Sunday, February 11, 2001

Bolts 19, HITMEN 12

Bolts blast Hitmen

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Winter hit the XFL, and the weather beat up the new league and its fans.

Freezing temperatures and 22 mph wind that made it feel like 6 degrees -- and that was at the start of the game -- sent most of the 36,458 fans at the New York-New Jersey Hitmen's home opener to the exits early Sunday night.

Only about 5,000 hardy fans were left at Giants Stadium when Charles Puleri's fourth-and-14 pass from the Birmingham 19-yard line fell incomplete in the end zone, allowing the Bolts to beat the Hitmen 19-12 in a sloppily played game.

"It was so cold, I still can't feel my elbows and fingers," Bolts cornerback Duane Butler said 30 minutes after Birmingham (1-1) won for the first time and sent the Hitmen to their second straight loss in the fledgling league owned by NBC and the World Wrestling Federation.

"The field was like a brick of ice," added Butler, who might have made the biggest play for the Bolts, stripping Hitmen halfback Keith Elias of the ball at the 5 with Birmingham trailing 6-0 in the first quarter. "It was so hard. It was harder than ice. I couldn't understand why it was so hard. There was no grass. It was just green paint."

While the players had no choice but to play the game that started at 4 p.m. EST, fans didn't hesitate to leave early.

"It's just freezing," said Joel Rudy of Mount Laurel, who left at halftime. "It's as cold as I can remember. We weren't dressed properly."

"Tell them to start at 1 p.m.," added Stacey Casciato of Tabernacle, who also left at halftime.

Stepfret Williams, who played 26 NFL games mostly with the Dallas Cowboys, paced the Bolts' victory with eight catches for 134 yards. He caught a 70-yard second-quarter pass to set up a 7-yard touchdown pass from Casey Weldon to Quincy Jackson, and gave Birmingham the lead for good with a league-best 95-yard punt return for a touchdown with 8:12 left in the third quarter. Weldon's conversion pass to Kaipo McGuire extended the lead to 13-6.

Mike Archie's second 1-yard touchdown run got the Hitmen within a point with 8:14 left, but Puleri's pass for the point after was broken up by Eric Sloan.

Linebacker Keith Franklin closed out the scoring, returning a fumble by Hitmen receiver Anthony DiCosmo 12 yards for a touchdown with 3:32 to go.

While the game was close, both teams made mistake after mistake. There were five turnovers, 18 penalties for 141 yards and a couple of questionable calls by the officials, including one that seemed to deprive the Hitmen of at least a safety.

XFL founder Vince McMahon admitted the new league was still a work in progress, but he insisted we're "the best darn football game there is in February."

The Hitmen got their first touchdown after Weldon (17-of-26 for 190 yards) threw an interception on the opening series. New York-New Jersey also blocked a punt and partially blocked another in the first quarter.

The Hitmen were just as generous. They lost two fumbles, Puleri (13-of-24 for 149) threw an interception and they gave up the two big plays by Williams.

"It's lacking. That's my comment," said Bob Spada of Wall, a high school coach who was a member of the Duke team that played in the 1961 Cotton Bowl. "It's lacking in a lot of different aspects. The PA stuff and sideline stuff is all neat, but the play overall lacks in a lot of respects."

If there was a highlight for the Hitmen it was their cheerleaders, who braved the conditions clad in white halter tops, pinstripe hot pants and what appeared to be garters and full-length leather coats that were rarely buttoned.

"I'd like to take one of them home to my mother," said Greg Packer, 37, of Huntington, N.Y.

"It's winter and nothing happens in the winter, so this makes up for it."

Summary

XFL FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
BIRMINGHAM 0 6 7 6 19
NYNJ 6 0 0 6 12 FINAL

SCORING SUMMARY

1ST QUARTER: NYN - TD, MIKE ARCHIE 1 YD RUN (PAT FAILED), 5:52. Drive:
9 plays, 29 yards in 4:09. Key plays: Wheeler
23-yard interception return to Birmingham 29;
Elias 5-yard run on 3rd-and-1 to Birmigham 15;
Elias 7-yard run on 3rd-and-3 to Birmingham 2.
NYNJ 6-0
2ND QUARTER: BIR - TD, QUINCY JACKSON 7 YD PASS FROM CASEY WELDON (PAT
FAILED), 9:34. Drive: 6 plays, 84 yards in
4:00. Key plays: Weldon 70-yard pass to
Williams to New York 4. BIRMINGHAM 6, NYNJ 6
3RD QUARTER: BIR - TD, STEPFRET WILLIAMS 95 YD PUNT RETURN (CASEY
WELDON PASS TO KAIPO MCGUIRE FOR CONVERISON),
7:15. BIRMINGHAM 13-6
4TH QUARTER: NYN - TD, MIKE ARCHIE 1 YD RUN (PAT FAILED), 4:37. Drive:
14 plays, 72 yards in 8:14. Key plays: Puleri
22-yard pass to DiCosmo on 3rd-and-10 to
Birmingham 40; Puleri 4-yard pass to DiCosmo on
3rd-and-3 to Birmingham 29; Puleri 9-yard pass
to Dar Dar on 3rd-and-5 to Birmingham 15;
Puleri 20-yard pass to Brock to Birmingham 1.
BIRMINGHAM 13-12
BIR - TD, KEITH FRANKLIN 12 YD FUMBLE RETURN (CONVERISON
FAILED), 11:56. BIRMINGHAM 19-12

