DALLAS - Matt D'Orazio's near-perfect effort off the bench is likely to be the one everyone remembers from the Soul's 71-64 win over the Dallas Desperados last night in the Arena Football League.
Two Clifton Smith plays in the fourth quarter were almost as important as the Soul moved into a tie with Dallas for first place in the Eastern Conference in front of an American Airlines crowd of 11,943.
Both teams are 11-3. But because they swept the season series with Dallas, the Soul have the tiebreaker advantage.
After quarterback Tony Graziani went down with a second-quarter concussion, D'Orazio led the Soul to touchdowns on every possession he was in the game. He finished 19 of 23 - three of those passes were dropped - for 183 yards and five touchdowns.
"I'm the backup quarterback - that's my role," D'Orazio said. "We played hard in a tough place to play and got a total team effort tonight."
Give credit to Smith for the following:
On a fourth-and-1 play, he lined up at quarterback and bulled his way in for a touchdown that gave the Soul a 63-57 lead with 5 minutes, 25 seconds remaining.
"That probably wasn't the right thing to do, but trying doing the right thing before has come back to bite me," Soul coach Bret Munsey said. "We gambled a little bit, and it paid off."
When the Soul took the last lead at 71-64 on D'Orazio's 9-yarder to Chris Jackson and two-point conversion with 55 seconds to play, Smith recovered a Dallas fumble on the ensuing kickoff that gave the visitors the opportunity to run out the clock.
Jackson also had a phenomenal night, matching his franchise best with six touchdowns in a 10-catch, 182-yard performance.
"It doesn't matter who's quarterback," Jackson said. "We have to go out and play regardless who's lining up behind center."
Graziani, who had suffered a sprained ligament in his left knee on a late hit by New York's John Nixx in Week 3, had a strong performance in his first action since May 2.
He completed 8 of 12 passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns to Jackson. The lone mistake was a desperation heave that Dallas' Bobby Perry returned 19 yards for a 14-7 Desperados lead in the first quarter.
Graziani suffered the concussion when Duke Pettijohn hit him midway through the second quarter. D'Orazio entered and promptly connected with Jackson to give the Soul a 28-27 lead.
"We're in a lucky, lucky situation . . . to be able to go from Tony to bringing in the league's highest-rated quarterback," Munsey said. "We're fortunate Matt was able to come in and win this game for us."
Dallas' Clint Dolezel was 21 of 28 for 277 yards with four touchdowns.
The touchdowns were being scored so easily and so often that both teams resorted to onside kicks in the second quarter to retain control of the game.
Dallas went 0 for 2, but the Soul's one success after D'Orazio's 6-yard run gave the visitors a 35-33 lead and helped the Soul take their biggest lead of the half.