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Win puts Locos back on track

It wasn’t pretty. In fact, at times it was downright ugly.

But Jim Fassel wasn’t giving back the 30-10 win his Locomotives picked up Saturday over Omaha. All the Locos coach knows is that his team is in the United Football League title game picture midway through the 2011 season.

Despite 93 yards in penalties and three squandered touchdown opportunities in the first half, the Locos (2-1) took over second place in the UFL standings with their win in front of an announced crowd of 6,500 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

“We got back to everyone helping everyone else,” Fassel said. “Our defense was outstanding, and we got our running game going again.”

Las Vegas’ defense got enough pressure on quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to keep him uncomfortable, and the Locos secondary made big plays against the pass and run. Omaha (1-2), which leads the UFL in total offense with an average of 405 yards a game, managed 307 Saturday, 141 of which came in the fourth quarter while the Locos led 23-3.

“We had a good scheme going in,” cornerback Marquis Floyd said. “We knew they were going to go no-huddle on us, so we were ready for that. And we tightened up our coverage and got in the faces of their receivers. I think after they dropped a few, (Masoli) got a little frustrated.”

Las Vegas quarterback Chase Clement bounced back from a poor performance against Virginia two weeks ago in a 34-17 loss to throw for 254 yards and a touchdown and run for a 6-yard score in the fourth quarter. He had help from his receivers, as Andrae Thurman and Cameron Colvin came up with big grabs for long gains to keep drives alive. Saalim Hakim also had a nice 44-yard grab to set up Clement’s fourth-quarter TD run.

“We work against great DBs in practice every day,” said Colvin, who had five catches for 48 yards, including a one-handed, 6-yard grab for a third-down conversion in the first quarter. “Coach emphasized the need to make plays on third down, and we were just being competitive.”

Thurman, a three-year UFL veteran who had five catches for 86 yards, including a 47-yard grab on which he beat cornerback Reynaldo Hill for the ball, said his having worked with Clement helped him win one-on-one battles with the Omaha secondary.

“We have a pretty good idea where Chase is going to put it,” Thurman said. “On that play, he underthrew it a bit, but I was able to come back on it and make the catch.”

Still, with all the good things happening, Las Vegas led only 9-0 at halftime. Three drives into the red zone fizzled, and Clint Stitser kicked field goals of 24, 34 and 45 yards.

But the Locos got their running game going in the second half, and with Marcel Shipp gashing the Omaha defense, the Locos controlled the clock and the game. Shipp finished with 76 yards and capped the scoring with a 28-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 with 2:28 left.

“It made the play-calling pretty easy,” Fassel said of his run game, which netted 147 of the Locos’ 401 yards.

These two teams meet again Saturday in Omaha, Neb. If the Locos win, they’ll be in prime position to land a spot in the Nov. 5 UFL title game. Thurman said a loss in the rematch would negate the positives gained from Saturday’s win.

“We had the mindset we didn’t want to fall further behind,” he said. “In this league, you can’t afford many losses.”

Fassel said it’s his job to make sure the Locos aren’t satisfied with Saturday’s win.

“It won’t do us any good to go there and play bad football,” he said. “I was pissed after the Virginia game, and I’m going to stay that way.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or at 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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