364 days on from what was labelled by many as the best game in the history of British University American Football, Nottingham were out for revenge against a UWE Bullets side who defeated them 28-21 in last year’s American Football National Championship. UWE entered the game undefeated this season and full of confidence after coming back from 24-8 down to defeat Leeds Beckett to earn a spot in this championship matchup. But on home turf under the lights at David Ross, and with the added motivation of avenging last year’s loss, the Nottingham Gold team were going to be no easy task for the reigning national champions. This year’s BUCS American Football National Championship was set up to be another classic, and Tom Henigan was there for Impact.
The atmosphere at David Ross was electric as the Nottingham faithful let out a huge roar to the team’s introduction. The captains of each team headed to midfield for the coin toss. Notts won the toss and elected to defer, giving UWE the ball to start the game.
Finally, after a year of waiting for this rematch, Nottingham had their chance at revenge. The defence started strong, forcing UWE to punt straight away. The Notts offence, led by talented Quarterback Robby Rowell, looked to strike first, as they entered the field for the first time. The UWE defence showed that they had come to play, though, with their no. 10 intercepting Rowell and getting the Bullets’ offence right back on the field.
UWE used the momentum to their advantage with their Quarterback, no. 12, Hamish McClure finding no. 2 jersey Eickhorst inside Notts territory. This really put the Notts defence on the backfoot and UWE took full advantage, with the drive ending on a short touchdown pass from McClure to no. 15 Ethan Fischler. The Bullets followed this up with a successful two-point conversion. UWE had struck first and led 8-0.
The Notts offence re-entered the field looking to respond instantly. But, as Rowell showed off his athleticism and took off with the ball in his hands, it came loose, and the Bullets recovered it around Notts’ 40-yard line.
The momentum was still all with UWE as the score stood at 14-0 to the Bullets
McClure and Fischler went on to combine again through the air to give UWE their second touchdown. Notts were able to stop the two-point attempt this time, but the momentum was still all with UWE as the score stood at 14-0 to the Bullets.
Notts needed some big plays and that’s exactly what they got with a huge run from no. 6 George Dominguez to take the offence to just outside of the UWE 20-yard line. As the 2nd Quarter began, Notts looked in a good position to bring themselves right back into the game. But the UWE defence once again proved themselves a tough unit to break down, with a huge tackle for loss on 4th and long on Dominguez putting the Bullets’ offence back on the field.
UWE went for two again and were successful for the second time, putting Notts into a 22-point deficit
McClure once again led his team down the field, running for a big gain to take UWE inside Notts’ 15-yard line. The Bullets kept driving and eventually punched the ball into the endzone from about a yard out. UWE went for two again and were successful for the second time, putting Notts into a 22-point deficit.
22-0 down against the undefeated reigning champions, the Notts boys had a mountain to climb, but they had come too far to go down without a fight. They needed a huge play and on the kick-off that’s exactly what they got. No. 10 Tof Lala showing incredible speed to take it all the way to the endzone on a kick-off return touchdown!!! Tof’s incredible runback had the crowd amped up and it looked like the play that would give Notts the momentum they needed.
But the celebrations were muted as the referees had thrown a flag on Notts for holding. What looked like a game changing play had been brought back and the score remained 22-0. Already trailing big, and with such an incredible play being called back, nothing was going Notts’ way.
We had a game back on our hands!
But the offence responded incredibly. Just a few plays after the disallowed touchdown, Rowell threw a beautiful pass to no. 11 Jonathan Mbanefo who took the ball into the endzone on an incredible play! No flags this time and Notts were right back in the game. They followed the touchdown with a successful extra point attempt, and we had a game back on our hands!
Then, on the ensuing kick-off, UWE fumbled the ball, putting Rowell and the Notts offence right back in the action! In just a few minutes, Notts had brought themselves right back into this game! The offence re-entered play knowing that they needed to capitalise on the turnover. Unfortunately, though, they had to settle for a field goal attempt. Kicker Danylo Blackburn added three points for Notts from an impressive distance of 44 yards.
The defence continued the comeback effort with another big stop to get the red-hot offence back on the field. Rowell wasted no time with an incredible pass to Tight End Finley Old who was brought down inside the 5-yard line! The UWE defence didn’t seem to know what had hit them, all of a sudden they were on the verge of their once 22-point lead being cut down to 6.
