Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
The Las Vegas Locomotives didn’t need to win this football game.
With two games remaining in the United Football League season, the defending champion Locomotives were already guaranteed a spot in the UFL Championship Game on Nov. 27 in Omaha, Neb.
So, when they fell behind 21-0 late in the first half Saturday against the visiting Sacramento Mountain Lions, the Locomotives could have easily went through the motions the rest of the game.
But Las Vegas backup quarterback Chase Clement entered at the start of the second half and accounted for three touchdowns in helping the Locomotives tie the game at 24 with 3:57 to play.
And even though Sacramento prevailed 27-24 on a 44-yard field goal from Fabrizio Scaccia with 1:32 remaining, Las Vegas coach Jim Fassel had nothing but good things to say about his team’s effort.
Having their five-game winning streak snapped wasn’t what the Locomotives (5-2) expected, but there were plenty of positives moving forward. They have a bye next week before closing the regular season Nov. 20 at Hartford.
“You can’t coach determination and heart,” Fassel said. “They fought and battled back and didn’t lose their composure.”
Sacramento (3-4) jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead on a pair of touchdowns from running back Cory Ross. The 5-foot-6, 200-pounder from Nebraska scored on a 3-yard run four minutes into the game to open the scoring and added a 48-yard touchdown on a pass from Daunte Culpepper.
Culpepper, the former NFL quarterback, scored on a 2-yard run to increase the Sacramento lead to 21-0 with 5:02 to play in the first half.
Las Vegas, at least in the first half, looked like a team with nothing to play for. It turned the ball over three times on fumbles in the first half, and Sacramento took advantage.
“It was one mistake after another,” Fassel said. “It wasn’t them, it was us.”
The second half was a different story.
Clement, a rookie from Rice who started the season as the team’s No. 3 quarterback, was scheduled to enter the game along with several other reserves at halftime. He never imagined his team would be trailing by three touchdowns.
“When you come in down three touchdowns, you don't say, let's get it all back right away,” Clement said.
Clement led the Locomotives on a scoring drive on his first possession, connecting with Tab Perry for a 16-yard touchdown pass to cap a six-play drive and trim the Locomotives deficit to 21-10.
Clement had rushing touchdowns of 7 and 10 yards in the fourth quarter to even the score. It was the first time in the history of the 2-year-old league that a quarterback had rushed for two touchdowns in a game.
The second scoring run tied the game at 24, but the Locomotives couldn’t pull out the win.
“If we wouldn’t have fought back, I’d be really worried,” Fassel said.