At risk of an 0-2 start to their eight-game season, the Locomotives answered the challenge from coach Jim Fassel, particularly along the offensive line.
By blocking better, the line paved the way for vast improvement in the Locos’ running and passing games, and Las Vegas beat Florida 20-17 last week to even its United Football League record at 1-1.
Eager to continue that progress, the Locos face first-place Omaha Nighthawks (2-0) tonight at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The return of 2009 UFL rushing leader DeDe Dorsey coincided with the offensive line’s improved play. Dorsey and Marcel Shipp combined to rush for 174 yards, and that dual threat helped open up the passing game. Tim Rattay completed 27 of 36 passes for 311 yards.
“I rode them pretty hard,” Fassel said of his linemen. “These guys knew they could do better, and the improvement was dramatic. Our overall run blocking and pass protection was the best I’ve seen in the time we’ve been together.”
Dorsey rushed for 99 yards and added 105 receiving to set a league record with 204 all-purpose yards and win UFL Offensive Player of the Week. He gave full credit to tackles Branndon Braxton and Jason Capizzi, guards Frank Davis and Anthony Oakley, center Jesse Boone and tight ends Adam Bergen and George Wrightster.
“They made it easy for me,” Dorsey said. “I found the creases, and they did a great job.”
Dorsey rejoined the Locos on Sept. 24, two weeks after being one of the Detroit Lions’ final preseason cuts. He arrived in good shape, familiar with the playbook and aware of what Fassel wants, so he wasn’t surprised at hitting his stride in his season debut.
“The familiarity of the system was huge,” Dorsey said. “There’s a lot of guys back from last year, and the chemistry was there.”
Against Omaha, Fassel is aiming for the same sort of offensive balance the Locos displayed last week.
“You don’t want to be predictable,” he said. “You don’t want to be throwing the ball all over the lot. But you want to use what is working that game.”
The expansion Nighthawks will be playing their first road game and will face a Las Vegas defense that ramped up its intensity last week, holding the Tuskers to 214 yards of total offense while sacking quarterback Brooks Bollinger five times.
Omaha is headlined by quarterback Jeff Garcia and running back Ahman Green, both four-time NFL Pro Bowl selections.
“They’re a quick team. They’re fast,” Fassel said. “It’s an experienced team that plays with good intensity. They’ve come back in the fourth quarter in both of their wins. There’s no quit in them.”
Green, however, is off to a slow start in the UFL. He has 25 yards on nine carries and no touchdowns.
■ NOTES — Tonight’s game reunites Garcia and Rattay, who were teammates with the San Francisco 49ers from 2000 to 2003. … The Locos report no major injuries heading into the game.
Contact sports reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-387-2913.OMAHA VS. LAS VEGAS
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium
TV/RADIO: HDNet; KWWN-AM (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
LINE: Locomotives -3; total 43