Perhaps fans of the Atlanta Legends won’t have to spend their next outing at Georgia State Stadium chanting, “We want Murray.”
It looks like they’ve finally got him.
Aaron Murray, the former University of Georgia star who had previously thrown only seven passes in the Alliance of American Football, led the Legends (1-3) to a 14-11 victory over Arizona (2-2) on Sunday in Tempe, Arizona.
Murray hit 20 of 33 passes for 254 yards and rushed for a team-high 54 yards in a game that saw him supplant Matt Simms as the Atlanta starter after Simms exited with an injury.
“It felt good to get hit again and good to get out there,” said Murray, who connected with nine different receivers in the game. “The team played tremendous … I’ve got to give the offensive line a big shout out. Those guys just dominated and that’s something that we’ve really pressed upon them this week. You have to prepare every single week, you never know what can happen in a game.
“I got a little bit more reps this week in practice, but also had to be ready on the mental side of the game.”
The performance marked the first time in six seasons Murray – who was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft – had gotten the majority of snaps in a contest.
“It’s my first time playing a full game,” he said. “I hadn’t played a full game since 2013, so the conditioning was interesting. I have to get back out there and get my legs right in practice this week. It was fun, though. I feel like there’s a lot more to learn and develop.”
ORLANDO STANDS ALONE
With the Alliance reaching the midway point of its regular season this coming weekend, the Orlando Apollos (4-0) are now the only team in the league with an unblemished record.
Steve Spurrier’s squad took a road trip to Utah last Saturday and defeated the Salt Lake Stallions (1-3) in a winter wonderland, 20-11.
“I told our team before the game if our Florida boys could come up here and win one in the snow, we’d have something to talk about,” Spurrier said. “It was a fun one. It was a good game. The Stallions outplayed us a good portion, but I’m proud of the whole team and happy to get out of here with a win.”
Orlando is now a game ahead of Birmingham in the Eastern Conference standings with a showdown against the Iron set for this Saturday in Birmingham.
HOMECOMING FOR RILEY
San Antonio coach Mike Riley played at the University of Alabama, with his last appearance as a Crimson Tide player coming in the 1974 Alabama-Auburn game at Legion Field.
And as a head coach, he is now 1-2 at the “Gray Lady.”
Riley led the fortunes of the San Antonio Riders of the World League of American Football in 1991 and 1992, and his team lost to the Birmingham Fire 16-12 in 1991 and 17-10 in 1992 during their two appearances in Birmingham.
On Sunday his San Antonio Commanders (2-2) knocked the Birmingham Fire (3-1) from the unbeaten ranks with a 12-11 victory.
“The one thing about it for me personally at this part of my career, to get to coach in this league and then being able to return here for Birmingham to have a team that we get to play and there are so many family, friends, teammates, classmates, all that is just a very special part of my life,” Riley said. “My wife is from Birmingham, too, so it all worked out so I’m proud to be back here.”
The win puts San Antonio in a three-way tie for first place in the Western Conference with Arizona and San Diego.
Riley, who has been a college head coach at Oregon State (twice) and Nebraska, was offered the Alabama job in 2002 but turned it down because he was also mulling an offer from UCLA and didn’t want to rush a decision.
MEMPHIS GETS A ‘W’
The Express (1-3) began the weekend as one of only two Alliance teams without a win but rectified that situation with a 26-23, come-from-behind victory over San Diego (2-2) in easily the most exciting game of Week 4.
Trailing 23-15 early in the fourth quarter, a 6-yard scoring toss from Zach Mettenberger to Terrence Magee, along with a Mettenberger conversion, tied things up 6:01 from the finish.
With 1:42 remaining, Austin MacGinnis kicked a 45-yard field goal for the final points of the game.
“Our guys fought hard and did things they needed to do to win the game,” Memphis Coach Mike Singletary said. “I’m just really excited about how the defense stayed together and kept it together and found a way to make plays.”
Mettenberger, who won the starting job from Christian Hackenberg earlier in the season, hit 18 of 25 passes for 174 yards and a TD.
It was nothing flashy, but it got the job done.
“It was a tough fight out there but a great team victory,” Mettenberger said. “We have a really tough ‘D’ and they play well together. We have to move the ball better to help them out. We’re asking too much of them right now. But ultimately we got the win, and that’s all that matters.”
As for San Diego, the Fleet lost more than the game. Starting quarterback Philip Nelson fractured his collarbone and will be out four to six weeks.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offense: Kenneth Farrow, San Antonio. Rushed for 142 yards on 30 carries in win over Birmingham.
Defense: Drew Jackson, Memphis. Had 14 tackles, one sack, four tackles for loss and intercepted a pass in win over San Diego.
Special Teams: Austin MacGinnis, Memphis. Kicked four field goals including the game-winner from 45 yards out against San Diego.
FANS STAYED HOME ON SUNDAY
March 3 will not be remembered as a banner day for Alliance attendance.
In Birmingham, the 6,539 who paid to see the Iron lose to San Antonio marked the lowest attendance so far in league history. Later that night in Tempe, Arizona, only 8,865 saw Atlanta beat Arizona.
That’s the second smallest crowd to watch an Alliance game in its inaugural year.
Birmingham is the only team to have three home games, and now averages 13,632 fans per outing at Legion Field.
San Antonio remains the top draw, with 57,033 fans in two games at the Alamodome for a 28,517 average.
Saturday: Orlando at Birmingham, 2 p.m. EST, TNT; Salt Lake at San Diego, 8 p.m. EST, NFL Network.
Sunday: Memphis at Atlanta, 4 p.m. EST, CBS Sports Network; San Antonio at Arizona, 8 p.m. EST, NFL Network.
Email Scott Adamson at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamsonsl