The KISS saw Saturday night's game against the San Jose Sabercats as a test of where the team would stand a third of the way through its inaugural season.
After a 48-32 loss at Honda Center, the KISS could not call that test a success.
The team had beaten the teams it would have been expected to beat — San Antonio (now 1-6) and Portland (1-5) — and lost to two of the league's best, Cleveland (6-0) and Orlando (5-2), before last week's 31-12 loss to the Iowa Barnstormers (3-2), a team that, at least on paper, seemed an even match for the KISS.
The game against conference opponent San Jose was a chance to return to a .500 record and get back on track to championship contention.
Not that the players thought it would not be easy.
“Historically, San Jose has always had a very good franchise, a very good organization,” quarterback J.J. Raterink said last week at practice. “When you play a team that has got a few championships under their belt, is consistent in the playoffs and always has a successful team, those are the games you really want the opportunity to make a statement.”
Los Angeles kept it close for three quarters in front of a crowd of 10,569, but San Jose (4-3) pulled away in the fourth quarter and kept the KISS (2-4) from making the statement it had hoped to make.
The game might have been closer if a replay review of a San Jose touchdown had gone L.A.'s way near the end of the first half.
Sabercats receiver Rod Harper made a diving catch in the end zone and ended up in the stands with the fans.
Believing that Harper had dropped the ball in the stands, KISS Coach Bob McMillen challenged the touchdown, but officials ruled there was insufficient to overturn the play and the touchdown stood, giving San Jose a 27-18 lead and the momentum going into halftime.
Los Angeles also lost a challenge of an interception in the fourth quarter.
The KISS defense could not contain Harper the rest of the game and he ended the night with nine receptions for 67 yards with four touchdowns. Odie Armstrong gave San Jose ground support with 27 yards rushing and a touchdown
The KISS offense, which ranked among the worst in the league going into the weekend, continued to struggle. Raterink threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns but had two passes intercepted at key moments in the second half, and lead receiver Donovan Morgan was held to one touchdown.
After the game McMillen sounded like a coach who thought his team had failed the test it had set for itself. He said he would be actively looking for a new defensive line, which he described as “invisible” against San Jose, and he criticized his kicker, who missed three point-after-touchdown attempts.
“Every game is crucial. We're two and four now,” McMillen said. “I'm not even considering winning the division. I'm just trying to make the playoffs.”
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