On second and goal, Rowell once again showed off his athleticism. He escaped a UWE defensive lineman who had broken through and rolled left. Rowell ran for the endzone himself and went in for the touchdown!!! Notts failed on the conversion attempt, but they were still right back in this game, bringing the score back to 22-16!
The Bullets’ offence needed to find some success again, but they failed to do so as the Notts defence forced and recovered a fumble! The fumble allowed Blackburn the chance to make his second field goal of the game, and he did so from 47 yards. Despite it looking like a blowout at one point, the game was all to play for at half time, with UWE leading 22-19.
After scoring 19 unanswered points, they had a great chance to use the momentum to their advantage
Having chosen to defer at the coin toss, the Notts offence received the ball to start the second half, and after scoring 19 unanswered points, they had a great chance to use the momentum to their advantage and take the lead. Despite several good plays on the drive, the offence was unable to garner any points, with the UWE defence managing to eventually force a punt.
The Bullets’ offence entered for the first time in the second half, and they wasted no time at all. Following some good plays, and a fortunate 15-yard penalty in their favour, UWE found themselves at around the Notts 33-yard line. That’s when Hamish McClure and Ethan Fischler connected for a touchdown for the third time in one of the biggest plays of the game. McClure dropped back and unleashed a sensational throw down the left side-line to Fischler, who brought the ball into his hands beautifully as it came over his head, and he entered the endzone for the touchdown.
The Notts defence did manage to stop UWE’s two-point attempt to keep the score at 28-19, but that touchdown was a huge blow to their title hopes.
The offence was able to drive down the field again though, with Rowell making a great throw to find his receiver, no. 19, Charlie Escott, to help them on their way. The drive didn’t end how Notts wanted though, with Blackburn missing his first kick of the day.
Entering the fourth and final quarter, the boys faced an uphill battle. But, if the first half of this game proved anything, it’s that you cannot count this Nottingham side out. The UWE offence, though, continued its second half efficiency as a big run-on third and short by their no. 8 took them past midfield. The Bullets continued to move the ball, and on second and eight, their no. 2 took the ball into the endzone on a bubble screen pass play.
The game certainly wasn’t over yet as the Notts offence continued to show their bounce-back ability
The defence did manage to get a stop on another two-point attempt which kept the deficit at 15, meaning it was only a two-score game. The game certainly wasn’t over yet as the Notts offence continued to show their bounce-back ability, with Dominguez making another big play to take the ball inside the UWE 20-yard line on a catch and run.
Rowell then took off with the ball to give Notts a first and goal. The offence had a huge chance to score another touchdown. On second and goal, Rowell found a wide open Mbanefo through the air, but he couldn’t quite bring in the catch to get his second touchdown of the game. Notts still had two more attempts for the touchdown but were unable to get past the stout Bullet’s defence and came away with zero points.
The UWE offence entered the field with a chance to end the game, but the Notts defence made a stop to give the team a glimmer of hope with not much time left on the clock. The offence re-entered the game and this time they were able to find the endzone, with Dominguez the ball in for a touchdown on a toss play. Notts converted the 2-point attempt and that cut the score down to 34-27, but time was a big issue with less than a minute remaining.
Notts had to go for an onside kick attempt to try to regain possession of the ball straight away. But, unfortunately they weren’t able to pull it off and UWE got the ball back.
UWE needed one more first down to repeat as national champions. Their no. 10 came in at Quarterback and kept the ball on a perfectly executed read option play to run for the first down. Notts had no more timeouts so couldn’t stop the clock again, as it wound down to zero to give UWE the victory.
Full Time: Nottingham 27-34 UWE.
It was a well-fought battle from Notts, struggling back from behind several times to keep themselves in the game throughout, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
Despite their loss, the Nottingham team have so much to be proud of. This game was a great showcase of British University American Football, with incredible talent on show everywhere you looked.
The Nottingham Gold team had a sensational season, and although it didn’t end how they wanted, they can hold their heads high knowing that they gave it their all and brought us some incredible moments. Don’t be shocked if you see them in the National Championship game again next season, where they will look to go one step further.
Featured image courtesy of @dhanin.jpg via Instagram. Permission given to Impact to use. No changes were made to this image.
In article image 1 courtesy of @dhanin.jpg via Instagram. Permission given to Impact to use. No changes were made to this image.
In article image 2 courtesy of @uwebullets via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.
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