Recap vs. Pittsburgh Passion – April 6, 2013

D.C. Divas Rally to Win Season Opener, 42-31
DC 42, Pittsburgh 31
By Neal Rozendaal

Recap • Statistics

Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Passion hoped to celebrate the opening of their new stadium with a win over one of their top rivals.

Running back Kenyetta Grigsby and the D.C. Divas had other plans.

Powered by a strong second-half defensive effort and a record-breaking rushing day from Grigsby, the D.C. Divas rallied to defeat the Pittsburgh Passion, 42-31, on Saturday. The Divas (1-0) trailed, 31-21, at halftime, but three unanswered second-half touchdowns were the key to a DC victory.

Kenyetta Grigsby shattered a Divas franchise record with 290 rushing yards on the day, breaking the previous record of 264. Quarterback Allyson Hamlin had an efficient day as well, completing five of nine passes for 200 yards with four of her five completions going for touchdowns.

Both offenses exploded in the opening quarter, combining for four touchdowns in only 2:30 minutes of game time. The Passion (0-1) got on the board first, winning the opening coin toss and consuming over seven minutes before scoring on Candice Snyder’s seven-yard touchdown run.

Then the fireworks began. On the Divas’ third offensive play of the year, Grigsby raced 40 yards for a touchdown to knot the score at seven. Pittsburgh responded with a 53-yard touchdown run by running back Ciara Chic to retake the lead.

The Divas then took over at their own 13-yard line, and Hamlin dumped a short pass off to Ashley Whisonant. Whisonant did the rest, sprinting 87 yards to tie the game at 14. D.C. thought they had their first lead of the game moments later, but a long punt return touchdown was wiped out by penalty.

The Passion, playing their first game in new Highmark Stadium, took control of the contest in the second quarter with two touchdown passes by quarterback Lisa Horton. The touchdown receptions by Pittsburgh receivers Angela Baker and Amanda Heag gave the Passion a 28-14 lead. Horton, the league’s reigning National Conference MVP, finished the game with 244 yards on 17 of 37 passing.

Hamlin countered with her second touchdown pass to Whisonant, this one a 39-yard score that cut Pittsburgh’s advantage to 28-21. But the Passion methodically drove down the field, and Amy Fallon drilled a 30-yard field goal as time expired in the first half for a ten-point halftime lead.

Allyson Hamlin led the Divas’ comeback by throwing for two touchdowns in the third quarter, one to Juliette Baker-Brice and the other to Whisonant, her third of the day. Whisonant, who caught four passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns, gave the Divas their first lead of the game, 35-31, with 4:45 left in the third quarter.

The Passion’s best scoring chance in the second half came on their next drive, but Fallon’s 38-yard field goal attempt fell short of the goalposts.

Clinging to a four-point lead, D.C. turned to Grigsby, handing her the ball time and again to keep possession and run the clock. Grigsby’s 26 rushing attempts resulted in a franchise-record 290 yards and two touchdowns. Her second touchdown with 7:15 remaining in the game helped put the contest out of reach for the Divas.

D.C. knocked Pittsburgh out of the playoffs last season with a 45-30 victory, and that win – along with the opening of Highmark Stadium – gave the home crowd plenty of motivation. The Passion supporters cheered loudly, particularly in the third quarter as D.C. began to rally. But the Divas pitched a second-half shutout to secure a hard-fought victory.

The Divas’ next game takes place on April 13, when they travel to Ohio for a matchup with the Columbus Comets.

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