AAF Brings Welcome Dose of Football In Offseason
Going into the weekend, there were a lot of questions about the new Alliance of American Football and whether or not it could be successful. Athletes and fans were hopeful about an alternative to the NFL and the first set of games went as well as could be expected. In the wake of a Super Bowl many found to be boring, it was refreshing to see passionate athletes compete against each other. The on-field product wasn’t the prettiest and each contest had its fair share of sloppy moments, but it was undoubtedly a great introduction with the AAF doing well both on television and social media. The ill-fated XFL also experienced great television ratings in the beginning so it will be interesting to see if the AAF can keep it up. In the meantime, let’s talk about each of the four games that took place over the weekend.
San Antonio Commanders vs. San Diego Fleet
San Antonio packed the Alamodome in the inaugural week of regular-season AAF competition which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the city has been clamoring for professional football for a while now. The AAF was wise to capitalize on the love of football in Texas without placing a team in one of the towns already owning a team. The Commanders came out on top with a final score of 15-6 in a defensive affair that saw only one touchdown scored by either team. The one touchdown of the night came when Commander running back and former Houston Cougar, Kenneth Farrow scampered into the end zone for a three-yard score. This game also featured a huge hit by former Texas A&M LB, Shaan Washington which was part of the social media explosion that I mentioned earlier. Washington was the only Aggie who contributed to the stat line for the Commanders, with running back Trey Williams and tight end Cam Clear also on the roster for San Antonio. On the other side of the field, Damontre Moore had a solid night for the Fleet with a sack of his own. Former A&M receiver, Laquivionte Gonzales was also on the roster for the Fleet but didn’t contribute to the stat sheet. Gonzales transferred from A&M to Kansas before finishing his career at Southeastern (FL).
Orlando Apollos vs. Atlanta Legends
The other Saturday night game in the AAF was between the Orlando Apollos and the Atlanta Legends. This one ended up turning into a blowout with the Apollos putting up 40 points to the Legends 6. Former SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert led the charge for the Apollos throwing two touchdowns as well as picking up a receiving touchdown on a play reminiscent of the famous “Philly Special” play from last year’s Super Bowl. The only Aggie in this game was Avery Gennessy who started at left tackle for the Legends. Much like the San Antonio game, the AAF capitalized on a football-hungry city in a state already possessing teams in other cities. In this case, the AAF planted their flag in Orlando, as opposed to Tampa, Miami, or Jacksonville leading to a decent sized crowd.
Memphis Express vs. Birmingham Iron
The first of Sunday’s games featured a game between two teams in the heart of the Southern United States, another football-rich area. The Iron dominated the game, shutting out Christian Hackenberg and the Express while putting up 26 points. I was really impressed with Luis Perez out of Texas A&M-Commerce slinging the rock in this one. His favorite target of the day was former Louisiana Tech wide receiver, Quinton Patton who went for over 100 yards. The Iron scored two touchdowns on the day, both coming from former Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Neither team in this game featured former Texas A&M athletes. Birmingham drew a decent crowd on a cold Sunday in Alabama.
Arizona Hotshots vs. Salt Lake Stallions
The final game of the AAF’s inaugural weekend featured two teams from the Southwest, the Arizona Hotshots and the Salt Lake Stallions. The Hotshots came out on top in a 38-22 game largely due to the efforts of quarterback John Wolford. A&M fans may recognize Wolford from the 2017 Belk Bowl when the Aggies took on Wake Forest and Wolford threw for four touchdowns. Wolford threw for four touchdowns again in this contest. Former Texas A&M center, Patrick Lewis started at guard for the hotshots while former A&M QB, Trevor Knight backed up Wolford. On the other side of the field. Taylor Bertolet served as the kicker for the Stallions. However, Salt Lake didn’t end up kicking any field goals.
Overall, the AAF has to be satisfied with the first weekend of in-season play. Each game drew decent crowds and the ratings were very good. There were exciting moments in each game and while the football wasn’t great at times, overall it wasn’t an entirely disappointing product. The AAF provides an opportunity for NFL vets looking for another opportunity to compete (Trent Richardson comes to mind here) as well as younger guys who may have been overlooked by NFL scouts (Luis Perez is a guy who fits this category). The folks in charge have to hope the league keeps drawing good ratings and attendance, but as long as the financial backing is there, I think the AAF has a chance to provide a fun alternative to the NFL and fill a desire for the sport in the spring.