Mike Riley on the Commanders’ defense and interceptions

San Antonio Commanders coach Mike Riley (left) and general manager Daryl Johnston on Wednesday at Central Catholic High School in the team's first practice since Sunday's road victory over the Arizona Hotshots. - photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio Commanders coach Mike Riley (left) and general manager Daryl Johnston on Wednesday at Central Catholic High School in the team’s first practice since Sunday’s road victory over the Arizona Hotshots. – photo by Joe Alexander
The San Antonio Commanders’ first road game of the season resulted in a loss to the San Diego Fleet that saw the defense get burned for big plays.

In the last two games the Commanders defense has not only shown the ability to clamp down, but has been producing turnovers. In those two games, the Commanders came up with road victories including a 29-25 win over the Arizona Hotshots. The Commanders had three interceptions in the first half against Arizona. Strong safety Derron Smith had two of those, including one he returned for the first touchdown of the game.

“I think what everybody knows, sometimes you have to get burned a little bit to bring you back to earth,” Commanders head coach Mike Riley said. “While you want to in every way be aggressive, I coached the secondary for for a long time so I understand the mentality and I like it, but you have to be able to blend in that aggressiveness with really, really doing your job. If your job is the deep third, you have to play the deep third. If your job is man to man, you can’t give up the big one.

“So many times football is about what you can’t have happen. The secondary there is no better place to describe it than that.”

Four Commanders defensive backs have multiple interceptions on the season. Cornerback De’Vante Bausby is tied for the league lead with three and cornerback Zack Sanchez and safeties Orion Stewart and Smith have two each.

“I think there are some guys a lot of them with good instincts,” Riley said. “Everybody has the assignment. Like in the secondary everyone has a job like a man or an area. But there’s also a special guy called an interceptor. They don’t all have that quality. Sometimes you get a great cover guy who really doesn’t have many interceptions. A bump and run guy who is in their face and you don’t see the guy catch many balls but you don’t get many turnovers from him. So there is a tradeoff. And that’s a good tradeoff.

“But the other guy you can sometimes have some vision on the quarterback while he’s doing his job. That was a great example of Derron Smith the other day. He really was just playing an area. The quarterback extended. He had his eye on him the whole way and the quarterback obviously didn’t see him. Some guys have instincts. They’re opportunistic. They’re aggressive. A like all those parts.”

In the case of Smith, he not only made the interception on the Hotshots’ first drive, his 66-yard return produced the first points of the game. The Commanders took a lead even before their first possession and led the rest of the game.

Commanders’ defense takes away road win over Hotshots

Video from Twitter via @aafcommanders

The San Antonio Commanders’ defense produced five takeaways – including two interceptions by Derron Smith – in a 29-25 road victory over the Arizona Hotshots on Sunday in Tempe, Ariz.

The victory gives the Commanders (3-2) a tie with the San Diego Fleet (3-2) at the top of the AAF West standings. The Commanders have won two straight on the road.

Smith had two of the three interceptions the Commanders’ defense got off Hotshots quarterback John Wolford. That carried the Commanders to a 26-0 first-half lead. Wolford had thrown only three interceptions in the first four games combined but had three in the first half against the Commanders. De’Vante Bausby had the Commanders’ other interception.

Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside was sharp in the first half, completing 12 of 13 passes for 192 passes. He finished the game 21 of 27 for 290 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

The Hotshots made a game of it in the second half, outscoring the Commanders 25-3 over the third and fourth quarters. The Commanders’ defense made a final game-clinching stop when the Hotshots went for an on-side conversion in the last two minutes of the game.

The Commanders got the first big play of the game on the Hotshots opening possession. Smith intercepted a Wolford pass and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown.

The Commanders were also efficient on offense early, scoring touchdowns on their first three possession. The Commanders extended their early lead to 14-0 on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Woodside to Mekale McKay.

The Commanders’ second offensive possession of the game cashed in on a 1-yard touchdown run by Kenneth Farrow II. Woodside threw a 5-yard TD pass to tight end Stehly Reden and the Commanders lead 26-0.

San Antonio had a drive into the red zone at the end of the first half. That ended on a turnover after a miss-timed snap. The Commanders had a second-half drive in the red zone come up empty on an interception near the goal line.

The Hotshots hit back-to-back long passes on their first possession of the second half. The second of those two completions was a 45-yard touchdown from Wolford to Rashad Ross. The Hotshots added a 23-yard field goal by former Dallas Cowboys kicker Nick Folk. Wolford’s second touchdown pass went 4 yards to tight end Thomas Duarte.

Videos/images from twitter.com
@aafcommanders

San Antonio Commanders vs. Arizona Hotshots preview

San Antonio Commanders running back Kenneth Farrow II at practice on Friday at Central Catholic High School as the team prepared for today's meeting with the Arizona Hotshots. - photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio Commanders running back Kenneth Farrow II at practice on Friday at Central Catholic High School as the team prepared for today’s meeting with the Arizona Hotshots. – photo by Joe Alexander
When the San Antonio Commanders walk off the field tonight, their regular season will be half over.

If the Commanders win their road game against the Arizona Hotshots, they will be tied for the lead in the AAF West. A Commanders loss would leave them in a second-place tie but only a game above last place.

“I’m just excited for this next game,” Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside said. “We know it’s a big game, a really good opponent in Arizona. We’ll be ready to go.”

The Commanders (2-2) and Hotshots (2-2) play at 7 p.m. Central time at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.

(TV on NFL Network, radio in San Antonio on ESPN SA AM-1250)

The San Diego Fleet (3-2), playing a day head of the Commanders and Hotshots, got a field goal on the final play of the game to beat the Salt Lake Stallions and jump to the top of the West standings.

The Commanders are coming off a 12-11 road victory over the Birmingham Iron in which the Commanders got a dominating performance from running back Kenneth Farrow II. The Commanders also had the advantage in turnovers against the Iron.

The Commanders are likely to push for another big running game tonight.

“It is very important that we find the runs we need in the game,” Commanders coach Mike Riley said. “If we take care of the football and we run the ball well we have a good chance to win.”

The Hotshots’ offense is directed by quarterback John Wolford, who is completing 61.2 percent of his passes in the first four games for 780 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions. He will face the Commanders defense that leads the AAF in quarterback sacks.

The Hotshots’ running backs collectively average 4.8 yards per carry but have only one rushing touchdown. Jhurell Pressley is their top ball carrier with 266 yards and 4.9 yards per carry.

“They’re pretty multiple offensively,” Riley said. “They are probably more (run-pass options) than anybody that we’ll see. They have an active quarterback. He’s a good kind of a slick operator with that stuff. ”

The Hotshots’ head coach is former San Antonio Gunslingers quarterback Rick Neuheisel. This will be the fifth meating for Riley and Neuheisel as head coaches with the first four all coming in college games in the Pac-12. Both coaches have won two of those meetings.

“Rick is a great coach, a great guy,” Riley said. “I’m really proud to be in the league with him. I know they’ll have a good team, well prepared. We’re going to have to play well to beat them.”

Commanders vs. Hotshots injury report for Friday; defensive backs photo gallery

San Antonio Commanders cornerback De'Vante Bausby (41) makes an interception in the end zone at practice Friday at Central Catholic High School. - photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio Commanders cornerback De’Vante Bausby (41) makes an interception in the end zone at practice Friday at Central Catholic High School. – photo by Joe Alexander
From a Commanders news release

SAN ANTONIO COMMANDERS

Pos Player Injury Wed. Participation Thurs. Participation Fri. Participation — Game Status
DL Winston Craig Ankle DNP DNP LP — Questionable
DL Matt Godin Head DNP LP LP — Questionable
TE Cole Hunt Lower Leg DNP DNP DNP — Out

ARIZONA HOTSHOTS

Pos Player Injury Wed. Participation Thurs. Participation Fri. Participation — Game Status
WR Josh Huff Knee DNP DNP Placed on IR — Out
OL Patrick Lewis Knee LP LP LP — Questionable
OL Brant Weiss Ankle LP LP LP — Doubtful
WR Richard Mullaney Knee LP LP LP — Questionable
LB Steven Johnson Hamstring LP LP LP — Questionable
DB Shaq Richardson Knee LP LP LP — Questionable
OL Andrew Lauderdale Back – LP LP — Questionable
DB Robert Nelson Hamstring – – LP — Questionable
DB Eric Dargan Hamstring – – LP — Questionable

Limited Participation (LP)=less than 100% of a player’s normal reps
Did Not Participate in Practice (DNP)

Commanders vs. Hotshots injury report for Thursday, practice photo gallery

San Antonio Commanders defensive lineman Matt Godin at practice on Thursday at Central Catholic High School as the team prepares for Sunday's meeting with the Arizona Hotshots. - photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio Commanders defensive lineman Matt Godin at practice on Thursday at Central Catholic High School as the team prepares for Sunday’s meeting with the Arizona Hotshots. – photo by Joe Alexander
SAN ANTONIO COMMANDERS

Pos Player Injury Wed. Participation Thurs. Participation
DL Winston Craig Ankle DNP DNP
DL Matt Godin Head DNP LP
TE Cole Hunt Lower Leg DNP DNP

ARIZONA HOTSHOTS

Pos Player Injury Wed. Participation Thurs. Participation
WR Josh Huff Knee DNP DNP
OL Patrick Lewis Knee LP LP
OL Brant Weiss Ankle LP LP
WR Richard Mullaney Knee LP LP
LB Steven Johnson Hamstring LP LP
DB Shaq Richardson Knee LP LP
OL Andrew Lauderdale Back — LP

Limited Participation (LP)=less than 100% of a player’s normal reps
Did Not Participate in Practice (DNP)

Daryl Johnston, Kenneth Farrow II on Commander’s run game

San Antonio Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston watches Thursday's practice at Central Catholic High School. - photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston watches Thursday’s practice at Central Catholic High School. – photo by Joe Alexander
The San Antonio Commanders have been able to control the clock at times this season with their running game.

