Just one week after securing the Central Division title with a win over the second-place Dallas Vigilantes, the Chicago Rush fell apart against the Milwaukee Mustangs (7-11) Saturday in the Allstate Arena, giving up their regular season finale 54-41.
The Rush (13-5) racked up five turnovers, four of which lead to points for Milwaukee, and seven penalties.
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"It was ourselves, again, with the turnovers and the penalties, that cost us the football game," said head coach Bob McMillen. "It's us killing ourselves and shooting ourselves in the foot. If you look at all of our losses this year, it's turnovers, it's penalties."
On the opening drive, the Mustangs recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown after Rush quarterback JJ Raterink took a hard hit and lost the ball, and on the first play of the ensuing drive, Raterink threw an interception which lead to a Mustang field goal.
The Rush managed to find the end zone on their third possession, just in time for Milwaukee to string together 21 unanswered points, aided by yet another Rush turnover as fullback Johnie Kirton fumbled on the goal line, allowing Milwaukee to scoop up the ball and stumble in for a touchdown.
Rookie quarterback Dominic Randolph replaced Raterink with just under seven minutes left in the first half. Facing a 24-point deficit, Randolph put together back-to-back touchdown drives, each ending with a Reggie Gray reception, to go into the half down 20-30.
Despite the spark, they could never find the lead. Special teams gave up nearly 20 yards per kick return--unusual for one of the better units in the league--and the defense couldn't come up with enough stops to get the team back in the game.
The Rush will look to get back on track next Friday, July 29, in the first round of the AFL playoffs facing the Vigilantes in Rosemont. The teams have already met twice this season, with the Rush winning both games.
"I think this will give us a little chip on our shoulder," said Randolph. "We're going to try to learn from this as quickly as we can so we can forget about it and move on."