KISS loses air in deflating loss to Cleveland

The L.A. KISS unraveled during its second home game at Honda Center in Anaheim on Saturday night as it lost, 40-30, to the Cleveland Gladiators.

The defense seemed almost nonexistent at times, the offense could not find a rhythm and even the fans seemed to be against them in the third quarter when a sure touchdown throw by quarterback J.J. Raterink to receiver Donovan Morgan was broken up by a fan in the front row who reached over to grab the would-be Arena Football League commemorative ball.

The defense started off strong with defensive backs Romeo Pellum and Andre Jones each breaking up scoring plays early in the first quarter.

But that disciplined performance changed after defensive back Dexter McCoil was ejected from the game for throwing a punch at one of the Cleveland players during a scuffle after a blocked field goal.

"We lost our jack linebacker at that point, and it was kind of downhill from that point," said Morgan, who was the sole bright spot of the night for the KISS (2-2) with 115 yards and two touchdowns.

The intensity of the game increased after that. When Markee White scored to give the KISS a 13-12 lead in the second quarter he was bumped by a Cleveland defender after the catch leading to a heated exchange between KISS Coach Bob McMillen and the officials.

For the rest of the game the KISS defense, which had a league-best 12 sacks last week, was burned by Cleveland quarterback Shane Austin, who threw for 243 yards and five touchdowns.

The lack of concentration transferred to the special teams, where lackluster tackles allowed Cleveland (4-0) to get good field position.

The KISS gave up a total of 256 yards on the night, including an eight-yard rushing touchdown by Corey Howard, who reached the end zone on the same drive that Austin had thrown for more than 10 yards on consecutive plays. On the other end, the L.A. offense struggled. Raterink threw for 259 yards and four touchdowns but was affected by the Gladiators' pressure much of the night, as he was sacked or had to throw away the down on crucial plays.

"We just need to get better," Morgan said. "Defense, offense, everything."

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