The Memphis Express took a slight offensive detour in the first quarter of Saturday’s home game against the Orlando Apollos, inserting Johnny Manziel at quarterback. The former Heisman winner promptly drove his team down the field and had it in position to score. But a touchdown pass was waved off by offensive pass interference and another target toward the end zone was intercepted.
Manziel didn’t give up on the latter play, diving head first to make a tackle on Will Hill and taking an inadvertent knee in the process. He suffered a concussion and did not return.
His final line: 2 of 3 for 13 yards, three carries for 18 yards, and a forgettable second appearance in the Alliance of American Football.
Meanwhile, the Apollos rallied from a nine-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to improve on their AAF-best record with a 34-31 win.
Orlando led by nine itself in the third quarter, only to see Memphis score 22 straight points. Apollos QB Garrett Gilbert hit Charles Johnson for an 18-yard touchdown with 4:49 left in the game cut the deficit to three.
The rain then started to fall, and so did a long snap to the Memphis punter, giving Orlando the ball back inside the Express 30. Moments later, De’Veon Smith rammed it in from the 1 to put the Apollos ahead for good.
Gilbert went 22 of 40 for 310 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Johnson had eight catches for 135 yards and the score. Express QB Brandon Silvers completed 30 of 49 passes for 269 yards with a touchdown and interception. Gerrard Shepppard caught nine balls for 98 yards. Neither team had a rusher break 40 yards, while both teams averaged less than four yards a carry.
Orlando (7-1) clinched a share of the best record in the Eastern Conference. Memphis (2-6) fell to fourth and will be eliminated from playoff contention if Birmingham beats Atlanta on Sunday.