Soul home losing streak continues with loss to Pittsburgh, 53-48
Something is fundamentally wrong with the 2013 Soul.
Turnovers, inconsistency, and a sheer lack of rhythm have contributed to the Soul stumbling out of the gates this season.
The Soul seemed to have turned the corner a bit after a 72-41 win over the Chicago Rush May 4.
But whatever momentum the Soul built up from that win was quickly taken away after an inexplicable 53-48 loss to the Pittsburgh Power (2-5) at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night.
The Soul received possession of the ball with 31 seconds remaining in the game after the defense forced a turnover on downs.
On the ensuing possession, Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh looked to hit wide receiver Tiger Jones on a corner route in the back of the end zone, but Pittsburgh defensive back Sergio Gilliam intercepted the pass, going over the wall in the process.
The Soul are now 0-3 at home this season, with two of their losses coming against two of the worst teams in the AFL: the Power and the Cleveland Gladiators back on April 20.
"Everybody needs to take accountability," Soul fullback Derrick Ross said. "The fact that we came out here and played piss poor in front of our crowd yet again, that actually is what pisses me off right now."
Things didn't look so bleak in the first half when the Soul raced out to a 14-0 lead over the Power after two touchdown passes from quarterback Dan Raudabaugh to wide receivers Ryan McDaniel and Larry Brackins.
Pittsburgh finally got on the board after a six-yard score from Steve Sheffield to wide receiver Mike Washington.
The Soul answered back with a nine-yard rushing touchdown from Ross.
The Power continued to hang around throughout the first half, however, and even closed the gap to within one possession before halftime at 35-27.
The second half is where it all went downhill for the Soul.
The Power began to slowly chip away at the Soul advantage by sustaining long drives. The Soul didn't run their first offensive play in the second half until the 4:36 mark of the third quarter.
While the Power were chipping away the their deficit, the Soul mustered only one touchdown from their offense in the second half. The Soul were outscored by the Power 26-13 in the second half and 13-0 in the fourth quarter.
The other touchdown came courtesy of a 55-yard kickoff return from James Romain during the third quarter.
"Scoring seven points offensively in the second half has got me agitated," Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. "Seven points in Arena Football in the second half, you will lose 99 of a hundred of them so we got to pick it up on the offensive side."
The loss drops the Soul to 3-4 on the year. The Soul have already lost as many games than they did all of last season, including the playoffs.
"It's supposed to hurt," Raudabaugh said. "This one is going to hurt all week. It's not going to be a fun week of practice. It's not supposed to be."
Dolezel said that there is no singular reason as to why the Soul have looked rather average during their first seven games, but did say that there is plenty of blame to go around.
"I'll take some of it, too," he said. "It's not one person. It's a group effort right now and a group effort is supposed to be a good thing not a bad thing."
The loss also means the home losing streak continues for the Soul. The Soul have not won a home game since August 3, 2012 — last season's American Conference championship win over the Jacksonville Sharks.
"A lot of the guys say they like playing on the road better because of all the distractions [at home], but there's no excuse. Football is football," Ross said. "You can say a lot of things, but at the end we loss and there's no excuse for it."
"We just got to go and play better and get one for our crowd because they deserve it," he added.
Including the postseason, the Soul went 9-2 at the Wells Fargo Center in 2012.
Dolezel believes that his team has not built off the success from last. He believes that the team is expecting to win on reputation alone.
"I think we're relying on last year's reputation that we're just going to walk out there and play football games," Dolezel said. "That's not how it works.""
"Because of last year's reputation everybody wants to beat us and we're getting everybody's best game and we're not playing our best game," he added.
The Soul will have another home game next week when they host the Orlando Predators. The Predators (2-5) are coached by Doug Plank, the former head coach of the Soul and it will be he his first time in the Wells Fargo Center since leading the franchise to its second conference title last season.
More important to the Soul is that the Predators are getting better. Orlando has now won two games in a row with their second win coming against one of the better teams in the AFL in the Spokane Shock, 83-82, in the highest scoring game in league history.
Orlando quarterback Aaron Garcia threw 11 touchdowns during the win.
What that means for the Soul is that they will need to regroup and do so sooner rather than later.
"It's going to be a man check this week," Raudabaugh added. "Don't go in there with your tail between your legs. Be ready to fight."
"We won't do anything different," Dolezel said. "We'll practice hard. We'll come out and compete and we're going to win."