The San Antonio Commanders’ hopes of clinching a playoff spot were put on hold Sunday night.
The Arizona Hotshots dominated defensively in a 23-6 victory over the Commanders at the Alamodome.
The Commanders could have wrapped up not only a playoff berth, but the home field in the first round with a victory.
The Commanders did not score a touchdown. Their points came on field goals of 54 and 35 yards from Nick Rose – who has not missed a field-goal attempt this season.
Hotshots quarterback John Wolford passed for 216 yards including a 58-yard touchdown to Rashad Ross. The Hotshots Tim Cook ran for touchdowns of 6 and 20 yards.
Logan Woodside started at quarterback for the Commanders. He completed 4-of-9 passes for 32 yards and an interception and was sacked once.
Marquise Williams came in at quarterback late in the first half. He led both Commanders scoring drive. Williams completed 17-of-23 passes for 130 yards with no interceptions and was sacked three times.
Marquise Williams had seen some playing time at quarterback this season for the San Antonio Commanders.
But not much, and not in a while.
That changed on Saturday night as the Commanders took on the Salt Lake Stallions in an AAF West matchup at the Alamodome.
With the Commanders struggling on offense in the second half and starting quarterback Logan Woodside taking a hit on his shoulder, Williams got the call in the fourth quarter.
Williams – and the Commanders offense – responded in what turned out to be a 19-15 Commanders victory.
“Our guys kind of just brought it together enough to make a great drive and win the game,” Commanders coach Mike Riley said. “Marquise was so poised going into the game. Logan had hurt his shoulder a little bit. (Williams) went into the game and did a nice job obviously and just kept his poise and made plays and it was a beautiful thing to see.”
Williams used his feet to make things happen. He had an 8-yard carry that picked up a first down.
The former North Carolina quarterback completed 2-of-3 passes for 49 yards.
“I was thankful that Marquise had been in the games,” Riley said. “We played him early on. We’ve said from the beginning we really liked our quarterback room. He kind of just proved everbody right tonight, including himself.”
The key play was a screen pass from Williams to running back Trey Williams with less than six minutes left in the game. Trey Williams broke it for a 36-yard touchdown with 5:25 remaining. That broke a 9-9 tie and gave the Commanders a six-point lead.
Marquise Williams passed to Greg Ward Jr. for the two-point conversion, putting the Commanders in front 17-9.
“He has won a lot of games in his career as a quarterback,” Riley said. “To go in there in those circumstances as hard as it was to do anything, I was really, really impressed that he made some plays to help us win the game.”
When the San Antonio Commanders needed the cavalry to ride to their rescue, Marquise Williams answered the call.
The Commanders’ backup quarterback entered the game in the fourth quarter and drove the team to the go-ahead touchdown on a 36-yard pass to running back Trey Williams. That broke a 9-9 tie.
Marquise Williams passed to Greg Ward Jr. for the two-point conversion to extend the Commanders’ lead to 17-9 with 5:25 left in the game.
The Commanders (5-2) finished with a 19-15 victory and extended their win streak to four in their first game in the Alamodome after a month on the road. A season high 30,345 fans gave the Commanders their loud support.
Even after the late touchdown, the Commanders still needed a key play on defense to wrap up the win. The Stallions scored a late touchdown and had a chance to tie the game with the two-point conversion. But on the conversion play, Commanders defensive back and turnover machine De’Vante Bausby intercepted a pass and returned it the distance the other way – not only keeping the Stallions from adding two points, but giving the Commanders two points when he crossed the goal line.
Logan Woodside started at quarterback for the Commanders and played most of the game. Marquise Williams came in to start the touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. He immediately gave the offense a spark with his running. The touchdown to Trey Williams was a short dumpoff that Trey broke for the touchdown.
The Williams-to-Williams touchdown was the first time the Commanders scored in the second half.
The Commanders led 9-6 at halftime. The Stallions tied it 9-9 with a field goal in the third quarter.
The Commanders took their halftime lead on a Nick Rose 23-yard field goal with five second left in the second quarter. The Commanders had gotten to the 1-yard line on a drive that included three big penalties on the Stallions – one a roughing the passer penalty that wiped out a Stallions interception.
The Commanders’ Duke Thomas had a key interception when the Stallions were driving. The score was tied 6-6 at the time, so Thomas’ pick kept Salt Lake from grabbing the lead.
The Stallions moved the ball on the opening possession of the game and kicked a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
The Commanders went in front 6-3 when Woodside hit Mekale McKay for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
The San Antonio Commanders made a temporary change of quarterbacks Sunday.
Marquise Williams entered the game in the second quarterback and played for one possession in the Commanders’ 37-29 loss to the Orlando Apollos at the Alamodome.
Williams completed 2-of-4 passes for 3 yards. His completions went for a 6-yard gain and 3-yard loss. He also ran with the ball three times for 32 yards including a 17-yard gain.
The Commanders got a 50-yard field goal from Nick Rose at the end of the drive to extend their lead to 15-8.
