Mountain Lions end their first season in Sacramento

mountain lions:The Sacramento Mountain Lions run off the field on Oct. 15:File Photo

mountain lions:The Sacramento Mountain Lions run off the field on Oct. 15:File Photo

Alyssa Huskinson

Sacramento waited 16 years for a professional football team to return to the capital city and despite not having a winning record, the Sacramento Mountain Lions proved to be victorious.

The franchise moved from San Francisco to Sacramento last year and the first season in Sacramento was full of celebrities and close games. Celebrity sightings included Flo Rida, Lincoln Brewster, mayor Kevin Johnson and actor Denzel Washington.

Washington, who watched the game from the sidelines at every home game, came to support his son, running back John David Washington.

The Mountain Lions finished at .500 with a 4-4 record. This record put the team in third place, just one game away from the championship game. The Mountain Lions would have advanced had the Omaha Nighthawks defeated the Florida Tuskers during the last regular season game on Nov. 19.

The Mountain Lions started out their season with a 17-point loss to the Hartford Colonials.

Following the loss, the team played its first game at Hornet Stadium. In front of 20,000 fans, the Mountain Lions pulled a last-minute comeback in the fourth quarter to beat the Florida Tuskers, 24-20.

After being on the winning end of close games, the Mountain Lions lost by one point to the Omaha Nighthawks.

Leading the league in offense with a combined total of 2,624 yards, the Mountain Lions incurred 1,889 passing yards and 745 rushing yards. On the defensive end, the team is last in the league accumulating a total of 2,582 yards, where 1,782 are passing and 800 are rushing yards. With 89.3 percent overall accuracy for offense in the red zone and 78.1 percent overall for defense in the red zone, the Mountain Lions finish the season with both highs and lows.

One such victory was on Nov. 23 when running back Cory Ross was voted the 2010 United Football League offensive Player of the Year.

Ross set many UFL records during the 2010 season. In three games he had 10 catches, each to set a new league best. In week six, he carried the ball 25 times against the Florida Tuskers and had a 75-yard run at home, in week 9, against the Omaha Nighthawks. His 56 catches during the season passed the previous record of 27 set by New York Sentinels wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe in the 2009 season.

Ross played in all eight games this season, on his 56 catches he racked up 443 yards with a touchdown and rushed for 435 yards scoring four touchdowns on 121 carries for a combined 878 net yards.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper accomplished a great deal of setting league records.

Culpepper joined the team on June 7; he started in every Mountain Lions game and finished the season tied for a league leading nine touchdown passes. Culpepper threw 1,944 yards completing 61 percent of his passes and rushed for two touchdowns.

At the season home opener against Florida on Sept. 25, Culpepper set a league record throwing 374 yards for three touchdowns, in front of 20,000 fans.

“I felt that the most important thing was that we as a team played better as the season went along. Personal success apart from team success is really not important to me,” Culpepper said in an UFL press release.

Culpepper is undecided about his return next season because his contract is up in Feb. 2011, according to an UFL press release. So Mountain Lions fans will have to wait until his decision. If he decides to come back to the UFL and the Mountain Lions, a generous player option will be waiting for him if he returns, according to the press release.

One Mountain Lions player to take advantage of Culpepper’s experience is Sacramento State alumnus, wide receiver Otis Amey. Returning to play at Hornet Stadium to pursue a professional career with the Mountain Lions, Amey finished the season receiving 148 yards from Culpepper, his longest reception was 37 yards.

Head coach Dennis Green coached the Mountain Lions to a .500 record in his first UFL appearance.

Green was a National Football League coach for the Minnesota Vikings and was also an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers when they won a Super Bowl.

The UFL is a NFL alternative that continues to grow and expand due to the popularity of the league. In fact, at the end of the season a new expansion team got added to the five team league. The Virginia Destroyers will be the sixth team and will represent the UFL next season.

The Mountain Lions ended their debut season with a two game win streak and nearly missed the championship.

Sacramento is the city Green and the Mountain Lions decided to call home and within the next few years it is projected that the league will include eight teams. This will hopefully spark interest for collegiate athletes to professional players or for players who have love for the game.ht games this season, on his 56 catches he racked up 443 yards with a touchdown and rushed for 435 yards scoring four touchdowns on 121 carries for a combined 878 net yards.

Alyssa Huskinson can be reached at ahuskinson@statehornet.com