The Munich Cowboys improved on their last outing against the two-time defending German Bowl champions but it still wasn’t enough as they fell to a 30-14 defeat at home to Schwaebisch Hall Unicorns.
The results leaves the Cowboys season hanging in the balance statistically (4-3-1) and their performance against the Unicorns epitomised both sides of their game.
A positive first quarter saw the defence reduce the visitors to a field goal on a productive 11-play opening drive. The Cowboys are without regular quarterback for the rest of the season after Patrick Carey broke his clavicle. Former offensive co-ordinator Blake Barnes has stepped into the pocket and even led the Cowboys to a 34-14 road win against the Rhein-Neckar Bandits last week.
In the rain of the Dante Stadium he took some time to find his groove but having picked out go-to receiver Garrett Andrews on the turn for a 36-yard pass, the Cowboys started to believe. Three plays later and Markus Gaertner caught a 7-yard pass in the far corner and the Cowboys suddenly found themselves up 7-3.
Despite their best efforts, the first play of the second quarter saw the Cowboys defence unlocked as another impressive Unicorns drive ended in points. This time quarterback Ryan Taggart threw a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Felix Brenner to put the Unicorns back in front. The Unicorns composure seemed to disrupt the Cowboys and Barnes, who threw for an interception on the next set. A 10-yard penalty followed and soon enough the aptly named Unicorns’ running back Brian Rushing ran in for a four-yard score to make it 17-7 to the visitors.
Both before and after the half-time interval the Cowboys struggled to get it done on third down. Barnes was either making the pass and being let down by his receivers or just made the wrong decision. Soon after, the Cowboys survived a bizarre refereeing decision to avoid conceding a further score. Fabien Gaertner was hardly in the game and Barnes appeared to be chancing his arm, particularly to Andrews, on far to a regular basis.
Despite two turnovers from the Cowboys and both sides going for it on fourth down, there were no points scored in the third quarter as the game drifted to its conclusion. Fabien Gaertner started to be used more and the Cowboys variation brought success. Philipp Vinzenz then produced the play of the game to bring the Cowboys within one score. He dragged in a 40-yard pass from Barnes before running the next 40 for the touchdown.
The Unicorns showed their class and on their next drive, they ate up the yards before executing a play-action run to make it 30-14 and end the contest. Ryan Taggart controlled the game with 2 TDs and shrewd tactics to constantly draw penalties from an over-eager Cowboys defense.
“The Cowboys made it difficult for us,” said a respectful Unicorns coach Siegfried Gehrke post game. Safety Drew Fisher hailed “sustaining the lead” as the key but of all the post-game comments, it was coach Craig, as it so often is, that summed up the game perfectly. “They executed on third down and we didn’t.”
The Cowboys now have a mid-season break before their next game, which is a home one against the top team in the GFL-South, the Marburg Mercenaries (5-0), on July 27th at 16:00 CET.