Vipers fall on road as last-gasp pass fails, playoff spot in doubt
From Staff Reports
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A last-second 24-yard pass by Tennessee Valley quarterback Chris Gunn fell incomplete, and the Vipers lost 44-40 to the Louisville Fire before more than 10,000 fans at Freedom Hall on Saturday night.
The Vipers finished the arenafootball2 regular season at 7-9 and given Lubbock’s 76-69 victory at Oklahoma City and Alabama’s 51-21 home win over Cincinnati on Saturday, are mired in a four-way tie for the final two playoff spots in the National Conference. The tiebreaker is strength of schedule assessment that will be determined by arenafootball2 on Monday.
The Vipers had trailed 37-28 following Danny Kight’s field goal for the Fire to open the fourth quarter. Then Gunn’s 32-yard pass to Blanchard trimmed the deficit with a little fewer than two minutes to play.
A forced fumble by Farouk Adelekan and a long recovery return by John Cousins then set up Gunn’s 7-yard pass to Brandon Isaiah. Steven Lee missed his second straight extra point but the Vipers led 40-37 with 36 seconds left in regulation.
Louisville, though, answered with a two-play, 43-yard drive that ended on Joel Steele’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Tiger Jones with 11 seconds remaining. The Vipers couldn’t convert on their final drive and finished the regular season 7-9, while the playoff-bound Fire improved to 9-7.
Gunn, a former North Alabama and Alabama A&M standout, completed 17 of 27 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He also ran for a pair of scores, while Isaiah had two touchdown catches and rushed for another.
Steele completed 21 of 35 passes for 285 yards and five touchdowns, all going to the former Louisville standout Jones.
Louisville led 27-21 at halftime following Steele’s late 1-yard sneak and Kight’s extra point, but an altercation saw a pair of Fire players and Tennessee Valley linemen John Bradley and Frisner Nelson disqualified from the game.
Gunn was intercepted on the Vipers’ first possession of the second half and the Fire capitalized on Steele’s 6-yard pass to Jones. The Vipers responded with a solid drive that ended with Gunn’s 3-yard run and Lee’s extra point made it a 34-28.
Carlos Campbell would intercept Steele on the ensuing possession but Isaiah’s fumble in the end zone thwarted the scoring chance.
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