PHOENIX -- The SaberCats had to go to their backup quarterback in Saturday's game against the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers.
And while rookie Nathan Stanley, pressed into service after the first quarter, rallied the SaberCats, they came up just short in a 51-42 loss.
Stanley, after a shaky 6-of-15 start, hit Rod Harper on a 19-yard TD pass with 6:00 left to bring San Jose (7-4) to within 44-42 after the SaberCats were down by 16. Arizona responded with a touchdown, and Stanley was intercepted with 33 seconds left to end the comeback and clinch the West division title.
"(I) kind of struggled there at the beginning, it was hard to get into a rhythm, but I felt like it was just a too little too late," Stanley said after finishing 11 of 23 for 146 yards, three TDs and two interceptions. "I have to be better prepared, I have to be able to start off early."
Stanley started two games early this season after starter Russ Michna suffered a concussion, and the rookie threw for 11 touchdowns as the SaberCats went 1-1.
Coach Darren Arbet said Michna suffered an "upper body" injury late in the first quarter and was to undergo X-rays.
"They are the best team in the league, and they have been the best team in this league for three years," Arbet said. "We had won five in a row. It was a great measuring stick, great film to go back home and teach the guys off of, have a good week and get ready for L.A. "
The Rattlers (11-0) started backup Jason Murrietta, who was intercepted twice, but brought in league-leading passer Nick Davila in the second half, sparking Arizona before 12,094 at the US Airways Center. Davila did not practice with Arizona all week, staying in Southern California with his father, who died Friday. Davila entered after San Jose's Simeon Castille tied the game at 21 on an interception on the first play of the third quarter.
Davila then drove the Rattlers to the go-ahead score. On the next possession, Cliff Dukes knocked the ball out of Stanley's hand in the end zone and tackled him for a safety. Arizona went up 37-21 three plays later with 6:52 left in the quarter.
Still, the SaberCats were in it late after Jason Stewart recovered a Rattlers fumble with 6:52 remaining at the Arizona 19. Down by nine, Stanley drove San Jose in the final minute to the Arizona 13 but on second down, threw high in the end zone, and Arizona's Jeremy Kellem caught the ball off the net.
Los Angeles (2-8) at SaberCats (7-4), 7:30 p.m. No TV