LAS VEGAS — There is no preseason in the United Football League. But if there were, the Virginia Destroyers would have been in perfect form.
The Destroyers, who had only been practicing on the field for five days, showed they were in dire need of some additional time on the field in Wednesday night’s 19-6 loss to the Las Vegas Locomotives.
Missed assignments. Dropped passes. Sloppy tackling. It was all on display in Kurt Schottenheimer’s head-coaching debut.
Fortunately for him and his team, not many bothered to show up to see it. Only 2,500 were at Sam Boyd Stadium as the Locomotives avenged last year’s UFL championship-game loss to the Destroyers at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.
“We played better in the second half,” said Schottenheimer, who worked for his brother Marty last year as the Destroyers’ defensive coordinator. “We had a chance to finish some drives in the second half but we were so sloppy in the first half with our tackling.”
As would be expected from a team with just five days’ practice on the field, the Destroyers started slowly. They struggled to slow down Chase Clement and the Las Vegas offense as DeDe Dorsey torched them for a 45-yard touchdown run and two other drives resulted in field goals as the Locomotives built a 12-0 lead six seconds into the second quarter.
Eventually, the Destroyers started to find rhythm as the defense started to get some stops. Marcus Harrison stripped Clement as he attempted a first-down pass at the Virginia 25 and Mike Balogun recovered. That negated Destroyers quarterback Chris Greisen’s ill-advised pass two plays earlier that landed directly in the hands of the Locos' Adrian Awasom.
However, Clement shook it off as he hooked up with Anthony Jackson on a post pattern that resulted in a 74-yard touchdown. Jackson beat Aaron Rouse to get position and Clement hit him in stride, and Jackson quickly pulled away as Las Vegas began to pull away itself, 19-0.
“I got there a little late,” said Rouse, a former First Colonial High and Virginia Tech standout who was last year's UFL title-game MVP. “But that’s no excuse. That’s a play I have to make and I didn’t.”
But despite the 19-0 deficit, the Destroyers eventually played their way back into it.
Dominic Rhodes scored on a sweep off the right side from 3 yards on the second play of the fourth quarter for the Destroyers' first points of the season. It remained 19-6 because the two-point conversion failed.
The Destroyers were driving to cut the deficit further when a holding penalty pushed them back to the Las Vegas 22. A sack of Greisen on third down had the Destroyers looking at a fourth-and-18 situation. Greisen scrambled in an attempt to pick up the first down, only to come up a yard short with 5:13 to play.
“I’m very pleased with the way we battled back,” Schottenheimer said. “That holding penalty was a tough call and it backed us up. But I’m encouraged by the way we adjusted and kept playing. It’s hard when you put yourself in a 19-0 hole like that.”
Schottenheimer said there’s plenty of time to clean things up before the Destroyers’ home opener next Friday against Sacramento.
“We were hoping to get started three weeks ago,” he said. “But for various reasons, they kept pushing the start back and we had only a short time to get ready, then travel out to Vegas and play.
“But our guys kept working and staying in shape, and I thought we got better as the game went on. I think we came out of it with a lot of positives that we can build on."