Images: San Antonio Commanders
San Antonio’s newest professional team launched their inaugural campaign Saturday night with a home victory, as the San Antonio Commanders sank the San Diego Fleet 15-6.
Playing in the Alliance of American Football, the Commanders are subject to some modified rules when compared to other gridiron football leagues. Most of the game is similar to what fans would see watching an NFL or College Football game, including using NFL field dimensions and goalpost sizes.
The two biggest changes involve kicking and officiating, and fans seemed to embrace the changes after seeing the action for themselves.
There are no extra points or kickoffs in The Alliance, which greatly reduced downtime between plays from scrimmage. The entire game in San Antonio clocked in at around 2.5 hours, a significant drop from NFL games which average over 3 hours or some college football games which push closer to 4 hours.
The second big change to on-field results is the “eye in the sky” official, an extra member of the officiating crew who can call down to the on-field referee if an obvious penalty is missed, or incorrectly called.
On the topic of officiating, there were 18 penalties accepted between the two teams. Social media praised the lack of flags being thrown throughout the game, but ironically the number is slightly higher than the NFL’s average flag per game in 2018, roughly 16.4 per NFLPenalties.com. One early Commanders sack drew extra attention on social media.
With shorter breaks in action, quicker decisions via the “eye in the sky” replay official, and the excitement of something new, fan complaints towards officiating seemed muted Saturday night. That wouldn’t be surprising if it was a low viewership number, but the Commanders game was broadcast across most of the country on CBS stations.
Before the on-field action started, San Antonio showed up in force to support their newest team. The cavernous Alamodome is a tough task to fill, but with an announced attendance of 27,857, most of the lower bowl was filled. The upper level appeared to be dimmed when viewed from the broadcast, which was a solid choice for the upstart league.
San Antonio’s first play from scrimmage was a Logan Woodside pass to much-hyped former Cowboys wide receiver Mekale McKay for 22 yards. Throughout the rest of the game, Woodside and his receiving corps proved that San Antonio has a potent offense capable of big plays at any moment.
Woodside finished the night with 18 completions on 36 passes, totaling 255 yards and 2 INTs. Unsurprisingly, McKay led the team in targets, netting 5 receptions on 12 targets for 80 yards on the night. Greg Ward Jr came in second for the squad with 5 receptions on 7 targets for 65 yards. Ward also tallied a pass attempt that was inches away from being caught for a touchdown.
The lone touchdown of the night came from running back Kenneth Farrow II, who led the team in rushing attempts with 37 yards on 14 attempts. San Antonio’s own Aaron Green accumulated the most rushing yards with 43 yards on 6 attempts.
Besides the win earned on the field, The AAF and San Antonio Commanders have to feel good about their launch. Safety Orion Stewart on the atmosphere said,
San Antonio surprised me tonight. I definitely didn’t think the crowd was gonna be like that but that was awesome, man. I loved it. And I’m so appreciative of all the fans coming out from San Antonio and everywhere else.
Mike Riley’s team began their inaugural season with a win and massive crowd support. Their next challenge comes Sunday February 17th when Orlando Apollos visit the Alamodome. First-snap comes at 3pm central time. You can follow along on twitter for updates.