After struggling for the first 10 minutes of the game, the Chicago Rush put together an impressive 50 minutes of football Thursday night to beat the Orlando Predators 51-49 in front of 6,148 fans at Allstate Arena.
The Predators took a 14-0 lead against the Rush (2-0) after scoring on an opening kickoff fumble by Reggie Gray, then adding a second touchdown after stopping four Rush plays inside the 4-yard line on the following drive thanks to a Travis Coleman interception that led to a Predator TD.
Then the Rush offensive line went to work as they steadied the pass protection and allowed quarterback Russ Michna (19-35, 251 yards, 5 TD) to put together eight consecutive scoring drives.
Another turning point came with 4 seconds remaining in the first half as Chicago DB/KR Kelvin Rodgers raced from his own goal line into the Rush locker room for a 50-yard kickoff return touchdown to put the Rush up 34-28 at half. His forced fumble on WR Nate Forse (recovered by LB Kelvin Morris) early in the third quarter spawned another Reggie Gray touchdown (10 receptions, 104 yards, 5 TD) for the largest lead of the night.
"Our chemistry is second to none," Gray said of his relationship with Michna. "I feel very fortunate to play this game and catch passes from Russ (Michna)."
Despite the Rush opening up a 13-point third quarter lead, the Predators wouldn't fold. Orlando wide receivers Nate Forse, T.T. Toliver and Dwayne Eley, Jr. all caught at least one touchdown, while the Predator defense forced Chicago to grind out every scoring drive.
"(Orlando's) front three were on us all night. We had no idea what kind of defense they would throw at us. I feel that we're very lucky to get these guys early in the season," said Rush head coach Bob McMillen.
In spite of some long touchdown passes given up by the Rush secondary, the defense front five was relentless all night long, forcing Predator quarterback Collin Drafts to alter his throwing lane and move around in the pocket to complete passes.
Defensive tackle Derek Walker (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception) helped turn the initial momentum tide with his first-quarter interception that led to the first Chicago score.
"Practicing against our offense helps this defense a lot. Our defensive line has a lot of talent and tonight we were able to constantly pressure (Drafts)," said Walker.