SaberCats Midseason Report
|AFL Communications takes a look at the first half of the San Jose SaberCats 2012 campaign.
By BJ PICKARD
05/14/2012 4:10 PM
San Jose SaberCats (7-2)
The 2011 season marked the first time since 1999 that the San Jose SaberCats finished with a losing record (7-11). Midway through the 2012 season, it appears things are back to normal at the HP Pavilion, as Hall of Fame coach Darren Arbet has the ‘Cats sitting atop the AFL with a 7-2 record. Quarterback Mark Grieb, who was named the 18th Greatest Player in AFL History by the Silver Anniversary Committee earlier in the season, is on pace for his best season ever in terms of passing yards. Grieb set the single-season AFL record last year with 5,312 yards. With 2,753 yards through nine games this year, Grieb may well rewrite the record books yet again. He’s also on track to record more than 100 touchdown passes for the first time in his career, totaling 57 passing scores through the first ten weeks of the season. Grieb has seen a jump in his stats in large part to due to an exceptional receiving corps that features longtime fan favorites James Roe and Ben Nelson, as well as the proven commodities of Samora Goodson, Hank Edwards and Huey Whittaker. Nelson, Goodson and Roe have all recorded double-digit touchdown receptions already in 2012, while all five receivers are averaging more than 50 receiving yards per game. The San Jose offense has also been aided in the backfield this season by fullback Tommy Taggart, but an injury in Week 9 forced the team to make a move for another topflight runner, Johnie Kirton.
Defensively, despite having the AFL’s top three active leaders for sacks in a career, the ‘Cats have been led up front by newcomer Joe Sykes, who set a franchise record with four sacks earlier this season and leads the League with 10 sacks and 12 tackles for loss on the year. Sykes has been helped along by the AFL’s single-season record holder for sacks, Gabe Nyenhuis – who has five QB takedowns of his own this year – and the big man in the middle, Tim McGill. Francis Maka has also made his presence felt, recording 5.5 sacks and 20 tackles through the first half of the season. In the secondary, San Jose has four talented defensive backs, led by Andre Jones, who has collected a team-high 59.5 tackles in 2012. Vince Hill leads the squad with three interceptions, while Tanner Varner has displayed his versatility, spending time at both defensive back and Jack linebacker this year. Ruschard Dodd-Masters has also pulled double-duty, working at defensive back as well as stepping in as the team’s top kick returner. Kicker Nick Pertuit leads the League in kicking points per game with an average of 9.2 on the year and has connected on 55-of-58 PATs this season.
Looking ahead, the SaberCats have just one West Division game remaining on their schedule this season. The team’s June 23 game against the Spokane Shock will no doubt be important as the playoff picture begins to clear; however, a 4-1 record in the division so far is a very significant statistic.
Midseason MVP: QB Mark Grieb, 225-for-335, 2,753 yards, 57 TDs, 9 INTs, 120.68 QB Rating
Unsung Hero: OL Rich Ranglin, 4 catches, 48 yards, 9 game starter
Record Watch: DL Joe Sykes is on pace to not only break AFL Hall of Famer Sam Hernandez’ single-season franchise record for sacks with 13, but he could challenge teammate Gabe Nyenhuis’ single-season AFL record for sacks as well. Nyenhuis recorded 15.5 sacks in 2010 as a member of the Tulsa Talons.