SAN ANTONIO — Commanders coach Mike Riley said all week that the Salt Lake Stallions were better than their 2-4 record.
The Stallions proved him right Saturday, giving the Commanders all they could handle before backup quarterback Marquise Williams and cornerback De'Vante Bausby saved the day for San Antonio's AAF team.
Williams came off the bench and threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to elusive running back Trey Williams with 5:25 left, leading the Commanders to a scintillating 19-15 victory before a crowd of 30,345 at the Alamodome.
After Salt Lake stormed back to cut San Antonio's lead to 17-15 with a 21-yard pass from Josh Woodrum to running back Terrell Newby on the first play after the two-minute warning, Bausby picked off Woodrum's two-point conversion pass. Bausby didn't stop running until he crossed the goal line for two points the other way.
The crowd for Saturday's game is the largest of the Alliance of American Football's inaugural season, now in its seventh week. The victory was the fourth in a row for the Commanders, who improved to 5-2 in their first game back at the Alamodome since Week 2.
"I've been telling everybody that it's like March Madness," said Marquise Williams, a North Carolina alum. "Any team can be beat any day, man. We've just got to come out, keep competing, keep fighting and keep moving forward."
The last two minutes of the game were reminiscent of two boxers slugging it out until the final bell.
"That defensive front of theirs was something else," Riley said. "Man, they were tough."
The score was tied at 9-9 with 10:36 left when Williams replaced starter Logan Woodside, who went to the sideline with a shoulder injury.
"When I saw him hurt, he told me, 'Get ready to go,' Williams said, referring to Woodside. "When he said, 'Get ready to go,' I was ready to go. And he told me, 'Go finish it.' So I went and finished it.
"I give praise to God and these teammates of mine just being behind me and encouraging me to keep continuing to grind and just stay calm, cool and collected and finish the game."
Williams drove the Commanders from their 30 to the Salt Lake 36, where he faced a third-and-16 with 5:29 left. Dropping back, Williams calmly threw a swing pass in the right flat to Trey Williams, who raced down the sideline for the score.
"He's a special guy," Williams said of Trey Williams. "Sometimes in practice, we have to tell him to slow down, but he's going to make a play. He's a playmaker."
Williams threw to Greg Ward Jr. for the two-point conversion to give San Antonio a 17-9 lead.
Salt Lake mounted a nine-play, 75-yard drive on the ensuing possession, which ended with Woodrum's scoring strike to Newby.
Woodrum went to wide receiver DeMornay Pierson-El on the two-point conversion pass, but De'Vante Bausby jumped the route and made the interception.
Bausby's interception, his fifth of the season, put the Commanders up 19-15 with 1:54 left.
Marquise Williams completed 2 of 3 passes for 49 yards. Woodside, who has started every game this season, hit 13 of 19 attempts for 164 yards and one TD, but was picked off once and sacked six times.
Woodrum completed 22 of 35 passes for 229 yard and the TD. He was sacked twice and had one attempt intercepted.
The only points of the third quarter came on a 52-yard field goal by Taylor Bertolet, who tied the game at 9 with 9:25 left in the period.
Nick Rose kicked a 23-yard field with five seconds left in the second quarter, giving the Commanders a 9-6 lead at the half. The kick capped a 12-play, 66-yard drive that was set up by cornerback Duke Thomas, who picked off Woodrum at the San Antonio 4 and returned it 25 yards.
The Commanders got a reprieve when the Stallions were flagged for roughing the passer after safety Cody Brown intercepted Woodside in the end zone and returned the pick to the 24. The play came on a 3-and-15 at the Salt Lake 19 with 2:23 remaining in the half.
The penalty moved San Antonio to the 9, but running back Kenneth Farrow II was dropped for a five-yard loss on first down. The Commanders faced a fourth-and-8 situation after they gained only six yards on two plays.
Rose kicked a 26-yard field goal to put San Antonio up 9-6 with 1:04 left in the half, but Riley opted to take the points off the scoreboard after Salt Lake City was flagged for defensive holding.
An unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty against the Stallion two plays moved the Commanders to the 1, but they were unable to punch the ball over the goal line. Rose kicked a 23-yard field goal to give San Antonio a three-point lead at the half.
Bertolet kicked a 32-yard field goal on the game's first possession, but the Commanders responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Woodside's 21-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Mekale McKay, who beat C.J. Smith on the play.
Woodside's pass to Ward Jr. on the two-point conversion attempt was incomplete, leaving San Antonio ahead 6-3.
Bertolet kicked a 53-yard field goal on the third play of the second quarter to tie the score 6-6. It remained that way until Rose kicked his 23-yarder to make it a three-point game at intermission.
Saturday's clash started a three-game homestand for the Commanders, who host Arizona next Sunday and Memphis on Saturday, April 6.
The final stats reflected how both teams struggled offensively, with neither team getting anywhere close to 300 yards. Salt Lake outgained San Antonio 263-240 in total offensive yardage, finishing with 49 rushing and 214 passing. The Commanders gained 64 yards on the ground and 176 through the air.