Vegas ends two-game losing streak with narrow win over Arizona
The Vegas Knight Hawks got back on the winning track with a one-point home victory over the Arizona Rattlers Saturday, May 13. With the victory, the team puts an end to a two-game losing streak for the team.
“We played a tough team right there,” head coach Mike Davis said. “Arizona is kind of the staple of the league and have been the staple of the league for years. For our guys to dig in and come out and fight and get that stop late is big for them.”
Coming into the game, Vegas was 2-4 overall and 1-4 in the Western Conference. All three of the team’s wins this season have come at home. Last season, the Knight Hawks went 3-5 from The Dollar Loan Center.
Vegas’ two-game homestand concludes Saturday, May 20 as it welcomes in the Tulsa Oilers for a 7 p.m. showdown. That will be the fifth home game in the last six games and the team’s sixth in the first eight games of the season.
“We’re feeling good,” quarterback Daquan Neal said. “We hadn’t won in three or four weeks so it’s definitely good to get things back on the right track.”
Down one on the scoreboard, Arizona took over with less than one minute left in regulation. On the second play of that drive, defensive back Jeff Ejekam intercepted quarterback Drew Powell to flip possession back to the home team.
“We talk about it every day,” Davis said. “And we talked about it before the game here, we said, ‘Hey, we’re going to need to be very efficient on offense and we need a couple of stops on defense.’ And we got a couple of stops late when we needed to.”
The first defensive stop of the game as a whole didn’t come until early in the fourth quarter on a Rattler incompletion on a fourth and goal. That stop came after the visitors had grabbed their first lead since being up, 8-7.
Both teams combined for 582 yards and 99 points. More than 130 of those yards went to the Knight Hawks ground game in a season-high performance. The team’s previous season-high in rushing yards was 86, 47 yards less than it recorded Saturday.
In his first game with the franchise, former Washington Commanders running back Derrius Guice scored the game-winning touchdown on his second fourth quarter score of the night. He finished with three in total.
Guice was essential for this offense as regular starter Davonte Sapp-Lynch was listed as inactive. Coming into the game, the team averaged 53.5 rushing yards per game.
On the first play of the game, Guice had his number called which marked his first football game since 2019. He’d have his number called again on the second play of the drive and he’d find the end zone for eight yards on two rushes to start his VKH career.
Neal set a team single-game record with 120 yards on 14 tries with two ground scores. With a big run midway through the third quarter, Neal reached 107 yards on the day which broke the record. Coming into the game, he had 85 total rush yards through the first six games of the season.
“We knew they were going to be in man [coverage] a lot,” Neal said. “So really it was just everybody [had] to win their one-on-one battles. We ran some guys off and the lanes were open so I just took what I could get.”
When Neal scored his second rushing touchdown in the second quarter that gave him 60 for his IFL career. Coming into the game, he had one touchdown on the ground through the first six games of the year.
Through the air, Neal was efficient, going 7-for-11 with 163 yards with three touchdowns versus one interception.
Three different receivers caught touchdown passes from Neal including Quentin Randolph, Jordan McCray and Malik Honeycutt. Randolph led all receivers with three receptions and 72 yards.
“I like to reserve judgment until we watch film tonight and in the morning,” Davis said with a smile. “But he made plays – he’s an ex-MVP for a reason. He played like it tonight, we needed him to put us on his back and guys stepped up and made plays and we did that.”
McCray played in his fourth straight game after missing the first three games of the year with a lower leg injury.
Honeycutt played in his third game at receiver this season after playing defensive back earlier this year as the team was short in the secondary.
Arizona went 3-for-8 on two-point conversions as a team, leaving several points on the board.
“Something had to be going on with [the Rattlers’ kicker,” Davis said. “Craig [Peterson] is one of the best in the league and he’s pretty automatic on extra points so now really sure what’s going on there. But it worked out in our favor so we’ll take a win and run with it.”