TAMPA — Tampa Bay’s offense might get all of the attention, but if we’re giving credit where it’s due, Jerry Glanville’s defense made quite the statement in the XFL Vipers’ 25-0 victory over the D.C. Defenders Sunday.
Glanville’s traditional defense might blitz the most in the league, but Tampa Bay hadn’t been too effective until Sunday.
The return of defensive end Obum Gwacham sparked a Vipers defense that posted two sacks and numerous quarterback pressures.
In his first XFL game, Gwacham forced a fourth-quarter punt by sacking backup quarterback Tyree Jackson on third-and-5. Gwacham had two quarterbacks and blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter. The Vipers drafted Gwacham with their first pick in the defensive front portion of the XFL draft, but he was injured during training camp and missed the first three games of the season.
Linebacker Reggie Northrup had the other sack Sunday for the Vipers, who posted only three sacks combined in their 0-3 start.
Glanville prides himself on creating defenses that torture quarterbacks. He went so far as to agree it has been his life story during the ESPN broadcast and lived up to it Sunday night. Cardale Jones was rattled all night, finishing 9-for-22 passing for 72 yards.
(The Vipers defense) played their game," Jones said. “(But) we missed opportunities that we wanted to exploit. We just missed it. They played a great game, but nothing we weren’t prepared for."
Wait, did that just happen?
Vipers quarterback Taylor Cornelius ran toward his right into the open field, looking at his passing route options with a 22-0 lead on his back. There wasn’t any pressure, externally or internally. Just throw the ball at someone wearing a green jersey.
And as Cornelius moved toward the sideline, running out of time and space, he saw Dan Williams sneak into the middle around the 15-yard line. The wide receiver jumped up to grab the ball but fumbled the catch on his way back to earth.
Enter tight end, Colin Thompson.
The 6-foot-4 Thompson hasn’t had too many opportunities this season, but he sure made one Sunday night as he caught Williams’ fumble in a diving fashion.
“The play’s designed for me to kind of come out later," Thompson explained. ”I’m like the third or fourth option, and you just kind of delay. I saw the ball going, turned and looked up the field because I’m going to make a block...and the ball popped up and I ran under it."
Thompson said he normally doesn’t make a show of getting a first down, but this time he stood up and pointed down the field toward the end zone. “The crowd was so much fun, and ... know, it’s my first catch of the year," he said. "It’s the XFL and we’re here to put on a show."
Attendance woes continue
On Sunday night, the Vipers drew in an announced 12,249 fans in its second home game of the season, 5,868 fewer fans than last weekend’s home-opener attendance.
From the press box, Raymond James Stadium’s lower bowl looked sparse with much of the back rows empty with the exception of a few fans. The corners didn’t draw much attention either.
Many factors could have played into the decrease including cooler weather, the unlikelihood of a certain USF favorite hitting the field and inconvenience of schedule. Tampa Bay’s Quinton Flowers did not participate in practice this week and on Tuesday coach Marc Trestman said he stepped away from the team for personal reasons. He was marked as the only “roster exemption” before kickoff.
The league posted an overall attendance of 81,942 in Week 3 and had dropped to 70,224 fans in Week 4, which was 11,718 fewer fans than in Week 3. The highest attendance came out of St. Louis with 27,527 fans and the lowest came out of New York with 12,116 fans.
Thoughts from Titus O’Neil
WWE star Titus O’Neil spent a good bit of time with the Tampa Bay Vipers this week leading up to Sunday’s game, including coming to the team’s home-opener and speaking to the team at a practice in Plant City late this week.
O’Neil’s said his favorite part of the XFL rule changes is the kickoff. He thinks it’s safer and exciting to see the progression.
“You really never know,” he said. “It’s cool and it’s exciting and you never know what to expect.”
O’Neil said that Tampa Bay’s three losses to start the season don’t reflect on how close the team is to success here. He added that the Vipers have good leadership under Trestman and team president Josh Bullock, who previously worked for USF and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Contact Eduardo Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard. Contact Mari Faiello at email@example.com. Follow @faiello_mari.