Recap vs. Columbus Comets – April 26, 2014

Divas Defense Sets the Tone in 39-0 Win
DC 39, Columbus 0
By Neal Rozendaal

Recap • Statistics

Landover, MD – They often say that a good quarterback is like a coach on the field. The D.C. Divas put that saying to the test – literally – and it led them to a pivotal division win.

Divas assistant coach Nikki Williams came out of retirement to get the start at quarterback, and she tossed four touchdown passes as the Divas blanked the Columbus Comets, 39-0. The D.C. Divas (1-2) preserved their 48th shutout victory in franchise history with a goal line stand with under two minutes remaining in the contest.

Nikki Williams was a legendary Divas wide receiver for nine seasons from 2002-2009 and 2011-2012. When she retired after the 2012 season, she was hired to help coach the Divas’ wide receivers. But with regular starting quarterback Allyson Hamlin sidelined for the second straight game with an injury, Williams stepped under center to help guide the Divas offense against the Columbus Comets (1-2).

With only a week of practice under her belt, Williams and the Divas offense got off to a rusty start. Midway through the first quarter, a Columbus defender picked off a Williams pass and raced down the sideline, but running back Kenyetta Grigsby chased her down from behind and tackled her at the Divas 15-yard line. That proved to be an important play, because the D.C. defense forced Columbus quarterback Crystal Davis to pass incomplete on fourth down early in the second quarter, keeping the game scoreless.

Wide receiver Kentrina Wilson stepped up and made her first of several spectacular catches a few minutes later. On fourth and two, Wilson caught a short pass over the middle for a first down, broke two Columbus tackles, and sprinted to the end zone to give the Divas a 7-0 advantage.

The Columbus Comets came into the contest with an excellent gameplan, working to shorten the game behind the rushing of Comets running back Shelly Gates. Defensively, Columbus held D.C. down for most of the first half. But the Divas’ offense gained momentum while the clock raced toward halftime, as they switched up and ran a few plays from the Wildcat formation.

With three seconds left in the first half, the Divas had the ball at the Columbus 23-yard line. Williams tossed a pass to Wilson inside the five-yard line, and Wilson dove over the goal line as time expired on the half. Wilson’s lunge provided a little breathing room for the Divas and a 14-0 halftime lead.

Ashley Whisonant was the focal point of the opposing pass defense and was held without a receiving touchdown for the third straight game. But even when she’s being blanketed by pass defenses, Whisonant manages to find her way to the end zone. She ran through the Columbus defense and returned the second half kickoff 79 yards for a Divas touchdown, capping a dramatic swing in the game. With three seconds left in the first half, the Divas led, 7-0, but ten seconds into the second half, D.C. held a 20-0 lead.

The Divas defense harassed the Columbus offense all game. It was a total team effort, with 21 players recording tackles. Trigger McNair (nine tackles) and Cherre Marshall (7.5 tackles) paced the D.C. defense.

Offensively, two more D.C. touchdowns in rapid succession late in the third quarter put the game away for the Divas. Kentrina Wilson added her third touchdown reception of the game with a 15-yard catch to put the Divas ahead, 27-0. Wilson continued to solidify her status as one of the best wide receivers in women’s football with seven catches for 169 yards and three touchdowns.

A couple minutes later, the Divas’ Wildcat offense struck again. Whisonant took the snap and lateraled to D’Ajah Scott, who raced 41 yards for a D.C. score. The Divas took a commanding lead into the fourth quarter, 33-0.

Lillian Cherry had the honor of finishing the evening’s scoring for the Divas, reeling in a 23-yard pass for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Quarterback Nikki Williams finished the game with 13 pass completions on 31 attempts for 230 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. Her fourth scoring pass of the contest gave the Divas a 39-0 lead.

The only suspense left at that point was whether or not the D.C. defense would be able to preserve the shutout. The Comets drove inside the Divas’ red zone on their final drive, but D’Ajah Scott picked off a Columbus pass at the two-yard line with 1:26 remaining in the game to end the threat. The Divas defense notched two interceptions – one by Scott and the other by Lindsay Sollers.

However, the Divas still had to drive the ball deep out of their own territory in order to run out the clock. Their first play lost one yard, backing D.C. up to their own one-yard line with under a minute remaining. Elise Pittman clinched the shutout by racing 49 yards out to midfield before narrowly being tripped up, which allowed the Divas to take a knee and end the game. Pittman’s run allowed her to finish as the Divas’ leading rusher for the contest with 71 yards on six carries.

With the win, the Divas clinched a crucial division victory and have all but secured a division championship and an automatic bid to the WFA playoffs. The Divas now hit the road to play the Baltimore Burn on May 3, and they next return home on May 17 against the Atlanta Phoenix.

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