Power escape VooDoo for 10th straight win
NEW ORLEANS — Trailing the Cleveland Gladiators by two in the loss column, the Pittsburgh Power had an opportunity to get a franchise-record 13th win this season and put some pressure on their East Division rivals.
Monday night in New Orleans, the Power had to overcome an inauspicious start and withstand an inspired performance by a team playing for pride. The Power ultimately survived 48-43, staying within striking distance of the top seed in the American Conference.
With New Orleans focusing its attention on top receiver Shaun Kauleinamoku (seven catches for 75 yards), Prechae Rodriguez had seven catches for 154 yards and five touchdowns.
“I was just in a zone, and we just had to make plays because (as an offense) we started off kind of sour,” Rodriguez said. “They busted a couple of coverages, but that was on them.
“We just had to execute on the offensive side, and now we're going to head into the bye week hitting on all cylinders.”
Tommy Grady struggled in the first half but kept his composure down the stretch, finishing 21 of 37 for 296 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Power (13-3), winners of 10 in a row, found the footing tough early as the VooDoo played more like the playoff-bound club.
After his defense forced a fumble on the VooDoo's first offensive possession, Grady forced a pass to the back of the end zone that was intercepted by Demarcus Robinson. Robinson returned the miscue 29 yards.
Three plays later, the VooDoo scored on a 13-yard toss from rookie quarterback Adam Kennedy to Courtney Smith for an early 7-0 lead.
The VooDoo defense then responded again, forcing a turnover on downs inside the 5-yard line.
New Orleans (2-13) took that momentum and went on a nine-play, 49-yard drive to take a 14-0 advantage on a 1-yard run by Kennedy.
The Power bounced back with 14 straight points. Grady connected for scores with Rodriguez (33 yards) and Tommy Taggart (4 yards) on consecutive drives.
On the next possession, Rodriguez hauled in a 48-yard pass to tie the game at 21-21.
With less than four minutes to play in the second half and the Power on top 41-37, Maurice Fountain sacked Kennedy on fourth down to give the ball back to the Power. Grady put the game away with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Hank Edwards.
“We started slow and came out here nonchalant and weren't scoring on offense, but they played a heck of a game,” Grady said. “This was one of the hardest matchups for us offensively all year, but we want to keep getting better each week and stay healthy for the playoffs. So we'll keep trying to rack up wins.”
After a bye week, the Power will head to Iowa to take on the Barnstormers at 8:05 p.m. July 19.
Hank Brady is a freelance writer.