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AVENGERS TURN AWAY SAN JOSE AVENGERS 47, SAN JOSE 44.

Byline: Rich Hammond Staff Writer

One thing the Avengers have learned this season is to expect the unexpected. Usually that's not in a positive context.

But for at least one game, the Avengers pulled a pleasant surprise as they slowed the high-powered San Jose offense and had a rare scoring burst of their own - a 47-44 victory Saturday in front of 6,879 at Staples Center.

The Avengers (2-5) won consecutive home games for the first time in their two-year history despite a fourth-quarter scare and won for the first time against San Jose in four tries.

``That's two in a row and it's been a long time coming,'' interim coach Robert Lyles said. ``I'll take a win any way we can get it, but I wasn't satisfied with the way we played in the second half.''

San Jose (5-3) came in with the third-ranked scoring offense, and the Avengers had one of the worst defenses and a usually undisciplined, sometimes unproductive offense.

But the Avengers' defense showed new life and actually chased San Jose's John Dutton, who had been one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league, from the game in the second quarter. Mark Grieb took over and was only slightly better in the second half.

The Avengers also displayed a crisp passing attack behind quarterback Erik Wilhelm and sometimes picked apart a San Jose defense that had held them to 30 points in a season-opening loss.

Travis Hannah caught eight passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Wilhelm, playing in place of the suspended Todd Marinovich for the second consecutive game, completed 18 of 40 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns. He also gave Lyles a choice to make upon Marinovich's expected return next week.

Wilhelm started by leading the Avengers on a six-play, 33-yard scoring drive, capped by an 8-yard pass to Shannon Culver.

The Avengers shut out the SaberCats in the first quarter, but San Jose scored on the second play of the second quarter when Dutton connected with James Roe for a 7-yard scoring pass.

The teams exchanged scores midway through the quarter, the Avengers on a 42-yard field goal by Brian Reaves and the SaberCats on a 17-yard scoring pass from Dutton to Roe.

From there, however, the Avengers took control, as they scored 17 consecutive points in the final 4:10 of the half.

With three seconds left in the quarter, Mark Ricks returned a missed field goal 52 yards for a touchdown and a 27-14 halftime lead.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 3, 2001
Words:418
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