Vipers Strike Early and Often to Earn Their First Victory

By on March 2, 2020
DeAndre Goolsby (Photo-Neal Nachman)

Photos By Neal Nachman (Florida Sports Report) and Travis Failey

The Tampa Bay Vipers opened up as big underdogs to the DC Defenders on Sunday Night at Raymond James Stadium but you wouldn’t have know it by their effort and the final result.

The Vipers defeated the Defenders and QB Cardale Jones by the score of 25-0 and it wasn’t that close.

Cardale Jones (Photo-Neal Nachman)

The Vipers dominated all three phases of the game and Marc Trestman and his coaching staff should be commended for the job they did as they had something to prove after starting the season 0-3.

Cardale Jones and the Defenders received the kickoff and the Vipers defense set the tone with outstanding tackling as they forced the Defenders to go 3 and out on the opening drive.

Taylor Cornelius (Photo-Neal Nachman)

Taylor Cornelius once again got the start for the Vipers as Aaron Murray is still dinged up and on the sideline. Cornelius also didn’t have to look over his shoulder to see when hometown favorite Clinton flowers would be coming into the game as Flowers earlier in the week left the team unexpectedly.

Jacques Patrick (Photo-Neal Nachman)

The Viper’s opening drive couldn’t have gone any better. 75 yards in 11 plays in 4:29 capped off by a Patrick run of 8 yards. Smith with a one-point conversion run and the Vipers led 7-0.

After stopping the Defenders again on the ensuing drive, the offensive line once again pushed the Defenders back into the second and third levels and you had a feeling that this was going to be the Vipers night.

It seemed most of the 50-50 plays that happen throughout the game were going in the Vipers direction and on a big fourth-down play on the Vipers second drive, Cornelius completed a  beautiful pitch play to the Deveon Smith to pick up a big first down.

The Vipers also caught some breaks throughout the game including when Cornelius fumbled and Patrick picked up the loose ball and ran all the way down to the two.

But a big 10-yard penalty could have stalled the drive but Cornelius beat the outside rush and threw a perfect pass to his Tight End DeAndre Goolsby for the score to go up 13-0.

The running game Sunday night was dominant and that opened up the rest of the play calling for Offensive Coordinator Jaime Elizondo. After getting taken to the woodshed by the fans and media pundits for the goal line play calling in the loss versus the Houston Roughnecks, Elizondo was brilliant. He mixed in wide receiver screens and play-action passing with power and cut back runs and even when the Vipers didn’t score, they controlled the clock.

On the other side of the ball, Defensive Coordinator Jerry Glanville called one of the best games of his career. Defenders QB Cardale Jones, didn’t know what direction the blitz was coming from and struggled all night long.

(Photo-Neal Nachman)
Colin Thompson catches the tip off of Dan Williams (Photo-Neal Nachman)

Even when the Gladiators moved the ball, things seemed to go the Vipers way. After settling for a field goal attempt in the second quarter, The Vipers broke through and blocked the attempt to keep the score 13-0.

The game slowed a bit until Cornelius hit Jalen Tolliver on a perfect play-action pass for 22 to get the Vipers back in business.

But a few plays later, Reese Horn was streaking down the right hash for a TD but Cornelius was late with the ball and Rahim Moore picked it off for the Defenders. But the momentum shift didn’t last long as Glanville brought the blitz again on Jones and Tavarus McFadden intercepted a jump ball thrown by Jones.

The defense came up with additional stops and then Cornelius then took the game into his own hands and shut the door on any comeback by the Defenders.

Cornelius broke to his right and he made a 17 yard mad dash that resulted in a touchdown. He took a huge hit on the goal line and was considerably shaken up but stayed in the rest of the game.

Cardale Jones (Photo-Neal Nachman)

Jones completed his poor showing by missing a wide-open Rashad Ross who was streaking towards the end zone which would have negated the shutout. The Vipers defense continued with their relentless pursuit and on the next play, they smashed Jones behind the line for a ten-yard loss.

In the fourth quarter with the game out of hand, Jones sat on the bench with his helmet in his hands, obviously dejected. The former Ohio State standout — finished just 9-of-22 for 72 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He was pulled for the final 7 minutes of the game in favor of former Buffalo Bulls QB Tyree Jackson. Jerry Glanville said he wanted his defense to make every play miserable for the opposing QB and his defense did it in spades Sunday night.

Taylor Cornelius (Photo-Neal Nachman)

For the Vipers, quarterback Taylor Cornelius was 24-of-31 for 211 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He added four carries for 36 yards and a TD.

The offensive line and both running backs should receive game balls as Jacque Patrick (108) and Deveon Smith (122) had over 100 yards. In total, the Vipers outgained the Defenders in yardage 477 to 121.

Vipers RB Jacques Patrick said, “Glad to get the first win. We put a lot of work in. It’s finally good to see the results show on the scoreboard.”

Vipers Head coach and GM Mark Trestman (TRAVIS FAILEY PHOTO)

Coach Trestman after the game said, “I’m really proud of our team for their resilience. “It’s part of this winding road through adversity and success that a football season brings. … They got a little bit of what they deserved tonight.”

An observation from the first four weeks of the season: The league is definitely letting them play a bit more than the NFL. In this game specifically, a late roughing the punter call should have been called and other blatant holding and pass interference penalties were not called.

Up next for the Vipers? A battle of 1-3 teams as they travel to the West Coast to play the L.A. Wildcats next Sunday night at 9 Eastern.

For More Photos From The Game go to

Special Thanks to Neal Nachman for the photos for this week’s game.

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