In Sunday’s victory over the Birmingham Iron, Kenneth Farrow II had the dominant performance in the game by carrying the ball for a league-record 142 yards.

The game gave the team the sense that their combination of an offensive line that is coming together is meshing with the running back crew of Farrow, Trey Williams, David Cobb and Aaron Green.

“The good thing about it is we’ve got a room full of running backs who can kind of make that happen at any time,” Farrow said. “Like last week, Trey (Williams) went off for 75 yards on a few carries. It’s kind of whoever has got the hot hand. Hopefully we can get a game where we’re all feeling it and we’re all busting it.”

Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston emphasized multiple benefits of the strong running game. The most obvious is to move the ball and dominate time of possession. The other is to create space and opportunities to hit passes for big gains.

“That methodical approach in the run game, that now you start to pull up a defense and you can get over the top,” Johnston said. “That’s what we’ve got to add this week. When people watch the film and see that we’re very competitive against Birmingham in the run game, a defense that’s pretty stingy, now if we can start to get more players added down into that box, we can start to get some favorable matchups on the outside. That’s what I hope the run game does.

“If people start to see that balance that we have, we should be able to pre-snap, be able to determine, because we’re going to the play at the line of scrimmage with multiple options in a run-pass situation that we’ll be able to choose the one best for that situation.”

For Farrow, who was slowed by injuries at the beginning of his pro career, there were no complaints about the workload after having 30 carries against the Iron.

“We got the win. That’s all that matters,” Farrow said. “It was fun getting in a rhythm and seeing the O Line have a good game like they did. It was definitely a fun day.”

Kenneth Farrow II finally healthy –
Greg Luca’s story in the Express-News:

expressnews.com

Commanders vs. Hotshots injury report for Wednesday

San Antonio Commanders helmet from image released by the AAF @theAAF on Twitter.From a Commanders news release:

SAN ANTONIO COMMANDERS

Pos Player Injury Wed. Participation
DL Winston Craig Ankle DNP
DL Matt Godin Head DNP
TE Cole Hunt Lower Leg DNP

ARIZONA HOTSHOTS

Pos Player Injury Wed. Participation
WR Josh Huff Knee DNP
OL Patrick Lewis Knee LP
OL Brant Weiss Ankle LP
WR Richard Mullaney Knee LP
LB Steven Johnson Hamstring LP
DB Shaq Richardson Knee LP

Limited Participation (LP)=less than 100% of a player’s normal reps
Did Not Participate in Practice (DNP)

AAF Week 2: Hotshots, Iron stay undefeated; Fleet get first win

The Birmingham Iron and Arizona Hotshots, winners in the opening week of AAF action, both won close games over the weekend.

The Hotshots went scoreless in the first half before coming back to beat the Memphis Express 20-18. Arizona quarterback John Wolford completed 14-of-22 passes for 194 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Hotshots also used three running backs to pile up 209 yards rushing.

The Iron came from behind in the second half to beat the Salt Lake Stallions 12-9. The Iron, who shut out Memphis in the season opener, blanked the Stallions in the second half in Week 2.

The San Diego Fleet, who lost to the Commanders in their opener in San Antonio, got 104 yards and two touchdowns rushing from Ja’Quan Gardner to beat the Atlanta Legends 24-12.

Videos from Twitter official accounts:
@aafhotshots
@aafiron
@aaffleet

Orlando, Birmingham, Arizona win AAF season openers

While San Antonio’s eyes were on the Commanders on Saturday night at the Alamodome, three other teams won their AAF season openers this weekend.

The Arizona Hotshots beat the Salt Lake Stallions 38-22 in the highest scoring game of the weekend. The Hotshots, coached by former San Antonio Gunslingers quarterback Rick Neuheisel, got 275 passing yards and four touchdowns from former Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford.

The Orlando Apollos were the highest scoring team of Week 1, pounding the Atlanta Legends 40-6. The Apollos are led by venerable college coach Steve Spurrier. Orlando’s Garrett Gilbert, a former Texas and SMU quarterback, passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

The Birmingham Iron recorded the only shutout of the weekend with a 26-0 victory over the Memphis Express. Birmingham quarterback Luis Perez was originally assigned to the Commanders before being picked by the Iron in the AAF’s protect-or-pick draft. Perez passed for 252 yards. The Iron held the Express to 202 total yards.

Images from Twitter courtesy of:
@aafhotshots
@aafapollos
@aafiron