- OTHERFB - Demons rally from 16-0 deficit

NFL Europe
Saturday, April 14
Updated: April 15, 11:21 PM ET
Demons rally from 16-0 deficit

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Down 16-0 midway through the first quarter, the San Francisco Demons had every reason to panic against the Orlando Rage on Saturday night in the XFL semifinals.

But the Demons steadied themselves because, as coach Jim Skipper explained it, they knew there was still 53 minutes of football yet to be played.

"We always say that it isn't over until it's over and it hasn't ended until it's ended," Skipper said after San Francisco's 26-25 victory. "Every game has its own personality."

Mike Panasuk broke a fourth-quarter tie with a 40-yard field goal and quarterback Pat Barnes scored twice on 1-yard dives as the Demons advanced to the XFL's Million Dollar Game next Saturday. San Francisco will play a road game against the winner of Sunday's Los Angeles/Chicago semifinal contest.

On the first play from scrimmage after Panasuk's kick, Dwayne Harper intercepted a pass by Jim Arellanes and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. It was Arellanes' first snap after replacing Orlando starter Brian Kuklick.

The Demons needed that cushion because Orlando closed within a point with 3:32 remaining. Arellanes first hooked up with Dialleo Burks for a 55-yard touchdown pass, then found Mario Bailey from 10 yards out on the XFL's first-ever 3-point conversion, which the league instituted for the playoffs.

But San Francisco was able to run out the clock for the win.

The Rage, taking advantage of San Francisco's mistakes, rolled out to the 16-0 lead. But Orlando coach Galen Hall said he knew victory wasn't in hand by any means.

"I never felt that we had this game won," Hall said. "I did feel that we had control of the game and let it get away from us."

Early in the first quarter, Demons quarterback Pat Barnes was leveled as he threw, and the ball squirted into the hands of Orlando defensive tackle Ben Huff. Huff rumbled 17 yards for a touchdown and a 9-0 lead.

On the next play from scrimmage, Orlando linebacker Sedrick Clark stripped the ball from Demons halfback Terry Battle after a short reception and recovered the ball. Aided by a 24-yard pass interference penalty, the Rage cashed in three plays later on Derrick Clark's 1-yard scoring run.

"So we're down, but I told my guys, 'They haven't done anything,' " Demons defensive coordinator Michael Church said.

San Francisco clamped down on Orlando after the first quarter, forcing five straight punts. The Rage self-destructed after that, with back-to-back interceptions, the second being returned for a score by Harper, and a fumbled snap.

"We just shot ourselves in the foot," said Orlando starting quarterback Brian Kuklick, who completed only 5 of 16 passes for 46 yards before being pulled early in the fourth quarter.

San Francisco tied it at 16 on Barnes' run with 8:02 left in the third quarter. The 69-yard drive, aided by a 28-yard pass interference penalty, was the game's longest.

The Demons, taking advantage of an Orlando miscue, closed to 16-10 late in the first half. On a Rage punt from their own 42, the snap flew over the punter's head and was recovered at the Orlando 4. Two plays later, Barnes scored on a dive, although there were questions whether the ball had slipped out of his hands before he crossed the plane of the goal line.

"I guess if it was our quarterback, I would've agreed with the call," Hall said. "It was close and it went against us. The linesman had the call and made the call."

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