Before St. Louis departed for America’s playground, head coach Anthony Becht delivered the buzzkill.
“We already had our talks – keep our butts in the hotel,” edge rusher Carson Wells said earlier this week when asked if Sin City’s bright lights would blind the Battlehawks from the task at hand.
No dice. St. Louis hit the jackpot at aptly named Cashman Field in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
A.J. McCarron threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair to Darrius Shepherd as the Battlehawks routed the Vegas Vipers 29-6 to keep pace in the XFL North division.
“A great win by our football team, all three phases showed up today,” Becht said. “It’s nice to go out there and control the outcome every single quarter of the game – the guys did a great job.”
Elvis Presley famously sang that all you need is a strong heart and nerve of steel to win in Vegas. A veteran quarterback also comes in handy.
McCarron completed 23-of-29 passes with no turnovers and he led St. Louis on scoring drives of 62, 75 and 57 yards in the first half.
The Battlehawks (4-2) took a 17-point lead to the locker room after McCarron found Shepherd open for a 30-yard strike with 34 seconds before halftime – the situation and play call nearly identical to St. Louis’ first touchdown at the Dome against Arlington on March 12.
On the television broadcast, Becht couldn’t hide behind a poker face.
“Dude, are you kidding me? That’s two times this year, man,” Becht said into his headset with wide grin.
“It was a whirlwind and just a great job by the entire offense, really – giving communication and knowing what the play was,” McCarron said.
“Sometimes you gotta go through chaos, adversity – good teams fight through it and are successful, so it was good to see.”
St. Louis drew first blood on the first play of the second quarter when McCarron tapped a forward pass to Gary Jennings in the backfield and Jennings swept around the edge from 4-yards out. Shepherd caught the 2-pointer to put the Battlehawks ahead 8-0.
Donny Hageman kicked a 40-yard field goal after McCarron moved the offense 75 yards into scoring position on a drive that started at the STL 3-yard-line.
Vegas (1-5) mustered only four first downs and 62 total yards in the first half, as the ‘Hawks defense forced punts on the Vipers’ first four drives.
Kareem Walker plunged in from 1-yard out to cap a 49-yard drive on St. Louis’ first possession of the third quarter and the Battlehawks held a commanding 23-0 lead.
Lavert Hill intercepted Vipers’ quarterback Luis Perez on back-to-back drives in the third quarter and Wells record four tackles and 1.5 sacks to lift a Battlehawks’ defense that was in search of redemption.
“I wish we could’ve kept shutout up there, that was definitely one of our goals,” Wells said.
“I feel like we bounced back from (last week’s loss against D.C.). We gave up too many rushing yards last week, and I feel like we did a good job bouncing back this week.”
McCarron and Shepherd connected again with 3:06 remaining in the game to give STL its final margin.
“We’re 4-2, we’re in good shape,” Becht said. “We control our destiny, that’s what we want. We’ll prepare next week for another big matchup.”