantage on the ground—but turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter and was penalized six times for 75 yards.
Perhaps the most damaging sequence of penalties for the Redwoods came late in the third quarter after they had increased their lead to 10-6. Las Vegas took possession at its own 28 after the ensuing kickoff, and two plays later found themselves staring at a 2nd-and-21 situation after Jason Parker sacked J.P. Losman. But Redwoods defensive tackle Chris Cooper was called for a 15-yard personal foul away from the play and was ejected from the game for his actions, giving Vegas new life. Three plays later the Locos threw incomplete on third down but Redwoods cornerback Robert Herbert was called for pass interference downfield, and the Locos drive was once again resuscitated.
The Locos then got on track offensively, converting two third-down plays to move inside the California 10-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the 8, Losman hit Andrae Thurman for an 8-yard touchdown to cap a 12-play 72-yard drive spanning 5:31, including 50 yards on penalties. Redwoods Head Coach Dennis Green requested a replay challenge on the Losman-to-Thurman touchdown, which Thurman hauled in while leaning out of bounds. The original ruling was upheld to give Las Vegas its first lead of the game at 13-10 with 11:53 remaining in the game.
California answered with an impressive drive on its next possession, and was poised to regain the lead before running back Cory Ross fumbled at the Las Vegas 1-yard line and the ball was recovered in the end zone by Locos’ safety Nick Turnbull. Ross, who finished the game with 111 rushing yards, had ignited the potential go-ahead drive with a 29-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass from quarterback Shane Boyd.
Las Vegas took over with 6:43 on the clock and was successful in running the clock down with a methodical nine-play, 66-yard drive for a 33-yard Graham Gano field goal and a 16-10 lead with 2:01 remaining.
The Redwoods would not go down without a fight as they once again moved the ball downfield, this time with Boyd efficiently spreading the ball to four different receivers who were adept at getting out of bounds to stop the clock. California managed to run 10 plays and cover 60 yards in just 1:47, reaching the Las Vegas 20-yard line with 11 seconds on the clock. Staring at a 4th-and-5 situation, Boyd’s last shot at the win was denied when Turnbull struck again by intercepting Boyd’s pass at the 5-yard line to seal the win.
Boyd finished the game passing for 194 yards on 21-of-31 efficiency with one interception, and was sacked twice. Ross accounted for 144 total yards from scrimmage, and scored the Redwoods lone touchdown on a 3-yard run in the first quarter to give his team a 7-0 lead. The drive was keyed by Ross’ 53-yard run to the Vegas 6-yard line. Joe West and Glenn Holt each caught five passes to pace the Redwoods.
Losman threw for 199 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-29 passing, and David Kircus registered a game-high 104 yards on four receptions. Marcel Shipp was the Locos’ leading rusher with 66 yards on 19 carries. Gano was 3-for-4 on field goal attempts, converting from 35 and 39 yards before his fourth-quarter 33-yard effort, but also missed from 51 yards in the first quarter.
California (2-3) next hosts the 5-0 Tuskers Thursday, Nov. 19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, while Las Vegas (3-2) wraps up the UFL’s regular season Friday Nov. 20 playing host to the Sentinels (0-5).