Heading into the 2002 season, T.N.T. owner Tony Haberkamp was anxious to see how things could be with a healthy squad. After an injury marred 2001 season, there was speculation around the league that they had drafted with too many risks once again. Although that speculation was warranted, and one game will not change the minds of many, T.N.T(1-0) started off the 2002 campaign strong. The main focus of all concerns has been the backfield. RB Edgerrin James rushed for 99 yards and RB Fred Taylor went for 83 and a score to combine for 12 points in the week one victory. "It was very important for Edge and I to come out and start like this. I think we have to go out and prove that we can be on the field consistently," said Taylor. The concern grew in the preseason when James did not participate. Instead constantly rehabbing. "It's only preseason. Now that the season is on, I'm ready to go. And I will be all season. Let the rest of the league know that." Newly appointed head coach Randy White was pleased. "I thought they played outstanding. I thought Aaron Brooks(2 TDs, 13 pts.) played well enough to get us in position for the win. And Jeff Wilkins(3 FG, T.N.T. K record 15 pts.) is almost as automatic as they come. Now we have to prepare for the Wolfpack and get on a little roll here." T.N.T. will open up the new 52,629 capacity T-Bone Dome next week against the aforementioned expansion team. The Slackers(0-1), on the other hand, need to look closely at there future plans. "Nothing we tried, apart from Ricky Williams(2 TDs, 15 pts.), seemed to work," said QB Kurt Warner. "I played a terrible game and we really have to assess the situation. But we can't panic. As bad as we played, the bottom line is that this is just the first game. We have a decent team here. Let's hope we do better when our division games start." The Slackers will go on the road against the Night Hawks in week 2. "I think we'll be fine. The line did a great job today, but we just couldn't get it done. If we average 160+ yds. a game on the ground, we'll be just fine," said RB Williams. WR Jimmy Smith(8 rec., 104 yds., 7 pts.) also had a solid game for the Slackers. But more needs to be done by the rest of the guys, if they expect to win in week 2.
Last season, the Night Hawks(1-0) failed twice during the regular season to defeat the Fightin' Antz(0-1). The post season was a different story. But this season, the Hawks didn't have to wait long before defeating the Antz. They prevailed in week 1 by a score of 68-36. "This was a big win for many reasons," said Hawks owner Marco Santana. "First and foremost, we defeated a division rival. That gives us a leg up on the rest of the division. Secondly, they were a thorn in our side all season last year. And lastly, it just feels great to defeat my brother!" A lot of the credit this week goes to head coach Tom Landry, who was coaching his first ever UFFA game. Mid-week, Landry decided to go with QB Shane Matthews over first round pick Drew Bledsoe. Matthews responded with a solid game, tossing 3 scoring passes, including a 43-yarder for a 22-point performance. "I felt comfortable back there. I just have to go out and do what I know I am capable of. Everything else will work itself out. I think I proved that I can play in this league. But I'm not the one who will make the decision as to who is going to start." The Hawks find themselves in an early season budding QB controversy. "We will take a look at our options. Obviously Shane had a hell of a day. We will have to see in practice how he does. Right now I don't have an answer for you. I guess you'll have to find out with everybody else," said Landry when asked who would get the nod in week two. K Jason Elam, in his second season with the Hawks, kicked 3 FGs for 15 points, but was playing the second half of the game on a bum leg. "Obviously that is a concern. He is as good as they come," said Landry. "We'll take this one day by day and see if we will be picking somebody up until he heals." WR Eric Moulds(29-yd TD) also scored in double digits as he posted a 15. The first place Hawks will open their home schedule next week with another division game against the Slackers. The Antz didn't quite know what to make of their first week loss. "It's disappointing. We felt we were ready to play," said RB Marshall Faulk, who led the team with 14 receptions. "We saw some good things with our receivers, but our running game HAS to step it up." Faulk and RB Ron Dayne combined for just 29 yds. on 16 carries. QB Quincy Carter, who was not a fan favorite throughout the game, had a horrible game as he became the first negative scorer in league history, with a -2. The owner of the Antz, Joe Santana, has an interesting decision at QB for next week, when they go against the expansion Jorsemen. "If we're not careful, we could be digging ourselves a hole. 0-2 is a lot worse than 1-1. So we just have to take care of business." Something that they could not do in week 1.
