Florida Tuskers kick off 2nd UFL season by avenging championship loss at Las Vegas

Brooks Bollinger threw for 308 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Odell Thurman had a sack, forced fumble and an interception to lead the Florida Tuskers to a 27-20 win over Las Vegas in the United Football League season opener for both clubs Saturday night.

Florida ralied from a 10-0 deficit.

"We did enough to win on offense, but it was the defense that carried us today," Tuskers coach Jay Gruden said. "I believe Odell Thurman is one of the best linebackers in pro football and he showed it again today."

The defense limited the Locos to 186 yards, including 112 in the first three quarters. In all, the Tuskers forced four turnovers.

Still, Gruden lamented penalties that kept Las Vegas in the game. His team was flagged for nine penalties for 130 yards.

"We have to clean up that part of the game. Penalties and turnovers really hurt us tonight," Gruden said.

Fourteen of the Locos' 20 points came after a turnover, and both of their touchdown drives were aided by multiple penalties.

"Las Vegas has a great defense, and they came in with a good game plan," Gruden said. "But the bottom line is that when you go on the road – particularly when you have to travel across the country -- you will take any win you can get."

The win kept the Tuskers undefeated in UFL regular season games with a 7-0 record. They were 6-0 in the regular season last year but lost to the Locos in the inaugural UFL title game.

The Locomotives jumped out to a quick lead in the first quarter, thanks mainly to its defense. On Florida's second possession, Locos linebacker Teddy Lehman stepped in front of a Bollinger pass and returned it 25-yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

On Las Vegas' next possession, a stalled drive resulted in a 32-yard field goal by Parker Douglass to make it 10-0.

Florida's offense finally came alive early in the second quarter, capping an 88-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Bollinger to Dominic Rhodes. On the touchdown, Bollinger managed to keep the play alive on a scramble before finding Rhodes open.

The Tuskers converted two third downs in the drive, including a 18-yard scramble by Bollinger and a 19-yard pass from Bollinger to Jermaine Wiggins.

The Tuskers took their first lead on a bizarre series of plays. Arnold Harrison set the Tuskers up on the Las Vegas' 11-yard line on a sack and forced fumble of quarterback Tim Rattay, which Tim McGarigle recovered.

Three plays later, Rhodes apparently fumbled on the Locomotives' goal line, but after an official review, Las Vegas was called for an illegal defense to set the Tuskers up with a first-and-goal. One play later, Rhodes got it and Florida led 14-10 at the 9:15 mark of the second period.

On the ensuing drive, Rattay drove the Locomotives down to the Florida 19, but Douglass missed a 37-yard field goal and Florida held on to its four-point lead. The Tuskers increased the lead to 17-10 when Novak hit a league-record 54-yard field goal with 52 seconds remaining in the half.

Las Vegas tied the score at the midway point of the third quarter. A Cortez Hankton fumble gave the Locomotives possession deep in Florida territory, and following a pass interference penalty on Fahkir Brown, Rattay hit Bobby Brown on a 1-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-17.

Following a Las Vegas turnover, Bollinger set the Tuskers up with a first-and-goal from the seven on a 33-yard pass to Hankton. But three plays netted no yardage, and Novak booted 24-yard field goal to give the Tuskers a 20-17 lead.

Florida built a 27-17 lead in the waning seconds of the third period when Bollinger hit Calvin Russell on a 68-yard bomb on a third-and-12 play.

The Tuskers return to action next Saturday, traveling to Sacramento to take on the Mountain Lions (0-1).

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