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Orlando Apollos roll in Alliance Spring opener Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders



Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

The start of a brand new spring professional football league got underway Saturday night with one of its first games in league history being played in Orlando. And, Steve Spurrier’s club did not disappoint in a blowout win 40-6 over Atlanta

Spurrier, who once coached the U.S.F.L.’s Tampa Bay Bandits in the early 1980s, made his return to the sidelines after a four-year absence from coaching. And, his Orlando Apollos did not disappoint.

Former University of Texas and SMU college quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who’s primarily been a practice squad player on and off of NFL rosters, made Orlando’s debut an easy one. Gilbert threw for two touchdowns and caught another on a trick play, as the Apollos built a 22 – 6 lead over the Legends and never looked back.

Gilbert fired a 2nd quarter touchdown to receiver Jalin Marshall that made AAF history as the first regular-season six point score ever. And, another interesting footnote is that the play was originally ruled incomplete, as Marshall went to the ground and did not appear to hang on to the ball long enough for it to be considered a catch.

However, upon replay review, the call was overturned and Orlando led 8-3 after a two-point conversion. The AAF doesn’t allow extra point kicks/you must always go for two points.

The Apollos capitalized on an interception of Atlanta quarterback Matt Simms and former Dolphins backup running back DeVeon Smith took it in and with another two pointer it was 16-3.

That set the stage for the “Head Ball Coach” pulling out a trick play right out of the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win over the Patriots. Running a similar double reverse to the “Philly Special,” the Apollos threw back to Gilbert for a touchdown catch which stretched the lead to the half-time work of 22 – 6:

Gilbert added a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to former USF running back D’Ernest Johnson and the issue was basically decided.

CBS TV televised the game regionally in Southern markets. The rest of the country saw the broadcast of San Antonio hosting San Diego in their debuts. San Antonio won that game 15-6. The league’s other four teams will play Sunday.

Back to Orlando. It was an overall impressive and dominant performance for the 74 year-old Spurrier’s team, as they were clearly more talented and better coached than their Atlanta counterparts on night one.

Spurrier, who won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Florida in 1966 and later led the Gators to their first-ever National Championship as coach in 1996, is no stranger to Spring leagues, himself.

Spurrier was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits during the three years of the USFL from 1983 – 85, leading one of the more successful franchises in league history. That included, him winning his opening game in that ’83 season over the Boston Breakers.

All eight teams in the inaugural season of the AAF are in action on Saturday or Sunday, and the Apollos will play at San Antonio next Sunday night February 17th.

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