Memphis, TN – The Orlando Apollos (7-1) after being down 22-31 to the Memphis Express with 8:23 left in the game, scored two straight touchdowns to come away with a 34-31 win. With 2 games to go in regular season play, they clinched the top seed in the east for the Alliance playoffs.
An 18-yard Garrett Gilbert pass to wide receiver Charles Johnson at the 4:59 mark and a 1-yard run by running back De’Veon Smith (that was called short on the field and reversed by the replay official) gave Orlando their final two touchdowns of the game.
Defensive end Earl Okine’s interception of Memphis quarterback Brandon Silvers pass secure the victory and let Orlando run out the clock.
Gilbert put up solid numbers going 22 of 40 for a total 310 yards. But had issues with the Express defense, throwing 2 interceptions, with another two that were negated by defensive penalties and one sack for 13 yards.
Gilbert said of the Memphis defense, “They did a really nice job. They were able to create some pressure. Changing up looks in the back. They’ve got some corners that were aggressive in making plays, and I certainly missed my fair share of throws today and made some dumb decisions as well.”
Memphis went into the half down 14-9 and which grew to 22-9 early in the 3rd only to rally with 3 straight touchdowns to put them up by 9. The second TD came from the sack/fumble of Gilbert, by linebacker DeMarquis Gates, that was scooped and scored by defensive end Cory Crawford.
Penalties and miscues would later hamper Memphis and allow Orlando to retake the lead.
Talk of the Alliance Johnny Manziel was put in the game after two unproductive series by Memphis only to leave with a concussion. Manziel threw 2 of 3 for 13 yards and ran for 18, but ended with a pick by defensive back Will Hill III. On the return, Manziel dove for Hill and took a knee to the helmet. Manziel laid on the field before being helped off by trainers, visibly woozy.
Taking back over, Silvers would improve the rest of the game. Throwing 30 of 49 for 269 yards.
Next Saturday Memphis travels to face the west leading San Antonio Commanders (5-2). Head coach Mike Singletary said of bouncing back from today, “We’ll bounce back because we’re the Express. We’ll bounce back because I’ve got a lot of guys on our team that we came to win today. We came to play football. “
With this back and forth win Orlando goes into next weeks home game against the San Diego Fleet (3-5) showing they can come back from adversity.
Hopefully, the Alliance will be able to show such resilience. Rumors abound about the long term viability of the league or if even if they will be able to finish out their first (and possibly only) season. Majority stake owner Tom Dundon’s comments to the USA Today, concerning the Alliance’s future if they cannot come to an agreement the NFL’s Player Association and the ability to acquire young players, have many guessing on whether there will be a next game.