Just a 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 in the Allstate Arena, giving up their regular-season finale 54-41 Saturday.
The Rush (13-5) turned the ball over five times; four of them led to points for Milwaukee (7-11). They also committed 7 penalties.
"It was ourselves, again, with the turnovers and the penalties, that cost us the football game," said Rush 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 Raternik took a hard hit and lost the ball. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Raternik threw an interception.
The Rush managed to find the end zone on their third possession -- just before Milwaukee ran off 21 unanswered points, aided by yet another Rush turnover when fullback Johnie Kirton fumbled on the goal line.
Rookie quarterback Dominic Randolph replaced Raternik with just under seven minutes left in the first half. Facing a 24-point deficit, Randolph put together back-to-back touchdown drives.
The Rush hosts the Vigilantes, a team they've beaten twice, in the first round of the AFL playoffs Friday.
"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."