Finally, some kind of actual recap about the Pittsburgh Passion. This weekend gave us their regular-season finale against the New York Sharks, which inspired the above Youtube video. I know…it’s like Passion overload for one week!
So I’m dropping the mic and letting my buddy smarchit take over. His wife used to play for the Passion, and he has incredible details on a game that has gotten no real attention. It’s actually quite thrilling, complete with a late-game comeback.
Following the Penguins’ awesome Cup clinching victory Friday night, team members of the city’s next championship hopeful didn’t have much time to celebrate.The 6-1 Pittsburgh Passion boarded a bus at 4:30 AM Saturday morning for their regular season finale, a 3:30 PM affair in Brooklyn against the dangerous 4-2 New York Sharks. Certainly not a pushover, but a team that the Passion should’ve been able to beat, especially with them needing a win to clinch the lone Eastern Conference wildcard berth.
Call it “bus-lag”, perhaps a bit of overconfidence, or maybe even a Penguins hangover, but the Passion came out struggling in the first half, failing to convert on their first five 3rd down conversion attempts.By the time the 2nd quarter horn sounded, the Passion found themselves on the wrong end of a 13-0 deficit in a must win game. The second half started no better, as the Passion fumbled away their opening possession, setting up NY with a short field for their 3rd td, which pushed the lead to 19-0.
Pittsburgh finally started to come to life midway through the 3rd quarter, as FB/K Lauren Bracco broke the scoring drought with a bruising 3 yd td run and also tacked on the PAT. On the following NY possession, the Sharks fumbled on their second play, and the Passion offense looked to be right back in business.But they immediately turned it over on downs, and with 2 minutes to go in the 3rd qtr, still trailed 19-7. The Passion defense responded with a 3 and out of their own, as the 3rd quarter clock ran out.The Sharks punted to start the 4th, but had it partially blocked, giving Pittsburgh great field position at their own 31 yard line. This time, they capitalized, as Bracco capped off the drive with a 2 yard dive and XP to cut the lead to 19-14 with 10:50 to go in regulation.
Bracco then executed a perfect 10.5 yard onside kick, which was recovered by Passion DB Michelle Brevard-Wilkerson. After a questionable call by the referees that mistakenly allowed Wilkerson to advance the onside kick, they started out at the 25. On the first play, TE Autumn Dillaman caught a 20 yard pass to the 5.Then in classic recent Pittsburgh sports style, the momentum and collective hearts of the Passion fans nearly stopped as QB Lisa Horton fumbled the snap, but was luckily able to dive into the line to recover it. RB Amanda Haeg got the ball down inside the 1 yd line, and on 3rd down, Horton redeemed herself with a TD plunge. The 2 pt conversion attempt failed, but the Passion had fought back from an unthinkable deficit to take a 20-19 lead with 7:00 to go in the game.
Despite the huge momentum swing, the Sharks refused to say die. QB Karen Mulligan put together an impressive drive, hitting WR Jen Blum for the go ahead TD with 3:34 to go. Mulligan connected once more with Mandy Oppel, who fell down, but got just enough progress for the 2 point conversion, putting the Sharks back on top 27-20.
At the 2 minute warning, the Passion were faced with a 4th down situation.Horton bootlegged around right end and out of bounds for a huge season prolonging first down at the 42.1:52 left. 11 yd pass to Wil Walton.Another first down at the 31.Clock continues to roll. Incomplete pass. 1:37 left. 7 yd pass to Walton, but she can’t get out of bounds. Final Passion timeout at 1:19, ball at the 23 yd line.3rd down play, Lori Johnson drops a would be first down pass, and the season comes down to one play yet again.4th and 3, Horton looks to pass, and finally scrambles, breaks a potential game ending tackle, and gets ahead and out of bounds for another huge first down near the 12.1:00 left.Next play, the Sharks drop a would be interception in the end zone.More near heart attacks, but still clinging to life.0:53.4 left.2nd down.Pass complete to near the 3 yard line.Can’t get out of bounds. Tick tick tick…..less than 40 seconds….approaching 30 seconds….HORTON KEEPER UP THE MIDDLE…TOUCHDOWN PASSION!!! Down 1, Pittsburgh elects to play for the tie.Looks to be a given, but it’s a bad snap!Holder Sherry Kring goes clutch though, reaching for the snap, and getting it down for Bracco to punch through the uprights. 27 all!!
Sharks take over with 14 seconds to go from their own 25.Two deep attempts fall incomplete, followed by a harmless 25 yard completion to end regulation and send us to overtime.
NCAA OT rules….both teams get chances from the 25.Sharks got the ball first in the overtime period.2 more incomplete passes put the Sharks in a 3rd down situation.On 3rd down, Mulligan appeared to be sacked, but fought off the pressure to complete a go ahead TD pass to Chante Bonds who got behind a handful of Passion defenders in the endzone.Prior to the extra point attempt, Pittsburgh calls a timeout.Icing the kicker! It worked, as Laura Pringle missed the XP to keep the lead at 6 points.33-27 New York.
The Passion needed an answer, or this break would be meaningless.
1st down, pass tipped incomplete. 2nd down, Jen Hoffman takes a counter for 4 yards. 3rd and 6. Pass off the hands and incomplete. 4th and game from the 21 yard line. Horton passes to the endzone, and finds TE Autumn Dillaman for the tying score.So it all came down to the leg of Lauren Bracco, and she didn’t disappoint, nailing her fourth XP of the game to seal the deal on a HUGE Passion come from behind win.WOW!! WHAT AN INSTANT CLASSIC IN THE MIDST OF A HUGE PITTSBURGH SPORTS WEEKEND!!
With the win, the Passion move to 7-1, and have punched their playoff tickets. They will travel to DC, the site of their only loss of the season for a first round playoff game on June 27th against the 8-0 DC Divas