The San Antonio Commanders defense allowed only one touchdown for the second week in a row in Saturday’s 19-15 victory over the Salt Lake Stallions at the Alamodome.
The Stallions scored their lone touchdown in the final two minutes of the game.
While Salt Lake quarterback Josh Woodrum rallied his team for the late score, the Stallions didn’t have a lot going on offense for much of the game. The Commanders held the Stallions to 49 yards rushing.
Woodrum passed for 229 yards but was sacked twice and officially threw one interception. He was also intercepted on a crucial two-point conversion after the Stallions touchdown (that does not count on the statistics as an interception because it was on the conversion).
Duke Thomas had the Commanders’ interception with a 24-yard return. De’Vante Bausby had the interception on the conversion and returned it the distance to give the Comanders two points.
Commanders linebackers Jayrone Elliott and Danny Ezechukwu both caused fumbles. Elliott and Austin Larkin recorded quarterback sacks.
The San Antonio Commanders are getting ready to do something they haven’t done in a month – play a home football game.
Commanders linebacker Nick Temple identified the key difference this weekend.
“The fans really,” Temple said. “The community here is amazing. They’re behind us. It’s Texas football.”
The Commanders are leading the league in attendance, but haven’t broken the 30,000 attendance mark yet. That will likely change Saturday at 7 p.m. when the Commanders play in the Alamodome against the Salt Lake Stallions.
“We love it when we come back home. It’s always rocking in here,” Temple said. “The last game we had almost 30,000. It’s going to be good.”
The Commanders currently sit at the top of the AAF West with a 4-2 record. The Commanders have a three-game win streak with all three victories coming on the road.
“From defense, offense and special teams, we’re playing in all three phases,” Temple said. “For us to come in and win those games, it’s always tough to win on the road. Any time you win on the road and come back home, it’s always going to be big.”
The Commanders have four games remaining in the regular season. They are one game ahead of the San Diego Fleet and Arizona Hotshots (both 3-3) in the West. Salt Lake is 2-4. The top two teams in each conference advance to the playoffs.
“Everybody in the league is close,” Temple said. “Everybody is good. Right now the No. 1 team is not far from the No. 2 team. Us winning can just boost our momentum going into the playoffs.”
The San Antonio Commanders opened the season with a feel-good 15-6 victory over the San Diego Fleet at the Alamodome.
Two weeks later, it will be the Fleet who have the home-field advantage when the teams meet again Sunday (7 p.m. Central time) in San Diego.
Two themes were being repeated around the Commanders this week:
First, the rematch is always tougher.
Second, the Commanders are confident.
“The saying is that it’s hardest to beat a team twice in one year,” Commanders linebacker Austin Larkin said. “Obviously it’s going to be a challenge. They know what we do. We know what they like to do.
“We got a little taste of one another the first week. Hopefully we can improve on our game plan from previously and come out here and beat them again.”
The Commanders had four scoring drives in that first meeting. The concern was that only one of those was a touchdown. And the Fleet, with veteran offensive-minded coach Mike Martz, figure to have improved on offense themselves since then.
“It will be a big challenge for us,” Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside said. “Really good on defense. Good on offense. Got a great head coach in coach Martz. So it will be a big challenge. First game on the road, so we’ve got to be locked in.”
In the first season of AAF, every week has its own firsts. This will be the Commanders’ first road game, first game outdoors, first game on grass, and first game coming off a loss.
“You’ve got to come out with the right mindset,” Larkin said. “You’ve got to be confident. You’ve got to be poised. You’ve got to be just ready for anything.
“The road is obviously a bit more challenging than being at home. We’re comfortable here, but I think we’re up for the challenge and I think we’ll be ready.”
One thing the Commanders won’t have on their side is the throng of screaming Texas natives that turned up the volume in the Alamodome in the first two games in San Antonio.
“Oh my, that was WOW. That was insane – 30,000 people just screaming,” Larkin said. “I think we’ll be amped up enough just to face San Diego again. We’ll create our own energy if the fans are against us out there. But we’ll definitely miss them.”
A more personal challenge for Larkin and his defensive teammates is putting on a strong pass rush. Two weeks into the season, the Commanders lead the league in quarterback sacks. They had six sacks in the season opener despite the Fleet’s game play to hold them off.
“For me personally they like to max protect a lot,” Larkin said. “That’s kind of annoying getting to the quarterback. I have to take advnantage of those one-on-ones. They do like to get a lot of guys in protection make sure their quarterback is safe.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to get through a few times and get him down again. We’ve got some rushers on this team. The whole D line. The outside linebackers. We’ve got some guys we know will get there. We’re confident and ready for it.”
Larkin comes from a family that knows about athletic challenges. His Michael played linebacker for four seasons at Notre Dame. His uncle Barry, the best known of the Larkins, was a Hall of Fame baseball player and a member of the Cincinnati Reds’ 1990 World Series Championship team.
Austin Larkin played some baseball growing up, but found chasing down quarterbacks and running backs more fun than hitting baseball. At 6-foot-2, 259 pounds, the former Purdue linebacker looks the part of a pro football player.
“I grew up most of my life playing baseball but honestly I kind of bored of it when I got to right before high school,” Larkin said. “It just wasn’t the sport for me. I had fun with it when I was young.
“Having those roots, it gave me something to look up to. I wanted to accomplish that level of greatness in my own personal life. It was really cool to have that be a part of my family.”
The San Antonio Commanders went through Sunday’s training camp practice in pads. That gave them the chance to do some hitting.
Linebackers went through some drills where they took on blocks from running backs and tight ends.
Here are the 12 linebackers currently on the training camp roster:
58 Arthur Brown, Kansas State
98 Jayrone Elliott, Toledo
56 Danny Ezechukwu, Purdue
50 Kennan Gilchrist, Appalachian State
43 Joe Lanning, Iowa State
53 Austin Larkin, Purdue
51 Robert Myers, Minnesota State-Mankato
59 Aamir Petrose, Wesley
52 Ed Shockley, Villanova
55 Nick Temple, Cincinnati
54 Shaan Washington, Texas A&M
40 Jaboree Williams, Wake Forest
Note: The Commanders announced today that Kennan Gilchrist changed numbers from 47 to 50.