PORTLAND, Ore. — For much of the game, it seemed San Jose's three-game losing streak would stretch to four, but stalwarts Russ Michna and Rod Harper connected on a touchdown with just under five minutes to go and the defense made a crucial red zone stand to propel the SaberCats to a 38-32 victory over the host Portland Thunder.
"They were fighting to win a football game," Darren Arbet said of the winless Thunder. "I like what my guys did...I never saw any doubt."
With just over five minutes remaining and the SaberCats trailing 32-31, Michna led the SaberCats (3-3) down the field, a drive that culminated when he found Harper in the back of the end zone to give San Jose its second lead of the half. The game still seemed in doubt as AFL veteran Kyle Rowley — playing in his first game as a quarterback of the Thunder — took Portland down to the SaberCat seven yard line before San Jose made one final stand in the closing minute.
The game was filled with turnovers and sloppy play — particularly in the first half when the teams combined for four turnovers in the first 10:30 — but Michna remained poised in the final moments, going 19-29 for 250 yards and three touchdowns on the game (plus one running). Michna wasn't equipped with all his playmakers tonight either.
The league's leading receiver Reggie Gray was placed on the inactive list, according to a team spokesman, but the team wouldn't elaborate as to the reason.
In Gray's sted, Mountain View (Calif.) product Doug Williams, making his SaberCat debut caught six passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Williams got off to a shaky start, making a miraculous catch on his back but fumbled as he was trying to score a touchdown. He more than made up for it with his performance the rest of the way.
Of Williams, Arbet said: "He played great. He played well in practice and we felt when he got the opportunity to play he would step in and play well."