SaberCats crush Destroyers in ArenaBowl
NEW ORLEANS --Mark Grieb completed 24 of 29 passes and threw for four touchdowns to lead the San Jose SaberCats to a 55-33 victory over the Columbus Destroyers in Sunday's ArenaBowl.
The SaberCats (16-3), the most successful AFL franchise this decade, capped a 3 1/2-month winning streak with their third Arena League championship in six years.
Columbus (10-10), which was hoping to win its first ArenaBowl, won three consecutive road games to get to the final.
San Jose was held to its lowest scoring total of the playoffs, but the SaberCats' defense offset that by holding Columbus 30 points below its postseason average.
Grieb passed for 218 yards and no interceptions.
Columbus quarterback Matt Nagy completed 24 of 43 passes for four touchdowns and 203 yards. He was intercepted twice.
San Jose took the lead for good in the second quarter when Trestin George returned a kickoff 56 yards for a touchdown to break a 14-14 tie.
Then, on a fourth-and-1 play, Grieb found George Williams with a shovel pass, giving the SaberCats a 27-14 halftime advantage.
The San Jose defense -- second in the AFL in points allowed -- kept the Destroyers out of the end zone for nearly 11 minutes to end the first half. Columbus averaged 50.1 points a game this season, 63 points in the playoffs.
Nagy hit Cole Magner with a 3-yard touchdown pass to pull the Destroyers within 27-21 with 8:09 remaining in the third quarter.
A 4-yard scoring pass from Grieb to Ben Nelson gave the SaberCats a 34-21 lead. But Damien Groce caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from Nagy to pull Columbus within 34-27 as the third quarter ended.
A 1-yard run by Phil Glover five minutes into the fourth quarter put San Jose up 41-27. Grieb found James Roe for a second time with 5:57 left, hitting him for a 20-yard touchdown to make it 48-27.
The game, which sold out weeks in advance with 17,056 tickets purchased, was the first ArenaBowl sellout at a neutral site for the Arena Football League's championship game, with the tickets snapped up almost nine weeks before the game.
The 2005 game drew 10,822 and the 2006 ArenaBowl had a crowd of 13,476. Actual attendance Sunday was 15,147.
It was the first team championship game in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29, 2005.