The Orlando Apollos made sure the Legends knew that their first matchup was not a fluke.
The Apollos took the Week 7 matchup Saturday at Georgia State Stadium by a score of 36-6 behind Garrett Gilbert’s 217 yards passing and three short rushing touchdowns by De’Veon Smith. The Apollos won the first matchup 40-6 in Week 1.
Aaron Murray finished 16-for-22 passing for 135 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for the Legends. Malachi Jones hauled in six catches for 53 yards and the lone touchdown.
With 1:56 left in the third quarter, Orlando (6-1) delivered the Legends (2-5) a gut punch from which they could not recover. Down 28-6 and having just thrown a pick-six on the previous possession, Murray tried to rally the Legends.
He moved the offense down the field on a 14-play drive that included three -- yes, three -- dropped passes in the end zone. Cody Riggs made the Legends pay for their mistakes when he intercepted Murray on the goal line to give Orlando back the ball and effectively end any hope of a Legends comeback. Matt Simms played the rest of the game at quarterback.
“Then Cody Riggs got another pick after (the Legends’) guy dropped, what, the same play twice for touchdowns?” Apollos coach Steve Spurrier said. “Anyway, it worked out nicely. Atlanta’s a much better team than that. The ball bounced our way a lot today.”
If the back-breaking interception wasn’t enough, the Apollos put together a 96-yard drive on the ensuing possession that ended with a 12-yard toss from Gilbert to Charles Johnson in the back left corner of the end zone. D’Ernest Johnson plowed in for the 2-point conversion to make the score 36-6 Apollos.
Orlando’s fourth touchdown came on a throw that Murray will want back. After the Apollos scored a quick touchdown on their first possession of the second half, the Legends got the ball and moved into Orlando territory. Then, Murray made an ill-advised pass toward Seantavius Jones in the left flat that was jumped by Deji Olatoye, who ran it back 65 yards to the house to make the score 28-6 after the conversion.
“I’m very disappointed with how we played in the second half,” Legends coach Kevin Coyle said. “It was a one-score game at halftime, but we just played very poorly in the second half. ... We all have to point fingers at ourselves with the way we execute sometimes.”
The first half flew by in remarkably efficient fashion. Orlando started the game with the football and proceeded to march 75 yards in 10 plays for the opening score of the game. The Apollos faced only one third-down play the entire drive, and it was on that third-and-goal from the 1-yard line that Smith plunged in for the touchdown. He also ran in the conversion to make the score 8-0.
The Legends hit right back with a 15-play scoring drive of over eight minutes that used up the rest of the first quarter. Murray went 6-for-6 through the air on the drive before tossing his seventh pass into the hands of Jones in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown. The Legends missed the conversion, so the score stayed 8-6.
Not to be outdone, the Apollos posted a nearly identical drive to the Legends’ first, going 75 yards in 15 plays and taking another 8:23 off the clock. Smith capped off the drive with his second 1-yard score of the day to extend Orlando’s lead to 14-6, which it carried to the halftime break. The first half took only 55 minutes of real time.
Spurrier said after the game it felt good to get the monkey off his back coaching in Atlanta.
“Let me tell you what, I lost my last two games in Atlanta -- the SEC Championship (game) with South Carolina and the Peach Bowl right after that in 2010, so it’s good to get a win in Atlanta,” he said.
The win made the Apollos the first team in the Alliance of American Football to clinch a playoff spot. The Legends have three more games to try to salvage a .500 record by the end of the season.
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