Gladiators collapse in third, drop sixth straight

DENVER — As the frustration of a sixth consecutive loss seeped in Friday for the Gladiators, wide receiver Etu Molden spoke the simple truth.

Las Vegas played arguably one of its best first halfs of the season but went completely offline in the third quarter, and the Colorado Crush graciously cruised to a 63-53 victory at the Pepsi Center.

The truth was simple. And, of course, it hurt.

"That was the quarter that lost us the game, despite what all the guys are talking about the zebras and what they were doing or the Crush and what they were doing, it was us," Molden said. "We came out in the third quarter and didn’t score one point. You can’t expect to win when you put up zeros in a quarter in the Arena League."

The Gladiators (1-7) were outscored 26-0 during a third quarter that began like it ended — with Crush defensive back Rashad Floyd picking off quarterback Brian Jones and strolling into the end zone.

Jones, in his second start of the season, threw three interceptions in the third quarter, helping to open a window the Crush (5-3) was happy to climb through en route to its fourth straight victory over the Gladiators.

Molden was a bright spot, scoring three touchdowns on eight catches for a team-high 112 yards. Thabiti Davis and Joe Douglass each caught 10 passes as Jones racked up 305 yards on 30-for-41 passing.

The dismal third quarter certainly wasn’t all Jones’ fault. The left-hander from Toledo was hit as he threw on Floyd’s interception, and Douglass fell cutting to the middle of the field on the second.

But the third, which put the Crush ahead 50-33, was a bad read on a quick-out to the left that hit Floyd where he stood, leaving the sixth-year defensive back a few steps to the end zone.

Penalties also kept several Crush drives alive as the Gladiators were flagged 11 times for 81 yards, compared with six for 32 for Colorado.

The first half was much better for the Gladiators.

Jones was in rhythm early, hooking up with Molden for two touchdown passes that helped build a 27-10 lead before leaning heavily on the hands of Davis for another score.

Karon Riley and Will Thompson both recovered fumbles as the Gladiators led throughout the first two quarters and took a lead into halftime for only the second time this season.

Then came the third quarter.

"In the last week we’ve played seven quarters of football," said Molden, referring to Sunday’s 69-68 loss to the Georgia Force. "Unfortunately, we picked the third quarter to tank it today."

The Gladiators are off until April 29, when the Orlando Predators visit the Orleans Arena.

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