Buccaneer punter Andrew Bayes and his Frankfurt Galaxy teammates earned their first win of the 2001 season on Saturday
In the National Football League, Doug Graber was a defensive coach, holding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive coordinator position from 1987 through 1989 after tutoring the secondary in Kansas City for four years. In the NFL Europe League, however, he's relying on offense to get by. Call it the reverse-Billick effect.
Graber, in his first year as the head coach of the NFLEL's Frankfurt Galaxy, has helped his team compile the league's best offensive totals through four weeks of the 2001 season. However, Graber's crew was winless before Saturday's home game against the Scottish Claymores. Fortunately, the Galaxy defense matched their offensive unit's effectiveness in week four and Frankfurt tallied its first victory with a 27-17 downing of the Claymores.
Graber's first win was also the first taste of NFLEL victory for three Buccaneer-allocated players: punter Andrew Bayes, guard Wilbert Brown and CB Terrance Parrish. Brown and Parrish each started for the Galaxy and Bayes punted four times for an average of 39.3 yards, blasting one kick 55 yards.
Of course, that also put a pair of fellow Buccaneers – guard Kendell Mack and tight end Randy Palmer – in the loss column, as both started for the Claymores, now 2-2.
Tampa Bay has just one player on the roster of the undefeated Barcelona Dragons, WR Chris Daniels, and Daniels is not playing due to a neck injury. Elsewhere, DT Matt Sweeney, last week's NFLEL Defensive Player of the Week, started for Amsterdam and posted one tackle as the Admirals lost to Barcelona, 31-14.
The top Buccaneer-allocated performer of the weekend was WR Eddie Hardaway, who hauled in five receptions for 67 yards for the Rhein Fire, who were nipped, 23-17, by the Berlin Thunder.
A wrap up of Graber's first win with the Galaxy, as well as the other two Week Four games on the NFLEL slate, follows.
Galaxy Grab-er First Win
Doug Graber recorded the first victory of his tenure as head coach of the Frankfurt Galaxy in front of 33,437 fans with a 27-17 victory over the Scottish Claymores that saw New England Patriots-allocated quarterback Michael Bishop in devastating form.
Bishop fired three touchdown passes to give the Galaxy its first win of the season, while starring in an unforgiving defensive display was defensive end Paul Spicer of the Jacksonville Jaguars with three sacks.
The Galaxy's number one ranked offense ate through the Claymores ranks on their first drive in a sun drenched Waldstadion as Dallas Cowboys-allocated running back Denvis Manns carried six times to set up the opening score. Frankfurt owed much to a long pass interference penalty as Central McClellion tripped Damon Savage at the 26-yard line, but had to settle for a 22-yard Stephan Bauer field goal after Earl Riley, also of the Cowboys deflected away a Bishop end zone pass intended for Andy McCullough.
Claymores kickoff returner Dante Hall added to his collection of fumbles to give the ball straight back to the Galaxy and Bishop again marched downfield and again had to be content with three points, this time from 39 yards out and from the boot of Swedish kicker Ola Kimrin.
Claymores passer Clint Stoerner was unspectacular but effective as apart from a 24-yard connection with Stevan Fontana he relied on short passes and any yardage his running backs could collect to clock up first downs. From the Galaxy 15 Anthony Gray made five tough yards before Stoerner waited patiently and under pressure to unload on his go to guy Whalen as he got open in the end zone, but he had stepped out of bounds earlier so the score was ruled out. Rob Hart's 28-yard field goal halved the deficit.
Having scrambled away from trouble to keep his drives alive, Bishop aimed a 60-yard bomb downfield and saw the ball bounce off the hands off tight end Rod Monroe at the two-yard line. A pass then rebounded off McCullough's chest for Ricky Hall to reel in a bizarre and fortunate first down, then on the next play Manns charged down the right sideline to the Claymores 21-yard mark.
Manns was pounding out the yards and set up first and goal for Bishop to fire a 9-yard touchdown pass to French wide receiver Marc Soumah for his second score of the season and a 13-3 lead.
When Galaxy cornerback Chris Cummings recovered a Stoerner fumble inside the two-minute warning Bishop was merciless and while full of confidence he out-gunned the Claymores secondary to find Ricky Hall for a 48-yard touchdown and a commanding 20-3 halftime lead.
Two of Bishop's five first half completions had gone for touchdowns and he continued in the spectacular mould with a 53-yard strike to Hall, but saw the drive stall and Kimrin push a 46-yard field goal attempt wide.
Scotland were forced into trick plays but a fake punt and pass from Brad Costello to Dusty Renfro fell incomplete, then Bishop's first pass in reply was intercepted by McClellion. The Claymores took full advantage as Stoerner found Glaswegian Scott Couper for a 27-yard gain, then with 50 seconds remaining in third quarter pump faked to again hit Couper from 14 yards out for a touchdown and a 20-10 deficit.
Frankfurt began the fourth quarter from its own six-yard mark and the Bishop to Hall partnership yielded an instant 36 yards to avert the danger. Rashon Spikes then carried the Galaxy load on the ground, Damon Savage reeled in a 19-yard toss and from five yards out Bishop went to McCullough for a 27-10 lead.
Any threat of a Claymores revival was dashed when Gary Thompkins picked off Stoerner after a promising 47-yard bullet to Gerald Williams had advanced the Claymores to the brink of the red zone. Kansas City Chiefs-allocated quarterback Gus Ornstein replaced Stoerner to throw a 19-yard consolation touchdown to tight end Whalen with five seconds remaining.