“I think Marquise, as you saw, made some plays,” Commanders coach Mike Riley said. “We should have put him back in the second half and lost track of what was going on there when he should have gone back in. But we’ll continue to do that with him.”
Here is the official play-by-play for the Commanders’ possession with Williams at quarterback.
San Antonio Commanders at 12:53
1-10-SA 25 (12:53) (Shotgun) M.Williams left guard to SA 25 for no gain (T.Parks; E.Okine). New QB #12 Williams
1-10-SA 25(12:21) (Shotgun) K.Farrow, II right tackle to SA 27 for 2 yards (R.Davis, Sr.; G.Newberry).
2-10-SA 25(11:48) (Shotgun) M.Williams scrambles up the middle to SA 42 for 15 yards (W.Hill, III).
3-8-SA 27R11(11:08) (Shotgun) M.Williams pass incomplete deep left to D.Ayers.
1-10-SA 42(11:01) (Shotgun) K.Farrow, II left guard to SA 48 for 6 yards (T.Parks; J.Evans).
2-10-SA 42(10:22) (Shotgun) M.Williams scrambles right end to ORL 35 for 17 yards (L.Gunter).
3-4-SA 48R12(9:36) (Shotgun) M.Williams pass short left to A.Moore to ORL 38 for -3 yards (L.Gunter).
1-10-ORL 35(9:10) (Shotgun) M.Williams pass incomplete short middle to G.Ward, Jr..
2-13-ORL 38Timeout #2 by SA at 09:05.(9:05)
3-13-ORL 38(9:05) (Shotgun) M.Williams pass short left to A.Green to ORL 32 for 6 yards (L.Gunter) [A.Moten, Jr.].
4-7-ORL 32(8:24) N.Rose 50 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-S.Daly, Holder-J.Zema
ORL 8 SA 15, 10 plays, 43 yards, 4:33 drive, 6:40 elapsed
After the one possession, starter Logan Woodside returned at quarterback.
“We think that they both should play by really what they’ve done,” Riley said. “I failed on that the first game and we decided just to go put him in the third series of the game today and we should have done that the second half too.
“I’m not really suggesting too big of a drama part of this thing. I wouldn’t do it if I thought it was hurting our team. I think he’s earned that position to play. We kind of look at the bulk of the work that was done from mini-camp all the way through.”
The Commanders, who scored touchdowns with their first two possession of the game with Woodside at quarterback, didn’t score an offensive touchdown the rest of the game.
“I do think Logan is our starter. I like him,” Riley said. “But I think Marquise, as you saw, can give us a change of pace.”
The San Antonio Commanders scored their only touchdown of the season opener on a 3-yard run.
That scoring run, however, was set up by the Commanders’ longest offensive play of the game – a 46-yard pass from Logan Woodside to Alonzo Moore.
The long pass was an example of why Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston said Woodside earned the starting quarterback position.
“When you have the opportunity to have explosive plays like we did to Alonzo Moore down to the goal line, that makes the offense’s job that much easier,” Johnston said. “So to have that faith, that trust to turn that ball loose and to know your wide receiver is going to go up and make a play or keep that defense from making a play, that’s a big step. We felt that’s where Logan had made strides toward the end of training camp.”
Johnston won three Super Bowl as a fullback with the Dallas Cowboys. His outlook on offense was influenced by former Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the part long passes played in Turner’s approach. Commanders coach Mike Riley, while a big proponent of a strong running game, also includes long pass plays in his game plan.
“I love the way Mike constructs the vertical elements in this passing game,” Johnston said. “Logan is the one guy, and this is a phrase Norv always talked about, turn the ball loose. When you get one-on-one, we should win that. Logan is the one quarterback, and Marquise (Williams) is getting a little better at it, of trusting our guys in one-on-one situations – that they’re going to make a play and that nothing negative is going to happen.”
For the game, Woodside completed 18-of-36 passes for 255 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions and was sacked three times.
Woodside also completed a 37-yard pass to Greg Ward Jr. and a 22-yard pass to Mekale McKay.
“We consider one-on-one vs. our guys a win for us,” Johnston said. “Logan is the one guy who has really kind of bought into that. We’re starting to see Marquise do it a little bit more. And it’s the area we’re going to try to push Dustin (Vaughan) to, because I still really feel that Dustin throws the best football out here.
“When we’re in skelaton and we’re throwing on air, Dustin is outstanding. When we get into the team elements I’d like to see Dustin stretch the field a little bit more and be a more aggressive. We felt that was something Logan was doing that was going to benefit us.”
For the first time since the roster was cut down to 52 players, the San Antonio Commanders hit the practice field at Central Catholic High School on Thursday morning.
The season opener Feb. 9 at the Alamodome against the San Diego Fleet is just over a week away. The Commanders braintrust is transitioning from deciding who will make the team to who will be the starters.
“It’s interesting. All of a sudden there’s a lot less bodies out there,” Commanders head coach Mike Riley said. “But it is, like a told them today, it’s like a new beginning.
“We had a great training camp. We’ve received great hospitality here in San Antonio. It’s a great to have this as our home city. We love that part of it. This feels and is a new beginning heading into the regular season.”
