New York Sharks Gameday (05/31/08): New York 21 @ Pittsburgh 28
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Game Day

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 31, 2008
Despite only losing one game all season, the New York Sharks (4-2) were behind the 8-ball as they faced the Pittsburgh Passion (6-0). New York was in second place behind Pittsburgh but a loss against them tonight would basically kill the Sharks' chances to making it in the playoffs.

This would probably be the toughest game of the year for New York as they were facing an undefeated team and a former national champion. Plus the game was on the road. The Sharks did not make it to Pittsburgh until 2am, after a 6 hour bus ride in the rain from the Big Apple. There were tornado warnings in the Pittsburgh area until 11am on gameday.

For the first time all season, the Sharks won the coin toss and elected to receive. After a nice return by Lauren Pringle, New York started their opening drive from their own 48-yard line. Going to the ground game, the Sharks pounded away at the Pittsburgh defensive line and moved the ball down to the Passion 24-yard line. The Sharks then tried to mix it up by going to the air but that did not work as quarterback Karen Mulligan had an incomplete pass and then was intercepted by linebacker Lori Burkholder at the Pittsburgh 20-yard line. She then returned the ball 7-yards.

Turnovers hurt the Sharks in last week's loss to the Boston Militia and this did not bode well. But the defense was up to the task and stopped the high scoring Passion in 3 and out. A short punt gave New York excellent field position at the Pittsburgh 38-yard line. Again the Sharks were able to move the ball on the ground to the home team's 18-yard line. But again going to the air, Mulligan was intercepted.

Two turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game was compounded when the Sharks were hit with a facemask penalty on the Passion's first play of the drive. With these miscues, Pittsburgh took advantage and was able to march down the field. It started off with a nifty 17-yard pass play from quarterback Lisa Horton to tight-end Sherry Kring. Then Torina Henley rumbled for another big gain of 26 yards. Continuing on the ground, the Passion went all the way down to the New York 5-yard line when Horton went to the air again and found Lori Johnson in the endzone for the score. Lauren Bracco kicked the extra point and Pittsburgh took the early lead, 7-0 with 2:31 left in the first quarter.

For most of the first half, both teams were not able to generate much offense as the defensives were able to shut the other team down. It looked like the Sharks would be going into the locker room at halftime behind 7-0 as they got the ball on their own 34-yard line with only 1:24 left to go in the half. But things started to turn as Mulligan connected with Adrienne Smith for a short 8-yard gain. That was only the second completion for Mulligan in the first half after 11 tries. Another 15 yards were tacked on to the play as the Passion were hit with a face mask penalty. This gave the Sharks the ball on the Pittsburgh 39-yard line with less than a minute left to go in the half.

The completion seemed to bring confidence back to Mulligan as she then completed 3 passes in a row to Smith, Brooke McKinney, and then an 11-yard strike to Pringle for a touchdown. Megan Antonucci successfully converted the extra point and the Sharks were back in the game. Mulligan was able to march down the field executing the 2-minute drill to tie the score just before the half ended.

The Passion got the ball to start the second half and after a nice return they started their first drive of the second half from mid-field. Going to the ground, Pittsburgh was able to get the endzone in 11 plays. Most of the runs were by Henley, but the scoring play was a 2-yard run by Laurie Roberts. Bracco kicked the extra point and Pittsburgh was back on top, 14-7 with 7:23 left to go in the third quarter.

Pittsburgh's drive took up almost half of the third quarter, but the Sharks came back with their own methodical drive. The Sharks went back to a power running attack, led by running back Anabel Rodriguez and Mulligan. Play after play, Rodriguez pounded away up the middle to pick up gains of 5, 4, and 3 yards at a time. It was a slow process, but she was able to keep moving the first down markers ahead. To change the pace, Mulligan would fake the handoff to Rodriguez and then keep the ball herself. That worked well a few times, including one for a 35-yard gain. At the 8-minute mark of the drive, Mulligan ran the ball in herself from the 2-yard line to tie the game for the visitors. By this time it was now the fourth quarter.

