The Sacramento Mountain Lions kept their title game hopes alive by building a huge first-half lead and hanging on late to defeat first-place Las Vegas, 27-24, Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Fabrizio Scaccia’s 44-yard field goal with 1:37 remaining broke a 24-all tie. On the first play of Las Vegas’ ensuing drive, Josh Savage stripped Locos quarterback Chase Clement and Dontarrious Thomas recovered deep in Las Vegas territory to seal the second straight road victory for the Mountain Lions (3-4).
“Our hopes are still alive and our focus now shifts to what is really a playoff game with Omaha and we hope other results go for us,” said Mountain Lions head coach Dennis Green. “Hopefully we will get another 20,000 fans into Hornet Stadium and we can play good football and win for them next Saturday.”
Sacramento built a 21-0 lead in the first half, but Las Vegas (5-2) charged back after Locos coach Jim Fassel inserted backup quarterback Clement in place of starter Drew Willy, who fumbled twice in the first half. Clement started the season as the third-string quarterback behind now-injured starter Tim Rattay and Willy.
Clement ran for a pair of second-half touchdowns – becoming the first quarterback in UFL history to do so – but Las Vegas ultimately dropped its final home contest of the season. Clement finished the content completing 8 of 12 attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for two scores.
“That crowd was awesome,” said Locos head coach Jim Fassel of the 13,622 season-high attendance at Sam Boyd Stadium. “They were into the game and they were behind us and I wish we would have won it for them. It means a whole lot that that many people came out here to support us.”
Cory Ross had 102 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns as Sacramento capitalized on three Las Vegas turnovers to grab a surprising 21-3 lead at halftime.
Las Vegas clinched a berth in the UFL Championship in last week’s win at Omaha, but Sacramento dominated play throughout the opening half.
Ross sprinted to the right pylon on a 3-yard run in the first quarter, then took a screen pass from Daunte Culpepper and raced untouched down the left side for a 48-yard scoring reception in the second quarter. In three previous games against Las Vegas, Ross amassed 344 yards from scrimmage.
Sacramento’s other touchdown came on a 2-yard plunge by Culpepper late in the second quarter. The Mountain Lions took the ball at the Las Vegas 10-yard line after Locos punter Danny Baugher fumbled a snap deep in his territory and Sacramento’s Dennis Keyes fell on the ball.
Willy struggled early, despite throwing for 136 yards on 16-of-24 passing. Without being touched, Willy lost the handle on a pass attempt and fumbled on the Locos’ second drive, and Sacramento’s Eric Moncur recovered at the Mountain Lions 36-yard line.
Four minutes later, Willy did not complete the snap exchange and dropped the ball, allowing Sacramento’s Jason Parker to fall on the ball at the Las Vegas 43-yard line.
Culpepper, who was 24 of 33 for 263 yards and a touchdown and rushed for one himself, tossed three interceptions in the game, including two in the second quarter on attempted long passes. Wale Dada picked off the first pass at the Las Vegas 15-yard line on an overthrown ball down the right sideline and Coye Francis grabbed the second at the Las Vegas 10 on an underthrown pass to the left side.
Sacramento now hosts Omaha in Week 9 in its final regular season contest, while Las Vegas has a bye week before traveling to Hartford on November 20.