Riley said the coaches have seen enough to have a good idea of who the key players will be. That will be settled in the very near future.
“We’re close. We could actually do it right now today,” Riley said of deciding the starters. “But we don’t need to yet. We’ll probably have that pretty well set starting our game week next week.”
The most visually obvious change at Thursday’s practice was that the number of bright yellow jerseys – worn by the quarterbacks – was down from four to three. Dustin Vaughan, Marquise Williams and Logan Woodside took an equal number of reps in practice. Dalton Sturm, the fourth quarterback in training camp, is not on the 52-man roster.
Although Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston said on Thursday that Vaughan is currently the team’s No. 1 quarterback, Riley hasn’t named a starter yet.
“That position is certainly a key element in what anybody does in football,” Riley said. “We are fortunate to have three guys. We really had four. Dalton was a really tough cut. I think he’s a good player. I hope he resurfaces with the Commanders some day. But we’re in good hands I think with our quarterbacking.
“We haven’t named a No. 1 quarterback yet. We’ve let them all play almost equally as we’ve gone. (Vaughan) was the first pick and he probably got the first reps all through camp and into the (practice) game the other day.”
San Antonio Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston has lived through player cuts as a college and NFL player.
The former Dallas Cowboys fullback was on the other side of that on Wednesday when Alliance of American Football (AAF) teams announced their 52-man rosters, down from 75 in training camp.
“Today was one of the more challenging days I’ve been a part of,” Johnston said. “We started this journey several months ago. We’ve gone from 85 down into the 60s back up to 75 and now today we had to come down to 52. There were some really hard decisions we had to make. We think we picked a very competitive 52, but time will tell.
“They’re great guys. That was the thing that made it the hardest. We had good players but we had great guys.”
The Commanders kept three quarterbacks – Dustin Vaughan, Marquise Williams and Logan Woodside. The fourth quarterback in camp, former UTSA starter Dalton Sturm, did not make the 52-man roster. Johnston said the league recommends having three quarterbacks on the roster and AAF rules call for three quarterbacks to be suited up on game day. Vaughan finished training camp as the team’s No. 1 quarterback.
Johnston said some of the toughest roster decisions were at receiver, linebacker and running back. The receiver position was complicated by some players suffering injuries in training camp and a few players joining the team late in camp.
The decision at running back was influenced by how the team performed in practice games on Sunday and Monday.
“We were prepared to go in with three running backs,” Johnston said. “We saw how well we ran the football. We saw our physical the runners were. We decided four would be better. Then Trey Williams came up with a turf toe coming out of the game.
“Aaron Green did a great job on Monday night. I’m really impressed with him not only as a runner, but special teams is something that I don’t know how much of a part of his background that was, and he’s done a really good job of embracing special teams.”
Kenneth Farrow II, David Cobb, Green and Williams are the four running backs on the roster.
Update: I just heard from wide receiver Riley Smith, who is not on the 52-man roster. Smith said he is on the injured list and expects to be activated when he is fully healthy.
For three of the San Antonio Commanders’ four quarterbacks, Saturday’s practice at the Alamodome gave them their first chance to work out at their home stadium.
Dalton Sturm played in the Alamodome as his home college stadium with the UTSA Roadrunners.
Dustin Vaughan, Marquise Williams, Logan Woodside and Sturm are in a four-way competition to be the Commanders’ starting quarterback. They are also fighting for roster spots if the team keeps less than four quarterbacks.
After a day off from practice Friday, the team returned to the field at Central Catholic High School under clear blue skies and temperatures in the 60s.
It looks like Dustin Vaughan is the leader in the four-way quarterback competition. Riley said not so fast. There is no depth chart yet and nobody has publicly been named the starter or first quarterback.
“At this point we’ve got a group of players, it’s a first-year team, a beautiful thing to see take place,” Riley said of the competition in training camp. “I just want to leave the door open so that all of these guys can think of it as an opportunity. The real depth chart doesn’t have to take place for a while.”
Faces on the sidelines
Alliance of American Football (AAF) co-founder Charlie Ebersol and former Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher visited Commanders training camp on Saturday.
Two new players
The Commanders have added offensive lineman Mason Gentry from SMU and wide receiver Greg Ward Jr. from Houston to the roster. The Commanders also terminated the rights of defensive back Tre Dickerson.
From the Commanders daily news release:
Appeared in 45 career games at Southern Methodist University along the defensive line … transitioned to
offensive line after college … made 107 tackles in college, including 8.0 for loss, 4.5 sacks and four passes
defended … undrafted in 2018 NFL Draft.
Greg Ward Jr.
Played in 49 career games at the University of Houston … played wide receiver and quarterback as a freshman
before switching to quarterback full time as a sophomore … amassed 11,080 yards and 93 total touchdowns at
Houston … 2015 Earl Campbell Award winner … ranked third in total yards, fourth in passing yards and 10 in
rushing yards at Houston … member of the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles’ practice squad in 2017 …
undrafted in 2017 NFL Draft.