Consider the fact that Philadelphia Soul quarterback Brandon Kirsch was starting his first game as an Arena Football League quarterback since the 2008 season, following the benching of quarterback Ryan Vena after last week's loss to the defending champion Spokane Shock.
Throw in the fact that wide receiver Donovan Morgan, who leads the Arena Football League with 1614 receiving yards, was ruled out of the game with a leg contusion.
And the Soul's 48-42 loss to the Tulsa Talons actually was a respectable performance for a team fighting to keep alive its slim postseason hopes.
Things even started off on a high note, as Kirsch hit wide receiver Mike Brown for a 36-yard touchdown just 2:43 into the game. Brown made a sensational one-handed catch as he fell into the end zone.
But things quickly spiraled downhill. The Soul trailed 27-14 at halftime, with the key play coming on a 50-yard interception touchdown by J.C. Neal midway through the second quarter--one of three interceptions thrown by Kirsch in the first half.
When the second half began, Kirsch was on the bench, replaced by Ryan Vena. Although Vena provided a spark to the Soul offense, throwing four second half touchdown passes without an interception, it was his fumbled snap with the Soul trailing by six in the final minute of play that ultimately led to the Soul's ninth loss of the season.
"I was unhappy that I didn't get the start, but I understand that we're trying to get a spark in the last couple of games," Vena said. "I just wanted to get in there and give us another spark like I've done in the past. We came close. If I get that snap, I think we'd win the game."
The fumbled snap spoiled what could have been the biggest play of the game. Soul defensive tackle Dustin Barno blocked a potential game-sealing field goal with just 34 seconds remaining in the game. Trailing by six, the Soul came close to providing the same type of late game heroics as they did in their previous home game, when Vena hit Morgan on a four-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game.
Tulsa quarterback Justin Allgood received National Guard MVP honors, throwing for six touchdowns without an interception, and earning sweet revenge on his former team. Allgood had been the starting quarterback for the Soul for the first four games of the season before a mid-season trade sent him to Tulsa and landed Vena the starting job.
"Words can't really describe how much this game meant to me and how excited I am to get it," Allgood said. "I wasn't overly great, but I didn't throw any interceptions, which was my goal. I did what I had to do."
For the Soul, head coach Mike Hohensee was asked if Vena would remain the team's starting quarterback. "As of right now, I would think so," Hohensee said. "I was hoping Brandon would be a little more consistent and when things weren't there I was hoping he'd throw it in the stands like we talked about. Sometimes when you're 5-8, 5-9 now, you want to try to make something happen and you try too hard."
Kirsch, who was signed by the Soul on May 20th after the team traded Allgood to Tulsa, was disappointed in his first start as a member of the Soul, a game that ended with him riding the bench for the final two quarters.
"Today was maybe a reality check for me," Kirsch said. "This is pro football. This isn't the flag football league that I play in back home. It's tough when you go out there and set high expectations for yourself and don't achieve them."
With the loss, the Soul dropped to 5-9. To qualify for the postseason, they will likely need to win their final four games, and probably earn a little bit of luck.
They will host the 11-2 Arizona Rattlers, the top team in the National Conference, next Saturday at 7:05 p.m. One positive aspect for the Soul is that Donovan Morgan will likely return from his leg injury.