AAF Week 2 scores, highlights: Hotshots battle back to top Express, Iron beat Stallions in defensive battle
Here's everything you need to keep up with all the action from Saturday's games
More football? More football. Week 2 of the AAF got underway Saturday with an afternoon game between the Salt Lake City Stallions and Birmingham Iron. That was followed up by a night game with the Arizona Hotshots and Memphis Express.
While both games got off to slow starts, they had tremendous finishes. Arizona and Birmingham, both favorites coming into the day, got behind early due to critical turnovers. However, they both rallied in the second half and came away with tougher-than-expected, but huge wins all the same.
Were Saturday's thrilling endings an omen for Sunday favorites like Orlando and San Diego? We'll find out soon enough.
CBS Sports was dedicated to being your one-stop shop for all things AAF. Below you'll find everything you need to catch up on Saturday's games, from helpful links to key updates and highlights from throughout the day.
Birmingham Iron 12, Salt Lake City Stallions 9
Arizona Hotshots 20, Memphis Express 18
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Late rally puts Arizona on top to go 2-0
It wasn't as easy as Vegas oddsmakers made it seem, but the Hotshots got a gritty road win over the Express 20-18 thanks to a 14-0 run fourth-quarter run. Arizona initially overcame its slow start by pulling to within 12-6, but then gave up a quick touchdown to Memphis to fall behind 18-6. But then, just as they did in Week 1, the Hotshots got going thanks to a long touchdown run from Justin Stockton.
That was soon followed by a huge individual effort on a catch and run by Hotshots receiver Josh Huff, who set up a quick touchdown strike from John Wolford to running back Tim Cook. Arizona's offense didn't resemble its Week 1 self until the final quarter or so in the game, but better late than never.
Hotshots finally get on the board, but Memphis responds
Arizona found moving the ball difficult in the early going. Credit to Memphis' defense, which came up with two big fourth-down stops, but turning the ball over a bunch (see below) is one way to play bad football. But towards the end of the third quarter, the Hotshots finally got a sustained drive going that resulted a much-needed touchdown pass from John Wolford to Rashad Ross to pull to within a possession.
However, Memphis responded immediately with its own 75-yard scoring drive, kick-started by Zac Stay's 50-yard run -- Stacy became the first AAF running back to eclipse 100 yards in a game -- and finished off by Christian Hackenberg's touchdown. With Arizona creeping back into the game, this was a clutch response.
Four turnovers helped Memphis build lead
Based on the Week 1 results, it was not the start many should have expected between Arizona and Memphis. A pair of first-quarter turnovers by the Hotshots led to nine points for the Express -- their first of the season. First, Memphis got great starting field position when Hotshots wide receiver Josh Huff fumbled the ball after getting leveled on a hit over the middle of the field. That led to an Express field goal.
Then, a John Wolford interception set Memphis up to score its first touchdown of the season thanks to a Zac Stacy run. A second Wolford interception in the second quarter led to another Express field goal and the Hotshots were not able to convert a fourth-down attempt on their own side of the 50, which for all intents and purposes worked out as a fourth turnover.
Trent Richardson put Iron ahead for good with late TD
Once again, it was not a huge statistical day for Iron running back Trent Richardson. But just as he did in Week 1 vs. Memphis, he seemed to get stronger as the game went along.
Richardson powered in for a late touchdown to give the Iron a 12-9 lead with just under five minutes remaining. The running back had been hampered by a hamstring injury, so it's honestly amazing he was as effective as he was on Saturday, showing the ability to move the pile, but also catch the ball out of backfield.
Following the touchdown, the Stallions did have one more opportunity to tie the game with a 48-yard field goal, but kicker Taylor Bertolet pulled the attempt wide line to finish 1 for 4 on the day with another potential attempt aborted due to a bad snap. Throw in the muffed punt that Birmingham turned into their first points of the day (more on that below), and it was truly a game to forget for Salt Lake's special teams unit.
Another muffed punt gets Birmingham on the board
And now two muffed punts have led to touchdowns, though the latest from Stallions return man De'Mornay Pierson-El will certainly be more controversial. Pierson-El had the ball stripped out in the third quarter during a punt from the Iron, which was recovered for a touchdown. However, Salt Lake challenged the call.
Instant replay took multiple looks to see whether Pierson-El's knee was down before the ball came out. Ultimately, though, the replay official was not able to find enough evidence to overturn the call on the field. Salt Lake fans won't be happy with the decision, but it was a big moment for the Iron in getting back into this game.
Muffed punt helps Salt Lake City to lead over Birmingham
Despite controlling the game for most of the first half, the Iron finds itself down 9-0 at the half thanks in part to a muffed punt return by Quan Bray that gave the Stallions good field position at the Birmingham 27-yard line. Four plays later, Joe Bouagnon rumbled in for the go-ahead score.
The halftime score is a bit of a surprise considering that the Stallions are starting backup quarterback Austin Allen, who has understandably been shaky throughout most of the first 30 minutes. However, running back Branden Oliver has been a workhorse with 40 yards on the ground and some catches out of the backfield. He's put the offense on his back.
Birmingham hasn't capitalized on its offensive possessions and had a rough ending to the second quarter. Following the Salt Lake City touchdown, the Iron were unable to convert a fake punt in their own territory, which led to the late Stallions field goal. The Iron like to play grind-it-out, possession football, but that doesn't necessarily lend itself well to playing from behind -- even if Salt Lake has problems of its own.
Richardson active, Woodrum designated third QB
One week into the season and the injury reports are already filling out. The biggest name featured this week is Iron running back Trent Richardson, who has been slowed by a right hamstring injury. He's active for Saturday, but has been limited this week in practice, and didn't participate at all on Thursday. Richardson rushed for a pair of touchdowns in last week's 26-0 win over the Express.
Another key name mentioned in this week's injury reports was Salt Lake City quarterback Josh Woodrum, who also has a hamstring injury he sustained in the first half of last Sunday's loss to Arizona. He's listed as the third quarterback against the Iron, so don't expect to see him this week. He did not participate in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and was limited on Friday. Austin Allen was announced as the starting quarterback for the Stallions just before kickoff.
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