San Antonio Commanders (2-2) vs. Arizona Hotshots (2-2)
When, where: Sunday, 7 p.m., Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
TV: 7 p.m., NFL Network
Last meeting: First meeting
Commanders last week: Beat Birmingham Iron 12-11, Sunday, Birmingham
Hotshots last week: Lost to Atlanta Legends 14-11, Sunday, Tempe
Commanders head coach: Mike Riley
Commanders general manager: Daryl Johnston
Hotshots head coach: Rick Neuheisel
Hotshots general manager: Phil Savage
Commanders players with San Antonio ties: Running back Aaron Green (Madison High School / TCU), wide receiver Josh Stewart (College Station / UTSA), Joseph Zema (Melbourne, Australia / Incarnate Word).
Ticket information: (210) 944-0504
Notable: Sunday's game is the third of four on the road for the Commanders. San Antonio plays at Atlanta next Sunday, and returns home to host the Salt Lake Stallions on Saturday, March 23 . . . Arizona coach Rick Neuheisel should be familiar to older San Antonio sports fans. A UCLA alum, Neuheisel was the starting quarterback for the city's USFL franchise, the Gunslingers, during their two seasons of existence in 1984 and 1985 . . . The Commanders and Hotshots are two of eight teams in the AAF. San Antonio competes in the Western Conference with Arizona, Salt Lake and San Diego. Birmingham is in the Eastern Conference with Orlando, Atlanta and Memphis . . . Each AAF team will play a 10-game regular season. The top two teams in the Eastern and Western conferences will advance to the playoffs, with the championship game scheduled for Sunday, April 28, in Las Vegas.
Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said it many years ago: Run to daylight. Those three words were also the title of a book he wrote during the Green Bay Packers’ glory years in the 1960s.
The Commanders, and specifically running back Kenneth Farrow II, have been running to daylight this season. Farrow was named the AAF’s Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 142 yards in San Antonio’s 12-11 road victory over the previously unbeaten Birmingham Iron last Sunday.
“It’s very important that we find the runs we need in the game, and we run the football well,” Commanders coach Mike Riley said. “I think if we take care of the football and we run the ball well, we have a good chance to win.”
San Antonio (2-2) reaches the halfway mark of its inaugural season Sunday night against the Arizona Hotshots (2-2) at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The Commanders and Hotshots are tied for second in the Western Conference, one game behind San Diego, which won Saturday.
Sunday's game will be the third of four in a row on the road for San Antonio, which doesn’t play at home again until it meets the Salt Lake Stallions on Saturday, March 23, at the Alamodome.
The Commanders had 608 rushing yards heading into the fifth week of the Alliance of American Football season. They are averaging nearly 34 minutes in time of possession. Still, San Antonio has scored touchdowns on only 4 of 16 possessions inside the red zone.
“It’s a key factor,” Riley said of his team’s red-zone problems. “Obviously, we’ve got to find a better way to run it in. It’s the simplest, easiest way to score is to run the ball in. The play-action (passing) game, we want to have some good stuff, whether it’s a bootleg or a good play-action to get in.
“If you have to drop-back pass to get it in, you’ve got to be very concise when you’re in the red zone because the windows are smaller. The timing’s got to be really, really important.”
The Hotshots fell to Atlanta in Tempe last week and have lost two in a row. Riley has no illusions about the challenge the Commanders will face Sunday.
“They’re pretty multiple offensively,” he said. “They probably run more RPOs (run/pass option) than anybody that we’ll see. They have an active quarterback.
"He’s kind of a slick operator with that stuff. Defensively, they have some really good interior linemen and are very sound defensively. They’re a good team. I knew that from the beginning when they were around here in camp.”
All eight teams in the Alliance of American Football had their training camp in San Antonio.
Arizona’s head coach is Rick Neuheisel, who was the San Antonio Gunslingers’ starting quarterback in the United States Football League in 1984 and 1985.
“We’ve been on the field together many times through the years,” Riley said. “I’ve got a lot of respect and I really like Rick. He’s a friend of mine.”
Logan Woodside, who has started all four games at quarterback for the Commanders this season, will get the call again Sunday, Riley said. He added that backup Marquise Williams also could see playing time.
“That’s how we’re looking at it,” Riley said. “I’ll tell you this: Dustin Vaughan has really, I think, had a good week of practice. So, I’m excited. Dustin has really stayed engaged and is doing a good job.”
Vaughan, who made the Dallas Cowboys’ roster as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014, was projected to be the Commanders’ starting quarterback. But Woodside emerged as the starter days before the season opener.
Riley was philosophical when he was asked about the Commanders having to play four consecutive road games.
“We’re trying not to worry about it,” Riley said. “It’s not a topic. There’s nothing we can do about it. We really don’t try to think about it too much . . . It’s OK. We won one (on the road). We can win another one. We’ll reap the benefits later on with some home games.”