Defensive back James Romain made a goal line interception in the fourth quarter and returned it the length of the field to secure a Soul victory for the first time at home this season. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh threw six touchdown passes, including a 40-yard strike to Tiger Jones en route to a 61-51 Soul victory.
"We got the monkey lifted off of our back right there," said Radabaugh. "Our guys came out ready to play tonight right from the get-go."
Raudabaugh took responsibility for last week's loss to the last-place Pittsburgh Power and said coach Client Dolezel challenged him in preparation for what the team felt was a must-win game against Orlando.
"Coach sat me down and said, 'you need to step up and start playing like you can.' Last week I took that loss personally and put my nose to the grindstone and got to work."
Amid rumors that that Tim Tebow could be joining the team, Raudabaugh showed great poise and accuracy as he completed 21 of his 27 pass attempts and threw no interceptions.
The visiting Orlando Predators got within three points after three quarters when Predators quarterback Aaron Garcia found T.T. Toliver for a 12-yard score that cut the Soul lead to 42-39. But Raudabaugh hit Jones for the wide receiver's third touchdown reception of the night on the following possession and the home team hung on in the fourth quarter.
Running back Derrick Ross added three touchdowns for the Soul, who improved to 4-4 and sit alone atop the American Conference East division.
The Predators, who began their season 0-5, found new life when it handed the reins over to 42-year-old Aaron Garcia. The 18-year AFL veteran, who once lost his starting job in college to Drew Bledsoe, guided Orlando to two consecutive wins before closing out the team's four-game road trip in Philadelphia. The Predators now fall to 2-6.
Orlando led by as many as 12 points when Dominic Jones scored on a 12-yard fumble recovery to take a 19-7 first quarter lead. The Soul responded with four straight touchdowns, culminating in Jones's 40-yard catch. But the Predators came back and cut the Soul lead to four after an impressive goal line stand that saw Ross stuffed on consecutive plays. Then on first and goal from their own two yard-line, Garcia hit an open Maurice Williams in the middle of the field for a 48-yard touchdown.
But the Soul answered right back when Raudabaugh threw a 16-yard strike to Jones.
Garcia finished with 292 yards passing and six touchdowns while connecting on 23 of 43 attempts. He also threw two interceptions.
The Soul secondary credited their pass rush for disrupting Garcia's rhythm, but defensive backs Rayshaun Kizer and Romain capitalized on their opportunities. Kaiser made five tackles, an interception, and forced a fumble at midfield that he recovered and returned 13 yards. After committing a pass interference penalty in the end zone, Romain recovered by making a touchdown-saving tackle on the following play. He then made the biggest play of the night, when his film preparation allowed him to anticipate a pattern and take advantage.
"They were running a combination out-takeoff all night, and I felt it was going to come so I just sat in between both [receivers]," said Romain. "I looked in the quarterback's eyes and he didn't even know where he was going to go with the ball. When he threw it, I just made the play and took it to the crib."
Jones finished with 114 yards receiving on just five catches, three of which were touchdowns. He began the third quarter by getting wide open on a post pattern and pulling in a 40-yard TD-grab, the longest pass of the season for the Soul. He began the fourth quarter in similar fashion—adding at 38-yard TD reception for good measure.
Earlier this week, owner Ron Jaworski offered to make room on the Soul for former Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. Raudabaugh laughed off the prospect of Tebow joining the team, but added:
"We'd accept him with open arms. I bet he could get some butts in the seats."