By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance
TEMPE – Atlanta Legends quarterback Aaron Murray conjured the perfect fourth-quarter elixir to extinguish the Arizona Hotshots on Sunday night.
Pressed into starting duty, Murray engineered a 10-play, 60-yard game-winning drive. He converted three first downs and set up kicker Younghoe Koo in the red zone. Koo connected on a 33-yard field goal to propel the Legends to a 14-11 inaugural win.
The Atlanta Legends (1-3) return home to start a three-game home stand against the Memphis Express (1-3) on this Sunday, March 10, at 4:00 p.m. ET at Georgia State Stadium. The game can be seen on the CBS Sports Network. Tickets to all Legends games are available here.
“Aaron (Murray) was ready,” Legends head coach Kevin Coyle said. “It wasn’t like he didn’t get the reps to prepare himself in practice. When he got his opportunity, he took the team down the field.”
Murray took over for Legends starting quarterback Matt Simms in the first quarter. Simms injured his right hand after being sacked by Hotshots linebacker Will Sutton III on the Legends initial drive.
Pressed into starting duty, Murray responded and finished 20-for-33 with 254 yards passing. He also led the team with 54 rushing yards on seven carries.
As a result, the Legends found a rhythm. The offense thrived under new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and collected 454 total yards, the most in The Alliance this season. There was more balance across the board and it showed in the run game.
The Legends had 177 rushing yards against a tough Hotshots defense. Running back Denard Robinson scored the lone touchdown as he rumbled in from nine yards. Fellow halfback Brandon Radcliff had 12 carries for 48 yards.
“We ran the ball effectively and that was really big for us,” Coyle said. “It helped us control the time of possession.”
The Legends controlled the ball nearly 38 minutes. They extended drives on crucial third downs and didn’t let the high-powered Hotshots offense get in gear.
A big testament goes to the both the Legends offensive and defensive lines. According to offensive lineman Chase Farris, their play was a big key in the game.
“It had been challenging week to week,” Farris said. “We had been trying to build on each performance and make our next move our best move. We came together this week and played a full game. It felt good.”
The Hotshots fell to 2-2 on the season. The Legends held them to 310 total yards and forced them into mistakes. Hotshots quarterback John Wolford was 17-for-31 for 185 yards and a touchdown. Talented receiver Rashad Ross was held to four catches and 74 yards. Ross had a crucial mistake as he tried to reverse field and was tackled for a safety.
The safety was the first one in The Alliance’s history. It also gave the Legends an early 2-0 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
“The Legends played really well,” Hotshots head coach Rick Neuheisel said. “Aaron Murray was just as he was at Georgia. He was pretty darn good.”
The Legends head back home to start a three-game home stand. First up is the Memphis Express. The Express also earned their first win this weekend. Both teams square off on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET at Georgia State Stadium.
“We found a way to close it out,” receiver Justin Thomas said. “Getting a win helps the team rejuvenate heading home.”
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Jaylon Thompson covers the Atlanta Legends for The Alliance of American Football. Follow him on Twitter @JaylonThompson.