The Passion had not been tied this late in a game all season, but they soon were able to take the lead back. The Sharks special teams unit again had trouble containing Pittsburgh on the kick-off return as Janice Nissel returned the ball 30 yards to the New York 46-yard line. Horton then led her team to paydirt as she connected with Wilma Walton for a 29-yard pas completion and then using her own legs, ran the ball in from the 2-yard line to put the Passion up by a touchdown with 9:02 left to go in the game.

The Sharks special teams play hurt the team again on the ensuing kick-off. The ball appeared to bounce towards the sidelines, as the kick returner waited to see if the ball would go out of bounds, the Passion defenders came racing down, forcing the ball to be picked up at the New York 12-yard line. Deep in their own territory, the Sharks were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt after only 3 plays. This gave the Passion great field position to start their next drive.

With only 33 yards to go to score, Pittsburgh ran it in on four running plays. Roberts gaining most of the yardage with a pair of 13 yard runs, the last one ending in the endzone. Bracco made the extra point and the Sharks were reeling, being down by 2 touchdowns and only 4 minutes left to go in the game.

With their backs to the wall, New York did not give up and had a furious finish. Starting from good field position at their own 46-yard line, the Sharks were aided by a personal foul against Pittsburgh. That moved the ball to the Passion 39-yard line. After suffering a sack, Mulligan connected with Lisa Doran for 13 yards and then with McKinney for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Antonucci converted the extra point and the Sharks were down by one touchdown with 2:25 left in the game.

The Sharks went for the on-side kick but could not recover the ball. It was now up to the defense to hold Pittsburgh and give the offense one last try to tie the game. The Passion played it conservatively, trying to run the clock down. They ran 3 running plays and New York stopped them for a loss of 1 yard for the drive.

After a short punt, the Sharks started their final drive from their own 33-yard line with only 43 seconds left. Pittsburgh went into the prevent defense and this allowed Mulligan time to find her receivers. She connected with Smith twice for gains of 16 and 12 yards. But the clock was not on the side of New York and time expired after a completion to Pringle at the Pittsburgh 37-yard line.

Next week the Sharks will play their final home game of the regular season at the Aviator Sports Complex as they host the D. C. Divas. The Sharks need a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. They are one game behind the Detroit Demolition for the wild card spot. Kick off time is 3:30pm (EDT). If you can't make it to the game, you can still follow all of the hard hitting football as Pat Brown and Dave Maxwell will describe all of the action live to you on the official flagship station for New York Sharks Football, www.blogtalkradio.com/wfnradio - the Women's Football Network.

1234Final
New York Sharks0701421
Pittsburgh Passion7071428

Scoring Summary
First Quarter
PI - (02:35) Johnson 5 yard pass from Horton (Bracco kick)

Second Quarter
NY - (00:07) Pringle 11 yard pass from Mulligan (Antonucci kick)

Third Quarter
PI - (07:23) Roberts 2 yard run (Bracco kick)

Fourth Quarter
NY - (14:44) Mulligan 1 yard run (Antonucci kick)
PI - (09:02) Horton 2 yard run (Bracco kick)
PI - (04:14) Roberts 13 yard run (Bracco kick)
NY - (02:28) McKinney 27 yard pass from Mulligan (Antonucci kick)

05/31/08
 


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Team W L T Pct.
Montreal 1 0 0 1.000
Connecticut 0 0 0 0.000
New York 0 0 0 0.000
Schenectady 0 0 0 0.000
New England 0 1 0 0.000

Date   Time   Opponent
4/19 6:00PM Connecticut
4/26 7:30PM Pittsburgh
5/03 6:00PM @Carolina
5/10 6:00PM D.C.
5/24 7:00PM @Pittsburgh
5/31 6:00PM @D.C.
6/07 6:00PM Montreal
6/14 TBD @Philadelphia
All Times Eastern

Date Opponent W/L Score

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