TEAM STATISTICS

BIR NYN
-------- --------
FIRST DOWNS 15 15
Rushing 5 5
Passing 9 9
Penalty 1 1
3RD-DOWN EFFICIENCY 4-13 5-11
4TH-DOWN EFFICIENCY 0-1 0-2
TOTAL NET YARDS 307 269
Total plays 56 57
Average gain 5.5 4.7
NET YARDS RUSHING 122 76
Rushes 29 33
Average per rush 4.2 2.3
NET YARDS PASSING 185 193
Completed-attempted 17-26 13-24
Yards per pass 6.9 8.0
Sacked-yards lost 1-5 0-0
Had intercepted 2 1
PUNTS-AVERAGE 4-30.0 5-38.8
RETURN YARDAGE 129 146
Punts-returns 4-103 3-52
Kickoffs-returns 3-26 4-71
Interceptions-returns 1-0 2-23
PENALTIES-YARDS 8-64 10-77
FUMBLES-LOST 1-0 2-2
TIME OF POSSESSION 30:03 29:57


PLAYER STATISTICS

Missed field goals: None.

Birmingham rushing: James Bostic 18-107, Casey Weldon 9-13, Curtis
Alexander 2-2.

Nynj rushing: Elias Keith 21-51, Dar Dar Kirby 2-18, Mike Archie 6-8,
Blair Michael 2-6, Puleri Charles 1-3, Cole Eric 1-minus 10.

Birmingham passing: Casey Weldon 17-26 for 190 yards, 2 INT, 1 TD.

Nynj passing: Puleri Charles 13-24 for 193 yards, 1 INT, 0 TD.

Birmingham receiving: Stepfret Williams 8-134, Quincy Jackson 4-26,
James Bostic 2-8, Kaipo Mcguire 1-11, Nicky Savoie 1-9, Reggie
Johnson 1-2.

Nynj receiving: Dicosmo Anthony 6-65, Brock Fred 2-27, Hinton Marcus
1-59, Davis Zola 1-26, Blair Michael 1-10, Dar Dar Kirby 1-9, Elias
Keith 1-minus 3.

Birmingham tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): James Willis 6-1-0,
Patrick Scott 5-1-0, Dion Foxx 2-4-0, Chris Shelling 4-1-0, Calvin
Jackson 3-1-0, Quinton Reese 3-0-0, Charles Preston 2-1-0, Jimmy
Brumbaugh 2-0-0, Keith Franklin 2-0-0, Duane Butler 1-1-0, Johnny
Mitchell 1-0-0, Eric Sloan 1-0-0, Sedrick Curry 1-0-0, Cedric Pittman
1-0-0.

Nynj tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Beauchamp Tim 5-2-0, Wheeler
Damen 4-2-0, Eloms Joey 5-0-0, Sabb Dwayne 4-1-0, Trout Brad 3-2-0,
Maumalanga Christian 3-2-0, Merkerson Ron 2-2-0, Fields Haven 2-2-0,
Raybon Israel 1-3-1, Barber Mike 2-0-0, Tawambi Settles 2-0-0, Blair
Michael 1-1-0, Mike Archie 1-0-0, Peters Tyrell 1-0-0, Bryant Lamont
1-0-0, Brock Fred 0-1-0.

Interceptions: Birmingham (Johnny Mitchell 1 for 0 yards); Nynj
(Wheeler Damen 1 for 23 yards, Team 1 for 0 yards).

Fumbles lost: Nynj (Dicosmo Anthony, Keith Elias).

Opponent's fumbles recovered: Birmingham (Duane Butler, Keith
Franklin).

Officials: Referee-David Cutaia, Umpire-Al Granado, Head
linesman-Dale Newhouse, Line judge-Roger Mcminn, Back judge-Gregory
Steed, Side judge-Mike Mccabe, Field judge-M. Mothershead.

A: 36,458; T: 3:00.