The Washington Commandos found out the hard way just how meaningless a 24-point lead is in the crazy world of Arena football.
With that big lead in the second quarter, the Commandos watched helplessly as the Dallas Texans marched up and down the 50-yard field for 32 unanswered points in the second half to escape with a 49-38 victory last night at Patriot Center.
After Washington (1-4) opened a seemingly insurmountable 27-3 lead late in the second quarter, Dallas (2-3) scored twice in the last 46 seconds of the half, closing to 27-17.
Then came the real stunner: The Texans went on a 32-11 binge in the second half to turn a Washington blowout into a Dallas victory.
The Commandos were plagued by turnovers -- two fumbles and two interceptions -- and had two kicks blocked.
"Turnovers hurt us and dropped balls hurt us," Commandos Coach Mike Hohensee said. "We gave them a glimmer of hope and they took it."
The second half was a horror show for Washington. After Dan Plocki, formerly of the University of Maryland, kicked a 41-yard field goal to up the Commandos' lead to 30-17 three minutes in, Dallas quarterback Ben Bennett, the former Duke all-American, needed only two plays to find Carl Aikens for a 37-yard touchdown pass, making it 30-23.
"They just made a few mistakes, and in Arena football, it can easily snowball into a lot of points," Bennett said.
Dallas scored again a minute later. Alex Morris intercepted a pass from Mike Rhodes and returned it to the 7. This time Bennett needed only one play to hit Tony Newsome in the end zone. Keith Chapman missed his second straight extra-point try, leaving the Texans down by 30-29.
"In the second half we just didn't execute and a lot of that was my fault," Rhodes said.
Dallas took the lead with just under two minutes left in the third, 35-30, when Alvin Blackmon ran in from the 3. Mitchell Ward scored twice in the fourth quarter, going over from one and two yards.
Rhodes had another fabulous first half, picking up where he left off last week, when the Commandos whipped Albany, 50-19, and he was named Arena player of the week.
He threw for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the half, completing 13 of 23 passes.
The Commandos got the first break when, on the Texans' opening drive, Ward fumbled just shy of Washington's goal line and Commando Ray Puryear recovered at the 4.
Rhodes came out looking for Russell Hairston, who was starting in place of injured Charlie Brown. On the sixth play of the drive, he found Hairston for a 24-yard scoring pass.
After Dallas answered with a 29-yard field goal from Chapman, Rhodes drove the Commandos to the 1, and Jeff Blankenship finished the job with a dive over left tackle for the touchdown. The Commandos led, 14-3.
Rhodes wasn't done, firing a 34-yard bomb to Chris Armstrong in the end zone. Rhodes witnessed the touchdown from the turf after Ward leveled him just as he unloaded.
Rhodes and Armstrong hooked up for another score, this one a 22-yarder in the left corner, with just 2:28 remaining in the half.
Dallas got back in it with two scores in the last 46 seconds. Ward went over from three yards, and then with only 10 seconds to go Keith Williams broke through on Plocki's field goal try, blocking the kick and recovering the ball in the end zone for 27-17.