It was time to win or lose for the Soul Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center, where they met the Milwaukee Mustangs in an Arena Football League contest that pitted teams who were trying to hold on to hopes of earning a playoff berth.
And with the last seconds ticking away, Soul wide receiver Donovan Morgan came up with a spectacular, leaping touchdown catch with zeros showing on the clock to give the hosts a 39-37 victory before a crowd of 7,681.
The decisive play covered all of 4 yards.
"It was actually a play to try to draw the defense up, and when I saw the DB just sitting there, I ran a cross, and Vena threw it up," said Morgan, who collected three touchdown catches. "Vena threw the ball up, and I said by all means I was going to get it."
While Milwaukee fell to 3-8, the Soul improved to 5-7 and remained in the hunt for a playoff berth out of the East Division of the AFL's American Conference. Division leaders Pittsburgh and Cleveland are both 6-4 going into their meeting Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
A 20-yard touchdown pass from Vena to Morgan had put the Soul ahead, 27-23, with 11 minutes remaining. But the Mustangs came back with a touchdown of their own for a 30-27 lead before another Vena-to-Morgan TD gave the Soul a three-point edge, 33-30.
Milwaukee's final score came with 55 seconds to go, and the Soul went on to claim a second straight win for the first time this season.
"All we have to do now is to continue to pull together as a team," said Soul linebacker Brandon Perkins, who fell on a fumble in the Mustangs' end zone to give the Soul a 7-0 first-quarter lead. "We have to pull out these close wins."
The Soul had a 14-10 lead at intermission after the Mustangs' Garrett Lindholm hit a last-second field goal from 22 yards. Milwaukee was up by 23-20 going into the fourth quarter.
The 24 points the teams combined to score during the first two quarters were the fewest ever scored in the first half of a Soul game. The old record of 27 points was set in 2004, when the Soul had 14-13 edge at the break on the New Orleans Voodoo.
At intermission, Vena was 7 for 16 for 65 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Vena finished 19 for 31 for 214 yards with five scoring throws and did not throw a pick over the last two periods.
"I told Ryan Vena that was the worse half of football I had ever seen him play," Soul coach Mike Hohensee said. "I told him he had nowhere to go but up."
When the Soul and the Mustangs faced off in Milwaukee on April 4, the hosts claimed their first win of the season by pulling out a 51-49 win on a 2-yard touchdown pass with no time left.