(Photo by the author)
The final three quarters of Team USA-Austria were an absolute rout in favor of the defending champs celebrating the Fourth of July.
AUSTIN, TX -- After the first quarter, Austria was hanging with the United States, tied 7-7, outgaining the Americans in total yardage at Burger Stadium in the second round of the IFAF U-19 World Championship. But Team USA ran off 63 straight points over the following three quarters to prevail 70-7 and advance to the gold medal game on Saturday against Canada, victors over Japan in the early game.
Two short stretches opened up the game for Team USA, as the Americans dropped four touchdowns on the Austrians in the second quarter, including three in just over three minutes of gametime, aided by multiple turnovers.
The third quarter featured the same -- a touchdown early and four total trips into the endzone. After halftime, the final three scores, needed only drained two minutes from the clock, highlighted by a stretch that included an interception returned 18 yards by linebacker Khari Harding for a touchdown and a 47-yard touchdown run by Lorenzo Woodley when Team USA got the ball back.
One picture of Austria in the second quarter foreshadowed the future -- the majority of the team huddled under a tent on the sideline, in direct line of the cooling mist from a large fan, while the United States stalked the opposing sideline, unphased by a relatively mild evening for central Texas in the summer with temperatures just over 90 degrees at kickoff.
Futile Austrian attempts on offense and defense resulted in prone players with minor injuries and/or shame after nearly every play during the crucial stretch, including the Austria quarterback on two consecutive strikes from defensive end Dajaun Drennon that staggered the opposing signal caller, the second of which forcing a fumble returned inside the Austrian 10 yardline.
After the game, Drennon acknowledged that the quarterback would "most likely" feel those hits on Sunday. Quite the understatement.
At one point just into the fourth quarter, Austria had thrown eight passes that were caught. Four of them caught by American players, four caught by Austrians. When the clock finally, mercifully struck zero, Team USA had outgained Austria 434 to 135, forced six turnovers, and avoided any giveaways offensively.
In a minor victory for the visitors, the final two completions went to teammates.
So it went as the competitive first quarter devolved into a rout on America's Independence Day while fireworks exploded in downtown Austin, visible from the press box over the northern Burger Stadium bleachers.
It was America's day, playing America's game, and Austria felt the full force of it all, a still penalty-prone freight train with downhill momentum, aided by pure gravity. It didn't look pleasant, and probably wasn't.