NEW ORLEANS, LA – Quarterback Bernard Morris accounted for seven total touchdowns without a turnover in his return to the starting lineup, and the Jacksonville Sharks’ defense racked up a total of seven sacks as the Sharks finished off its regular-season road slate with a 58-49 victory over the New Orleans VooDoo at the Superdome on Saturday night.
As of the end of Saturday's game, the Sharks remained the No. 2 seed in the American Conference, pending the result of the Philadelphia Soul's late game against the San Jose SaberCats.
After Marco Capozzoli ended the third quarter with a 24-yard field goal, Jacksonville (11-6) headed into the game’s final 15 minutes with a 45-35 advantage. New Orleans (5-12) responded with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Chris Dixon to L.J. Castile before the Sharks went right back down the field. On first and goal from the three, Morris faked a handoff to Matt Marcorelle, sprinted to the right and scored his first rushing touchdown of the night to put the Sharks ahead, 52-42.
On the next VooDoo drive, Jacksonville backed New Orleans into a fourth-and-10 thanks to Jerry Turner’s third sack of the night and a disciplined tackle by Jamaal Fudge. But on that play, Dixon stepped up in the pocket and hit an open Castile for a 38-yard score to pull the VooDoo within one score, 52-49.
The Sharks received the ensuing kickoff with just over three minutes left in the game, and Morris moved the ball deep into New Orleans territory with a 16-yard pass to Jeron Harvey and a 14-yard scramble. Then, Jacksonville completed back-to-back passes to quarterback-turned-receiver Kyle Rowley, forcing the VooDoo to call a pair of timeouts. On fourth and goal from the one, Morris took it in himself for the game’s final score. The Shark defense returned to the field in the final minute, as Micheaux Robinson intercepted Dixon’s last-second heave to seal the Jacksonville victory.
Despite facing an unorthodox VooDoo offense, in which Dixon often lined up in a shotgun set, the Jacksonville defensive line was a constant force in New Orleans’ backfield. The Sharks matched a season high and franchise record with seven quarterback sacks, and in the process established a new all-time AFL record for team sacks in a single season. Jacksonville now has 45 sacks in 2013, three clear of the previous record that had been set by the San Jose SaberCats in 2012.
Turner led the charge with three of Jacksonville’s sacks, and in the process tied Scooter Berry’s single-season franchise record of 13. Derrick Summers broke through with two sacks of his own, while Fudge and Matt Marcorelle each picked up one.
Saturday’s game also put the Sharks’ depth to the limit, as London Crawford and Aaron Robbins left the game with first-quarter injuries and did not return. Receiver Jeff Hughley did not play on offense in the second half, though he was able to continue serving in his role as holder. Ultimately, several of the Sharks’ veteran players stepped up in new positions, as Rowley and Bill Alford saw significant action at receiver while Harvey played most of the fourth quarter at Jack linebacker.
Jacksonville’s defense turned up the intensity in the game’s early stages, as two turnovers on downs allowed the Sharks to open up a 35-14 lead midway through the second quarter. But the VooDoo battled back with back-to-back scores before halftime, making the score 35-28 at the break. The teams alternated scores in the third quarter, as Morris delivered a 23-yard strike to Harvey on a fourth-down play before Dixon connected with Donovan Morgan for a New Orleans touchdown. That set up Capozzoli’s field goal that led into the fourth quarter.
Playing for the first time since Week 12, Morris was confident and versatile in his return to the lineup, completing 23 of his 36 pass attempts for 250 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Morris also totaled 31 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, breaking his own franchise record for most rushing yards in a single season. Morris now has 301 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
At receiver, Harvey led the charge with nine receptions for 115 yards and three touchdowns, extending his franchise record total to 148 receptions in the process. Markee White caught six passes for 83 yards and two scores, including a 48-yard bomb in the first quarter. Rowley totaled three catches for 16 yards in his pinch-hit role, while Alford, Crawford and Hughley caught one pass apiece.
Fudge led the Shark defense with 7.5 total tackles (seven solo), while Tracy Belton chipped in with four solo stops of his own. In addition to the defensive line’s impressive effort, Belton and Micheaux Robinson each recorded a pass breakup.
For the VooDoo, Dixon went 18-of-30 for 262 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. Morgan led New Orleans with six catches for 112 yards and three scores, while Castile scored twice and both Courtney Smith and Quorey Payne found the end zone once. Cameron McGlenn and Chris Brown led the VooDoo with 7.5 tackles each, while Marlon Favorite notched New Orleans’ only sack.
The Sharks return home to face the Tampa Bay Storm in the regular-season finale on Saturday, July 27. Kickoff on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 7:00 p.m. Tickets to this game and Sharks playoff games may be purchased by calling the Sharks Ticket Office at (904) 621-0700.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – Jacksonville WR Jeron Harvey
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – Jacksonville DL Jerry Turner
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – New Orleans WR Donovan Morgan
Cutters Catch of the Game – Jacksonville WR Jeron Harvey’s 22-yard fourth-down touchdown catch with 10:22 left in the third quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game – Jacksonville WR Markee White’s 48-yard touchdown catch with 8:28 left in the first quarter
About the Jacksonville Sharks
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and four-time South Division Champions are presented by Sea Best Seafood and play all home games on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Season Tickets for the 2014 season are now on sale, two tickets as low as $185. To reserve your season tickets, or for more information, please call (904) 621-0700. Follow the Sharks on facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.
About the AFL
Since its inception in 1987, the Arena Football League has showcased its fast-paced and exciting game to millions of fans in a myriad of markets across the country. CBS Sports Network will broadcast an AFL National Game of the Week on Saturday nights for the entire regular season and postseason through the semifinal round. The ArenaBowl XXVI Championship Game will air on the CBS Television Network on August 17, 2013.