Saturday’s game at Hornet Stadium was a matchup between two winless squads – the Sacramento Mountain Lions (0-1) and the Omaha Nighthawks (0-1). These teams’ tied rank in the UFL standings- for last place- was far from the only tight statistic of the game. The 33-30 loss drops the Mountain Lions in dead-last place in the UFL standings.
The lead would change four times that Saturday afternoon. The last of those lead changes came off Nighthawks kicker Jeff Wolfert’s foot when he put the football through the uprights from 39 yards away as time expired.
The drive began shortly after the whistle marked the two-minute warning. Nighthawks punt returner Devonte Edwards cradled the ball in his arm as he ran 15 yards to the Omaha 35-yard line.
The Nighthawks had a 65-yard field in front of them and an even scoreboard.
Early in the game Wolfert was confident in his range.
“I said, ‘Hey coach, get me to the 35-yard line at the beginning of the game. That’s my spot, kick it.’ Well here we are at the 37, 38 that’s kind of out of my range, but he left it up to me- if I’m feeling it,” Wolfert said. “I’m looking at the wind, seeing how I feel, my confidence is up. He said, ‘Hey Jeff, can you make this kick?’ Because the punt team was about to go on… I thanked him for that later, because I wanted that kick.”
Wolfert would miss his first attempt of the game, but in each of the other four times he was sent to kick field goals he was successful, including league-record setting 54- and 56-yard shots, a 42-yard shot, and the 39-yard game-winner.
It was ultimately the 35-yard reception by wide receiver Chad Jackson on third down that put the Nighthawks and Wolfert in comfortable field goal range.
The field goal attempt by Mountain Lions’ kicker Fabrizio Scaccia early in the first quarter and the missed point after touchdown in the fourth quarter were not the only thing Sacramento missed on Saturday.
MoLos’ running back Cory Ross sat out Saturday’s game against the Nighthawks with a sore hamstring. John David Washington stepped up in Ross’ place.
“I was begging him to go,” Washington said. “That’s our leader. We look to him. I’ve been with him for three years. He’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever played with – great guy. I know what he does for this team and the best thing I can do is do my job like he would.”
On Nov. 13, the last meeting between the two teams, Ross rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and caught six passes for 39 yards. The Mountain Lions won convincingly, 41-3.
Washington started well on Saturday, breaking his first carry of the game for 35 yards. At halftime, Washington was averaging 7.7 yards per carry on seven runs. Washington would total 114 yards on 14 carries.
After a fourth-quarter touchdown put the Mountain Lions up 23-16, Scaccia’s point after touchdown was tipped and failed to provide Sacramento with a comfortable eight-point lead.
Shortly after, defensive back Manny Collins intercepted Nighthawks’ quarterback Jeremiah Masoli’s pass at the Sacramento 44-yard line. The Nighthawks would regain possession thanks to defensive specialist Stuart Schweigert’s interception and ensuing 30-yard break.
Colburn responded on the next drive by hooking up with wide receiver Dominique Jones for a 50-yard touchdown pass.
From the beginning, the Mountain Lions were playing with pressure on their shoulders.
It took almost the entire first quarter, but the Nighthawks were the first to jump on the board after an 11-play drive that culminated in a 1-yard run by running back Shaud Williams into the end zone.
The Mountain Lions responded twice unanswered under the pressure of a seven-point deficit. Eight minutes into the second quarter, the Mountain Lions were on the board with a short field goal.
After the kickoff, the Nighthawks held the ball for all of 14 seconds before Sacramento cornerback Will Poole recovered John Griffin’s fumble at the Omaha 24-yard line.
It took Sacramento just more than two minutes for the rookie quarterback Colburn to connect in the end zone. The Mountain Lions’ first touchdown of the game came in the form of a 5-yard out pass to wide receiver Kenny Moore. The Mountain Lions were up 10-7.
Colburn finished the game with 234 yards and two interceptions; one of those interception turned into a Nighthawk scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
Colburn has begun his professional career with a variety of ups and downs but it is his 0-2 record as a starter that blemishes his resume.
Next, Colburn will look to lead his team to its first victory of the season as the Mountain Lions hit the road for the first time this season on Friday to play the Virginia Destroyers (2-0) at 4 p.m.
“I think that these games will be close games. We’re about to play a team that everyone would say Virginia is probably at least rated the best team,” said Mountain Lions head coach Dennis Green. “So we’ll play those guys two times in a row, hit the road then come back to play them.”