Like the character in the movie “Airplane” — the one who admits he picked a bad time to stop drinking, smoking and sniffing glue — the Soul picked a bad time to play its worst game of the year.
Why? Because it happened in ArenaBowl XXV, with Philadelphia falling 72-54 to the Arizona Rattlers in New Orleans, in a game that didn’t end until nearly 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
Dan Raudabaugh threw three interceptions, coupled with two missed extra points and a number of defensive and special teams breakdowns, as Doug Plank’s team found themselves in an early hole. As a result, Philadelphia’s 10-game winning streak went by the boards despite four Larry Brackins’ touchdowns. On the other hand, Arizona didn’t turn it over, not once. Quarterback Nick Davila threw for 266 yards and nine scores, seven to Maurice Purify, and earned ArenaBowl MVP.
“The last thing we want to do is lose it after having a great regular season and fighting through the playoffs,’’ said Plank, now 0-5 in ArenaBowls, having also lost three times as Arizona’s defensive coordinator and once coaching Georgia. “But we performed poorly in all three phases of the game. Getting behind as far as we did, we had to scrap our gameplan and try to make it up with onside kicks, which didn’t prove to be successful.”
Raudabaugh blamed himself.
“It’s just tough to win when your quarterback isn’t playing very well,” said Raudabaugh, who finished with 285 yards and seven touchdowns. “I didn’t play well enough for us to win.”
Down 27-13 at the half, the Soul was victimized by a Davila-to-Purify 38-yard touchdown pass to start the third quarter. From there the uphill climb was simply too steep, enabling the Rattlers to claim their third Arena Bowl in franchise history.
As for the Soul, despite dropping the big game, this was a successful season. The Soul, the 2008 champions before the AFL disbanded for a year, exceeded all expectations after a 6-12 season in 2011. But playing on the league’s biggest stage, the Soul made the kind of costly mistakes that often prove fatal in a game of such magnitude.