Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009 | 11:30 p.m.
- Case Grande football league invades Las Vegas (10/07/09)
- What to watch for in UFL season opener (10/07/09)
- Former Arizona Cardinals leading rusher anxious for UFL season (9/28/09)
- UFL announces broadcast team (9/22/09)
- Three-time NFL Pro Bowler signs with UFL (8/27/09)
- Local UFL team will be the Locomotives (8/10/09)
- Q&A: Las Vegas Locomotives coach Jim Fassel (8/10/09)
- Monday List: An ode to the UFL’s Las Vegas ‘Locos’ (8/10/09)
- UFL unveils season schedule (8/6/09)
- UFL Las Vegas signs 19 players (8/6/09)
- UFL hopefuls show off skills at Sam Boyd Stadium (6/14/09)
As far as first tests go, the United Football League certainly didn’t fail in Thursday’s inaugural game.
As promised, the quality of football was high in the Las Vegas Locomotives’ 30-17 victory over the California Redwoods at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Las Vegas quarterback J.P. Losman, the UFL’s marquee player, picked apart the California defense for 226 yards and two touchdowns on 21-for-31 passing, and the game was close throughout.
“That was a (darn) good football game,” Las Vegas coach Jim Fassel said. “Anyone who snuck into that one probably went back and paid. They got their money’s worth.”
But the UFL didn’t pass with flying colors, either. The announced attendance was 14,209, but there appeared to be far more empty seats than that.
Still, everyone focused on the positives after the game.
“We’re going to put a good product on the field and let people see it,” Fassel said. “I don’t know how many were here, but I bet at least all the people who were sitting near or behind us are going to tell their friends, ‘That was a hell of a football game.’”
Fassel noted that the fans were exceptionally loud for big plays.
“It’s phenomenal. I’m having such a great time,” said Richard Kleitman, a fan decked out in a Locomotives jersey and hat. “For something like this, it should be packed.”
Kleitman said the game exceeded his expectations — and that was at halftime, when the Locomotives trailed 14-10.
The Redwoods scored the UFL’s first touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter when quarterback Shane Boyd took off for a four-yard scramble on a third-down play to go ahead 7-3.
Not that the Locomotives didn’t have a chance to make history by being the first team in the end zone. On its initial drive, Las Vegas drove 63 yards to California’s one-yard line.
But running back Marcel Shipp, who ran for 69 yards on 17 carries, fumbled a Losman toss and California recovered.
“I think we were kind of feeling our way through in the first half,” Losman said. “Once we came out in the second half, I think guys realized things were on the line and went for it. You could see the difference.”
With the Locomotives ahead 20-17 near the end of the third quarter, its drive stalled at the Redwoods’ 35-yard-line.
Instead of punting, Fassel called on kicker Graham Gano for a field goal attempt. Gano, an All-American and Lou Groza Award winner last year at Florida State, easily knocked the 53-yarder through the uprights.
“We had his range prior to the game, but we were outside of that range,” Fassel said. “So he came over and I said, ‘Can you make it?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’”
The Locomotives defense stepped up on the next possession to force the Redwoods to punt. With nearly 10 minutes remaining, the Locomotives received the ball on their own 14-yard line.
Then, the DeDe Dorsey show started. Dorsey, Shipp’s complement at running back, guided Las Vegas down the field before finally scoring on an eight-yard touchdown.
Dorsey finished with 63 yards on nine carries. The drive took seven minutes off of the clock and ensured a Las Vegas win.
“We knew we had to put points on the board and put it away with a drive that eats up the clock,” Dorsey said. “We did that.”
The Locomotives celebrated the victory but were already looking forward to next Wednesday’s home game against the Florida Tuskers.
“I think the same people who came out are going to come out again,” Losman said. “And they’re going to tell their friends and the word will get out that Vegas should check it out.”