The Jacksonville Sharks embarked on a 34-0 run midway through Sunday’s game and never looked back, cruising past the San Antonio Talons to capture a 62-34 victory at the Alamodome. The win keeps Jacksonville’s playoff hopes alive as the team attempts to rally in the season’s final month.
With the victory, Jacksonville (6-9) remains eligible for postseason contention, pending the result of the Tampa Bay Storm’s matchup with the San Jose SaberCats on Friday, July 11. In order to qualify for the postseason, the Sharks need to win each of the team’s final three games, have Tampa Bay lose each of its three remaining games, and have the Philadelphia Soul lose two of its three remaining contests. In addition, the result eliminates San Antonio (1-14) from playoff contention in the National Conference.
On Sunday, the Sharks broke open the game with five consecutive touchdowns in the second and third quarters. The tilt started off in back-and-forth fashion, as the Sharks trailed by a 13-7 count early in the second quarter when R.J. Archer hit Jomo Wilson for an 11-yard score that put the Sharks up by a point.
The Archer-to-Wilson connection became a common theme as the game progressed, as the two players connected for scores on each of the Sharks’ following two drives. In between Wilson’s touchdowns, the Sharks’ defense clamped down, as Jacksonville racked up stops on the Talons’ final three possessions of the first half. San Antonio did move it into the red zone in the final minute of the half, but Jerry Turner stripped the ball away from Talon quarterback Matt Bassuener, but Micheaux Robinson pounced on the loose ball to secure a turnover. Three plays later, Archer hit Wilson for a 26-yard touchdown as the Sharks took a 28-13 lead into halftime.
Jacksonville received the opening kick of the third quarter, and quickly converted that possession into points as fullback R.J. Bibbs powered in from two yards out on the second play of the drive. With a 35-13 lead in hand, the Sharks extended their advantage even further with a pair of firsts on consecutive plays.
On second-and-long from his own four, Bassuener stepped up in the pocket and looked deep downfield, but Jacksonville defensive back Brodrick Brown make a great diving play to corral his first career interception and give the Sharks the ball back. One play later, wide receiver Tristan Purifoy caught a pass near midfield, kept his balance while spinning out of a tackle and raced down the sideline for his first career touchdown. Purifoy’s 42-yard score gave Jacksonville a 41-13 lead.
Though the Talons ended Jacksonville’s scoring run at that point, the Sharks continued to answer San Antonio’s touchdowns with scores of their own. Wilson notched two more touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air, becoming the first Shark with five or more non-passing touchdowns in a single game this season. Though Archer was picked off twice in the late stages of the game, the Jacksonville defense was generally able to come up with stops to limit the damage. On the final play of the third quarter, Robinson stripped the ball away from a San Antonio receiver, and Charlie Hunt picked up the fumble to force another turnover.
In the fourth, San Antonio scored with just over four minutes remaining, cutting the Sharks’ lead to 55-34. But the Talons elected to kick deep rather than go onside, and the Sharks burned the clock all the way down to the one-minute timeout. Facing a fourth-and-2 from near midfield, Archer and Hughley executed a perfect back-shoulder throw for a 27-yard touchdown to seal the game. The clock expired on the Talons’ next possession, allowing the Sharks to pick up the 28-point victory.
Sunday’s win marks the first time that the Sharks have broken the 60-point threshold since the team’s Week 9 win over the Iowa Barnstormers. The Sharks swept the season series against the Talons, winning the two games by a combined margin of 125-56.
In the victory, Archer completed 20 of his 33 passes for 301 yards and six touchdowns against two interceptions, adding a one-yard rushing touchdown in the process. In addition to Wilson’s five catches for 72 yards and four touchdowns, Hughley recorded team-high totals of eight receptions for 112 yards to go along with his score, while Purifoy totaled 88 yards and a touchdown on his four grabs. In all, Hughley racked up 200 all-purpose yards in his season debut (112 receiving, 45 missed field goal return, 43 kickoff return).
On defense, Brown led the Sharks with 8.5 total tackles to go along with his first career pick. Rashaad Duncan (1.5 sacks), Justin Parrish (1.5 sacks) and James McClinton (1.0 sacks) got on the board for the Sharks’ defensive line, while Turner provided consistent pressure to go along with his fumble recovery.
For San Antonio, Bassuener went 23-of-37 for 216 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. P.J. Berry led the Talons with 95 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions, while Mykel Benson recorded 26 rushing yards on six carries. Kelvin Rodgers led San Antonio with 6.5 tackles and his team-high ninth interception of the season, while Micah King recorded a sack for the Talons.
The Sharks will now return home to face the New Orleans VooDoo on Monday, July 14. Kickoff on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 8:00 p.m., as this game will air live nationwide on ESPN2.