There are two ways to beat a crafty veteran quarterback like Jeff Garcia.
One way is to keep him off the field. The second is to harass him when he’s on it.
The Locomotives did both in the second half of a 22-10 win over Garcia and the Omaha Nighthawks on Friday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The victory, in front of an announced crowd of 9,767, moved Las Vegas into a first-place tie in the United Football League with the expansion Nighthawks at 2-1.
“We started out shaky on both sides, but we settled down,” Locos coach Jim Fassel said. “I’ve told the team two thousand times — ‘the race is on,’ and it’s all about getting better each week.”
Las Vegas took a 22-10 lead on a 15-play, 75-yard, seven-minute drive that began late in the third quarter and spilled into the early fourth, culminating with Marcel Shipp’s 14-yard scoring run.
On Omaha’s next drive, Isaiah Trufant picked off a Garcia pass on third-and-7 at the Las Vegas 47, putting the Nighthawks quarterback back on the sideline midway through the fourth quarter.
Trufant scored the first Las Vegas touchdown in the second quarter when he intercepted Garcia at the Omaha 27 and scored untouched.
“I was playing technique and reading my keys,” Trufant said of his two picks. “I could tell after that first one the entire team got a boost and we started playing better.”
The Locos refused to let Garcia rally his team. He finished with just 168 yards passing and was sacked twice.
Trufant said the key was not letting Garcia make something out of nothing.
“He’s a real shifty guy,” Trufant said. “We did a good job of containing him.”
The Locos survived a sloppy first half thanks to the defense forcing two turnovers and new place-kicker Steven Hauschka going 3-for-3 on field-goal tries.
The first turnover came midway through the first quarter with the Locos down 7-0.
The Nighthawks appeared to be on their way to extending the lead when running back Ahman Green was rocked at the Las Vegas 8 and fumbled. Wale Dada recovered for the Locos, who converted the miscue into Hauschka’s 49-yard field goal.
The second turnover, with 3:14 left in the first half, was Trufant’s first of two interceptions. He alertly jumped the route of Roy Hall in the right flat and headed for the end zone, giving the Locos a 16-10 lead.
Las Vegas squandered a couple of great chances for touchdowns inside the Omaha 10 in the first half, including a flanker option pass from Tab Perry to DeDe Dorsey that netted 61 yards and gave the Locos first-and-goal at the Omaha 3. That drive stalled, and Las Vegas settled for Hauschka’s 25-yard field goal.
An 11-play drive earlier in the quarter ended at the Omaha 5, and Hauschka hit from 23 yards.
Quarterback Tim Rattay had to make do without his favorite target, tight end Adam Bergen, who injured his right knee in the second quarter and did not return. Instead, Rattay tried to spread the ball around, hitting seven receivers and passing for 126 yards.
The Locos continued to run the ball effectively, gaining 114 yards on the ground as Shipp and Dorsey wore out the Omaha defense.
The Locos maintained their 16-10 halftime lead entering the fourth quarter and finally gained control on their lengthy drive capped by Shipp’s touchdown.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913.View the slideshow