One of the most controversial picks in the UFFA draft was the Jorsemen's selection of RB Charlie Garner as the #2 overall pick. Well for one week, at least, the Jorsemen(1-0) had the last laugh. Garner ran for 127 yards and a TD and was also on the receiving end of a TD pass to score 27 points and help the Jorsemen beat the Dirty Dozen, 69-52. "He was amazing. He justified his pick right there. I don't care what anybody says. That was a great performance and that is why we got him," said owner Jose Guzman. He definitely carried us. I didn't do much, but the main thing is that we got the W," said Jorsemen QB Jeff Garcia(1 pt.) The Jorsemen D/ST also came up big with 13 points, which matched K Paul Edinger's(2 49-yd. FG) contribution. "It's good to get that one out of the way. But for no other reason than now we can go get our second one," said Emmitt Smith, who had 67 yards rushing on the game. "It'll be great to go to our fans 1-0. It oughta be an electric night next week." Next week, the Jorsemen christen Jorsemen Field as they play host to the Fightin' Antz. TE Tony Gonzalez will make his Jorsemen debut in that one after sitting out this game for disciplinary reasons. Word out of the Jorsemen is that they don't want him to think he runs the show and should put his NBA pipe dream to rest permanently. The Dirty Dozen(0-1) came into this game with nothing but confidence. By all accounts, they had one of the best drafts in the league. But their 12-game losing streak reached 13, despite a 22-point game from RB Eddie George. Although that had to be encouraging, this same thing happened to the Dirty Dozen constantly in 2001. They received inconsistent play and could not get more than one player to break out. Owner Tom Losch left the stadium without speaking to the media, but QB Rich Gannon did not. "We had our chances. But then they pulled away and there was nothing we could do. Eddie had a day. That is a good sign. Hopefully his injuries are a thing of the past. And I really feel they are. I feel me and Joe Horn(8 catches, 108 yards) are building a bit of a relationship. All you can do is go practice during the week and work on things. We really can't dwell on it. We have another game next week against a solid opponent. So we have to work on things and end this." With a matchup against the Roscoes in week two, their prospects for going 1-1 are not good. But then again, who thought the Jorsemen would be 1-0?
Things did not go as well for the other expansion team. The Wolfpack(0-1) had only one player, Brett Favre(11 pts.) in double digits and got pummeled 76-48. "It's not the way we wanted to start things, but there were a few positives," said owner Joe Semro. Among the positives were rookie wideout Javon Walker scoring a TD for 9 points, and highly coveted free agent pickup Quincy Morgan catching 9 for 151 and 2 TDs for a 29. Although both of those players were wasting away on the Wolfpack bench. Their 3 starting WRs Plaxico Burress, James Thrash, and Travis Taylor could only muster 9 points total, with Thrash getting all 9. Roscoes RB Travis Henry had a big day with 149 yds. and TD runs of 5, 3, and 2 yards and led the team with 24 points. "Great blocking. I hardly got touched all day. Peyton could have probably gained 100 yds. the way they were blocking," he said. Although that is and exagerration, Manning(12 pts.) also had a good day as he threw 3 TDs, including one apiece to WR Marty Booker(18) and Randy Moss(12). "I'm telling you they keep throwing it my way, we'll win games. Forget about 5-8. We're going all the way this year," said Moss. Roscoes head coach Don Shula was also pleased. "It's a good start. We did quite a few good things today. I don't see one area of the team that I am not happy with. Things are looking good, but we don't wanna get ahead of ourselves." The Roscoes(1-0) will take on a familiar foe next week as they head to Losch Field and take on the Dirty Dozen in a game between former division rivals. "We can't take anybody lightly," said Manning. "And we know they'll be gunning for us. We just have to be ready for anything that they throw at us. We don't wanna be the ones that end their losing streak." The Dirty Dozen have lost 13 in a row.
