Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

SPORTS >> Rhinos roll ’Cats

Holding the Arkansas Wildcats to only 33 yards of offense in the second half was key for the Arkansas Rhinos in their home opener at Bob Hill Memorial Field on Saturday.

Tough defense compensated for an offense that killed itself with penalties in a 13-0 win as the Rhinos improved to 2-0 in front of more than 400 fans, which included Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher.

The Rhinos were penalized 13 times for 100 yards. Most of the field laundry came at inopportune times to stall out promising drives in the second half.

The Rhinos moved the ball consistently throughout the game, but the constant penalties forced them to resort to gadgetry late in the game when their best drive of the second half stalled at the Wildcat 40-yard line.

Kicker James Bellar was sent out to attempt a long 54-yard field goal, but holder Daniel Brown took the snap and sprinted down the left side to score with 3:39 left in the game to all but put the game away. Brown bobbled the snap on the extra-point attempt, which set the final margin at 13-0.

The other Rhinos’ score at the start of the second quarter was set up by two powerful rushes from running back Jerald Marshall. They were his only two carries of the first half, but were enough to take the Rhinos from their own 39-yard line to the Wildcat 14. Marshall broke three tackles on his first carry for 16 yards, and used up most of the field on his second carry of 31 yards.

Anton Williams took it in for the score two plays later on a 12-yard touchdown run off left tackle with 10:01 left in the half. Bellar added the point-after to give the Rhinos a 7-0 lead.

But Williams did most of his damage on the defensive side from his linebacker slot, leading the Rhinos with eight tackles.

Safety Tyler Knight did most of the denying in the backfield. Knight finished with three tackles, but it was his five pass break-ups and one near-interception in the first quarter that had Wildcat quarterback Marlon Trumble trying to look somewhere else for most of the game.

Veteran Rhinos linebacker Enrico Wilkens kept busy with five tackles, but it was his blitz and sack of Trumble on third and 10 with nine minutes left to play that deflated what little air the Wildcat offense had left. The stuff resulted in a seven-yard loss, and a fake punt by the Wildcats on fourth and 17 was quickly sniffed out by Williams and defensive end Ronnie Marshall.

It would have given the Rhinos the ball in Wildcat territory, but an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty pushed it back across midfield to the Rhinos 45.

Rhinos quarterback Jeremiah Crouch had a good second half after a shaky first half in which he went 1 of 4 for 19 yards and one interception. His efforts in the second half lifted him to 7 of 18 for 106 yards for the game. He also benefited from a little bit of luck as three potential interceptions were dropped by Wildcat defenders.

Time of possession was another area in which the Rhinos dominated. They kept the ball for 38:01, limiting the Wildcats’ time of possession to just under 22 minutes.

The Rhinos finished with 194 yards of offense. The Wildcats had 133 yards of total offense, 100 of which came in the first half.

They fell to 4-2 on the season with the loss.

Along with the mayor, Jacksonville Director of Administration Jim Durham was on hand, and flipped the coin to begin the game.

“The mayor and I were really impressed with the turnout and hope for continued success for the Rhinos,” Durham said. “It’s great for the city of Jacksonville.”

The Rhinos will play on the road against the St. Louis Bulldogs this Saturday, and will return home on July 25 against the Arkansas Jaguars.