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New QB Jefferson struggles in Power loss to Utah

| Saturday, March 23, 2013, 8:58 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Power quarterback Jordan Jefferson watches as the Utah Blaze's Antwan Marsh recovers a fumble that he would return for a touchdown during the first half of the season opener Saturday, March 23, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Power quarterback Jordan Jefferson is pressured by the Utah Blaze's Cesar Rayford during the season opener Saturday, March 23, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Power's Chris LeFlore breaks up a pass intended for the Utah Blaze's Brandon Thompkins during the season opener Saturday, March 23, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Power's Christian Wise scores against the Utah Blaze during the season opener Saturday, March 23, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Power's P.J. Berry can't hold on to a pass in the end zone as he's defended by the Utah Blaze's David Hyland during the season opener Saturday, March 23, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Mike Washington could see the raw results of the Power's opening-night 64-33 loss to the Utah Blaze in his teammates' eyes. He tried to remain positive anyway.

“You could see the droopy faces,” he said, “but some guys were still fighting.”

The Power, who finished 5-13 in a disappointing season a year ago, found out they have a long way to go before they can contend for a title in their third season in the Arena Football League.

The best part of Saturday night was the attendance of 8,390 at Consol Energy Center, better than any crowd the team attracted last season. But the Power — now winless in three consecutive home openers — gave fans little reason to celebrate.

Jordan Jefferson, a former LSU quarterback who made his first start since the 2012 national championship game against Alabama, struggled in his indoor football debut. He fumbled three times, leading to 15 Utah points, and threw two interceptions, robbing his team of momentum during its comeback attempt.

The Power, which trailed, 41-27, at halftime, was scoreless in the second half — a rare occurrence on the AFL's 50-yard field — until Jefferson threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Perry Baker on the last play.

“That's crazy,” Washington said of his team's inability to score.

Coach Derek Stingley was frustrated by what he called “too many unforced errors.” But he wasn't discouraged.

“I told the players in the locker room, ‘Nobody wins championships in Week 1,' ” he said.

The defense improved in the second half, but it allowed Utah to score on its first five possessions of the game.

“That's not like the defenses I coached,” Stingley said.

The Power stayed within striking distance of the lead for a brief time, stopping the Blaze on two consecutive possessions spanning the second and third quarters.

First, Power defensive back Sergio Gilliam intercepted a pass in the end zone on the last play of the first half. The defense also stopped the Blaze from scoring in the third quarter after Utah defensive back David Hyland returned an interception to the Power 22.

But the offense couldn't take advantage of its defense's gifts, and Jefferson threw his second interception on the next Power possession.

Utah defensive back Maurice Leggett returned the theft 33 yards to the Power 13, and Ben Stallings' second short scoring burst pushed the Utah lead to 48-27 with 1:43 left in the third quarter. The Power never threatened again.

Jefferson completed 19 of 34 passes for 196 yards and five touchdowns, including two to Washington and two to Christian Wise, but he was sacked four times.

“I think he did some good, and there was some bad — and the majority of it was protection breakdown,” Stingley said.

Jefferson said he shared some blame for the sacks.

“I have to hold myself accountable, as well,” he said. “We can't put the whole thing on the protection. I have to get the ball out of my hands earlier.”

Jefferson said he wasn't bothered by differences in the indoor game.

“Football is football,” he said. “I've been playing football since I was 6. You still have to throw the ball. You still have to protect the quarterback and rush the passer and get the ball to the receivers.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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