Now THIS was a way to start off the season. The Rynos(1-0) tangled with the Tattoo Crew(0-1) in what turned out to be the 4th highest scoring game in UFFA history. The Rynos slipped away with the win, 85-81. The Rynos were led to victory by two guys who were acquired after the draft in separate trades with the Dirty Dozen by GM Bill Walsh. RB Priest Holmes had a career high 4 TDs including 2 over 10 yards and was the first player of the week for the 2002 season with a league high 36 points. Also joining in the fun was WR Kevin Johnson who caught 8 passes and THREW a 33 yd. TD pass as he ended up with 17 points. "(Owner) Dan (Wever) and Walsh are going to do what it takes to get me the guys to win this thing. And I'm glad they did. We needed every last point that we got out of those guys. What a game, huh?" said new Rynos coach Mike Ditka, who won his coaching debut. 2nd year Ryno RB Shaun Alexander caught a TD pass as well and had 15 points. But the story was clearly Holmes. He became the 7th player of the week for the Rynos in just 14 total weeks of the UFFA. "I had fun. The game was tight throughout and they kept giving me the ball. I just followed my blocks and did what I could," he said. "The player of the week thing is an honor, but the win is the most important thing. I know everybody says it, but in this game it truly is a shame that somebody had to lose. I'm just glad it was not us." For the Tattoo Crew, who are trying to rebound from a 4-9 season in 2001, things couldn't get worse. 81 points is usually nothing to be upset about, but they could not do what it took to win this ballgame. Something that plagued them all season last year. They ended up with the 2nd highest score in the entire UFFA but the result was the same. K Martin Gramatica, usually automatic, missed a 47 yarder and a 53 yarder, both of which would have given the game to the Crew. "We can not give the ball away. Kordell has got to take care of the ball better," said owner Joe Scanlan. Stewart threw 3 picks. "And Martin better concentrate more on kicking the ball and not celebrating. When we work the ball to that part of the field, we MUST come away with points! They may not seem to mean much at the time, but in the end, they could cost us the game. And that is what happened this week." On a positive note WR Rod Gardner could have come into his own this week. He caught a 43 yard TD and wound up with 19 points to lead the way. Fellow WR David Boston had 16 points as both of them wound up with 7 catches. For both teams it doesn't get any easier as the Rynos go on the road and play the defending UFFA champion Outlaws and the Tattoo Crew square off against the runners up, the Warriors.
In a rematch of Magoo Bowl I, the Warriors used a surprise performance from a WR and a RB whose role was supposed to be diminished this year to get back at the Outlaws and defeat them 72-58. WR Qadry Ismail was the Warriors(1-0) leading scorer as he caught 6 passes including TD catches of 6 and 12 yards to end the day with 20 points. RB Warrick Dunn also surprised many as he scored 2 TDs as well to score 14. "I'm glad they have confidence in me to put this offense on my back if need be. It was very refreshing to come to a team that will use me in the red zone," said Dunn. Warriors owner Al Smith was happy with the outcome for a number of reasons. "We played well, we won the game, we beat the champions, we don't get any respect and that is how we like it. You don't need respect to play in the Magoo Bowl. Just ask the 10 teams that have never done it," he said. QB Donovan McNabb threw three TD passes as well for the Warriors. They still have not been beaten at home as they now hold an 8-0 record in the regular season at the Beaver Dome. They take take their show on the road to the ScanDome where a meeting with the Tattoo Crew awaits. The Outlaws(0-1) drew up a game plan that seemed infallible. Give the ball to Stephen Davis and Curtis Martin and then let Daunte Culpepper throw to Troy Brown or Chris Chambers. But even the best game plans don't net results. Curtis Martin was injured after just 4 carries and Chambers was held to just 3 catches, although one was a TD. But only 2 players managed double digits with RB Davis leading the team with 12 points. And the going doesn't get any easier next week with a matchup against the top scoring team in the league, the Rynos. They will need a lot more points than they managed this week.