Xtreme Formula for Success Gets Diluted

By David Curtis - Xtreme team reporter

Los Angeles - (27 February 2001) -- The Los Angeles Xtreme tried on Sunday to concoct yet another heroic win. And they almost made it -- they just didn’t account for an increasingly heavy downpour which compromised their panache.

Not that rain (or opposing talent, for that matter) was their chief problem. While the team struggled all night, its first-half performance had little to do with the weather. This point was driven home by the visiting Memphis Maniax, who overcame a wet ball and a sloppy field to drive for 229 yards and 15 points before intermission. No, L.A. seemed mostly to be following a pattern of slow starts.

How slow, you say? Some answers: The offense had no first downs in the first quarter and only two at the half, and one of these required a bogus pass interference call. The defense, meanwhile, surrendered 37 and 13 yards on the game’s first two plays from scrimmage, and a touchdown on the fifth. It had been further ripped for gains of 26, 27, 25, 21, and 28 when the initial gun mercifully sounded.

It took a blocked punt courtesy of Jeremaine Copeland, who went on to tackle recovering Maniac Jack Kellogg on the play, to give the Xtreme even a semblance of life. The breakthrough allowed an eventual 40-yard knuckler over the crossbar by Jose Cortez, but an opportunity to seize real momentum was lost after Darnell McDonald was separated from the ball on what would have been a 23-yard touchdown reception. Electricity in the crowd quickly grew as the pass arced over the head of a defender to the much taller McDonald near the back of the end zone; it fizzled immediately when Memphis safety Kevin Peeples foiled his attempt to establish possession with a timely blow.

Having regrouped at halftime, Coach Luginbill’s squad did manage a 10-play, 72-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter. This time they were the ones to earn first downs on the first two plays from scrimmage, and an uninterrupted 6-yard hookup between McDonald and Tommy Maddox soon narrowed the spread to 15-9.

A Maniax fumble next allowed for a brilliant 47-yard field goal by Cortez in conditions which were by then truly horrid. The feat was probably the kicker’s most impressive to date. Unfortunately, Memphis would get three more points of its own after intercepting Maddox’s worst pass to date. The QB forced a telegraphed, intermediate pass to his slot receiver which easily could have been taken to the house on a clear day.

At the two-minute warning, the Maniax were in position to put the contest out of reach with a potential nine-point lead. Yet defensive and Jamal Duff stuffed a final running play for a four-yard loss, which proved to be the difference on an ensuing missed field goal. The Xtreme thus regained possession at their own 20 with 1:37 left on the clock, leaving the impression that a miracle finish was again in store. Four pathetic, aquatic incompletions at midfield squelched any such hope, however, and first place in the Western Division became a fair-whether memory….

XTREMES ON THE ROSTER

Linebacker Rico Mack, playing extensively for regular starter Shawn Stuckey, had a monster game. The stat sheet only records six tackles, but he also recovered a fumble, caused another, and tripped up running back Rashaan Salaam on an otherwise certain 19-yard touchdown romp. He had, moreover, perfect coverage on the tight end who caught the opening score, forcing him to improvise and the quarterback to buy time. And, oh yes, he nearly blocked the opponent’s last field goal attempt (which of course was missed anyway). Cornerback Dell McGee, on the other hand, was trailing on three of the four first-half bombs allowed by the L.A. defense. He also made a poor excuse for a tackle which led to a conversion of third-and-7 in the second half.

WHAT GOES AROUND …

Many felt McDonald legally caught his first "touchdown" of the day, but then many thought Damon Dunn dropped the touch he was credited with against Chicago. Memphis was wrongly penalized for pass interference on a drive leading to an Xtreme field goal, and failed to get a call when corner Terry Billups broke up an end zone pass prematurely, but was compensated by non-calls on L.A.’s last two pass attempts of the night.