VIRGINIA BEACH — — Evidently, all the Virginia Destroyers needed was a little time.
Nine days after a disappointing performance in their season opener, the defending United Football League champions snapped back into title-winning form in their home debut and held off Sacramento 37-29 on Friday night before 5,316 at the Sportsplex.
The game marked the Destroyers' first appearance at Sportsplex since Oct. 21, 2011, when the team capped their abbreviated debut season with a 17-3 triumph over Las Vegas in the UFL championship game. An announced standing room-only crowd of 14,172 took in the proceedings, nearly three times Friday night's turnout after an offseason filled with uncertainty regarding the status of the four-year-old league.
Once play commenced Friday, though, the players did their part in winning their fans back. Virginia quarterback Chris Greisen quickly went to work picking apart the Mountain Lions' secondary and tossed two touchdown passes in the first half as the Destroyers (1-1) rolled to a 24-7 lead at halftime.
The offensive barrage stood in stark contrast to the tepid performance the Destroyers turned in Sept. 26, when they christened the 2012 season with a 19-6 loss at Las Vegas after a hastily assembled training camp and just five days of practice.
Virginia's defense also got into the act in Friday's first half, producing two turnovers that yielded Destroyers scores. Late in the first quarter, Detroyers linebacker Tony Taylor stripped running back Tyrell Sutton at the Sacramento 10 yard line, then pounced on the loose ball in the end zone to give Virginia a 10-0 lead.
On the second play of the second quarter, defensive back Aaron Rouse pried the ball free of Sacremento's Mike Ball on a screen pass and Savion Frazier recovered at the Mountain Lions' 15. From there, Greisen needed just one play to find Calvin Russell in the back of the end zone to boost Virginia's advantage to 17.
With less than a minute remaining in the half, Greisen fired a 3-yard TD pass to Ben Patrick to make it 24-7.
The Mountain Lions (0-2) were hampered by the absence of starting quarterback Josh Johnson, who suffered an injury last week and didn't make the trip. Destroyers defenders teed off on Sacramento backup Jerrod Johnson (no relation), pelting him repeatedly in the pocket and limiting him to minus-2 yards passing in the first half.
Greisen tossed another 3-yard TD pass, this time to Huey Whittaker, with 2:58 left in the third quarter to make it 31-7.
The Mountain Lions refused to go away quietly, as Teddy Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a score, and Johnson threw a 3-yard TD pass midway through the fourth quarter to pull Sacramento to within 13. The Destroyers promptly chewed up more than seven minutes before tacking on a Kenny Spencer field goal with just over two minutes remaining that seemingly salted the game away.
Sacramento kept firing, though, and got a one-yard TD pass from Johnson to Demetrius Williams and a two-point conversion with five seconds left to pull to within eight. Things got even more interesting when the Mountain Lions recovered the ensuing onside kick. But Sacramento was whistled for being offsides, and the Destroyers collected the re-kick to finally close things out.
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