Berlin Spoils Manni's Party
The Berlin Thunder sent the World Bowl champions Rhein Fire champion to their third straight defeat and ruined a record-breaking night for 51-year-old Manfred Burgsmuller.
Touchdowns by Rodnick Phillips and Ahmad Merritt helped take the Thunder to a 2-2 record and overshadowed a piece of NFLEL history by Burgsmuller as he scored the points he needed to overtake ex-Frankfurt Galaxy kicker Ralf Kleinmann's career record total of 235.
Defenses dominated the opening stages of the game and even after catches by Akahito Amaya and Andre Cooper, Fire quarterback Phil Stambaugh, allocated by the New Orleans Saints, was unable to keep the Fire offense on the field.
On the next drive Stambaugh connected with Eddie Hardaway and Dwight Carter to help move his team into scoring position. But when Giovanni Carmazzi, the San Francisco 49ers-allocated quarterback, fumbled the snap on third and goal at the 1-yard line, the Fire had to settle for Burgsmuller's record-breaking 18-yard field goal as the second quarter began.
A combination of pressure from the Fire defensive line and good coverage from the secondary continued to make life difficult for Thunder quarterback Jonathan Quinn and was it left to Washington Redskins kicker Scott Bentley to get Berlin on the board with a well-struck 47-yard field goal.
Carmazzi began the next Fire drive with some confident completions but after hooking up with Pepe Pearson, the running back coughed up the ball and German defensive back Richard Yancy recovered the fumble.
The Fire got away with that turnover, but immediately after Fire cornerback Deke Cooper had grabbed his second interception of the season the visiting team turned the ball over again. This time Carmazzi was picked off by Berlin safety Billy Gustin, and a long pass by Quinn to Dwuane Jones set up Axel Kruse for a 26-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the first half.
A seven-play, 73-yard drive saw Berlin open up a 13-3 led early in the third quarter. A pass interference call against Deke Cooper had cost the Fire 40 yards and helped set up the 1-yard touchdown run by Rodnick Phillips touchdown.
An interception by Thunder linebacker Joe Wesley gave Berlin their third takeaway of the game but Rhein finally put together a touchdown drive that ended with Michael Lewis fighting off defenders in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard catch. Berlin's response was a blow to the Fire's hopes of maintaining a comeback as Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Quinn threw a bullet-like pass to Ahmad Merrit for a 27-yard touchdown.
Defensive end Jon Harris halted the Fire's next drive with a sack on Stambaugh and Berlin cornerback Dee Moronkola ran back the ensuing punt to the Rhein 15-yard line. The Fire defense held firm and at least restricted the Thunder to a field goal attempt, converted by Kruse from 28 yards for a 23-10 lead.
It meant that Rhein was still within two scores and they reduced the deficit to 23-17 when Stambaugh steered them towards the end zone and Carmazzi stepped in late in the drive to hook up with Adam Newman for a 3-yard touchdown.
It was too little too late for the Fire, with the Thunder able to control the ball for the final three minutes to secure victory.
Barcelona Enjoys Perfect Day
Jarious Jackson threw two touchdown passes and Mike Green rushed for a pair of scores as the Dragons continued their impressive start to the season with a 31-14 victory over Amsterdam.
The impressive win improved the league-leading Dragons to 4-0 on the year - their best start to a season since 1991.
As soon as the game began, Barcelona picked up where they left off in Week 3 with Jackson, allocated by the Denver Broncos, renewing his connection with in-form wide receiver Tony Simmons (New England).
Jackson opened the game with three straight completions before hitting Simmons on a 34-yard touchdown pass. Jesus Angoy tacked on the extra point to give the Dragons an early 7-0 lead.
The Dragons added to their lead when Jackson hit Simmons in stride for a 74-yard catch and run midway through the first quarter. Angoy added his second extra point and the home side led 14-0.
Amsterdam fought back late in the opening period with Cleveland Browns allocated quarterback Spergon Wynn throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew O'Connor.
The drive was kept alive by a roughing the passer call against Dragons linebacker Troy Pelshak. On the play, Wynn was intercepted by Barcelona cornerback Samyr Hamoudi but the pick was negated by the official's flag.
Instead of the Dragons having the ball at their own 10-yard line, Amsterdam had a first down at the 15 and Wynn took full advantage of the let-off to get the Admirals back in the game.
Both teams struggled to move the ball early in the second quarter, but the Dragons managed to find their feet just before the half, scoring on Mike Green's 13-yard run.
Green, the NFL Europe League's leading rusher, gained 48 yards on the scoring drive. Angoy added the extra point and the Dragons led 21-7.
But the Admirals were not done before the half. Wynn hit wide receiver Chris Coleman for a 40-yard gain and the pair hooked up again from 10 yards out for the touchdown. Silvio Diliberto added the extra point to leave the Admirals in contention at the break.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Dragons restored their two-touchdown cushion with Green scoring on a 14-yard run. The Tennessee Titans running back had put Barcelona in scoring range with a 60-yard run before finding the end zone for the second time on the day.
Angoy's extra point gave the Dragons a 28-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Dragons concluded the scoring inside the two-minute warning when Angoy kicked a 21-yard field goal, capping a comprehensive victory for Barcelona.