Ohana: Ta'amu shines in front of family
ST. LOUIS -- Two weeks in a row, the St. Louis BattleHawks were in complete control by halftime.
Each time the high-decibel Dome rocked, and each second half felt as though it was just a mere formality en route to a final score.
However, this Saturday was different because the Seattle Dragons battled back. After a 17-3 BattleHawk halftime lead, the Dragons fought their way to within seven points two separate times.
But thanks to the play of a 22-year-old quarterback out of Pearl City, Hawaii, St. Louis sent the 27,000-plus fans home happy with a 23-16 victory.
That's because Jordan Ta’amu was flat-out dominant as the BattleHawks improved to an East Division best 3-1.
The BattleHawks’ QB threw for 264 yards on 20-of-27 passing, including his lone touchdown -- a 27-yard dart over the middle to De’Mornay Pierson-El that opened the day's scoring.
If that weren’t enough, Ta’amu also led the team in rushing with 63 yards, helping to spread the field and keep Seattle’s defense guessing as to which trick he might pull out of his sleeve next.
St. Louis hadn't needed Ta’amu to carry the load through the air and on the ground this season, mostly because the BattleHawks have the XFL’s leading rusher in Matt Jones, who played Saturday with a knee injury that left him questionable coming into the game.
With that missing piece, it was clear that Ta’amu needed to take control. And he did it in coming-out party style in front of the home crowd.
What might have spurred his play was the fact that his family came in from Hawaii to watch him have his best game of the year.
“My mom, dad, and my 13-year-old little sister came all the way in,” said Ta’amu. “This is their first time in St. Louis, and just having them in the stands meant a lot to me.”
Something that allowed Ta’amu to be so effective was his use of the depth chart. He targeted nine different receivers, and it doesn’t seem to matter who he’s slinging the ball to. Pierson-El caught five passes. L’Damian Washington caught four. Marcus Lucas and Brandon Reilly each caught three.
Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long could have dusted off his old cleats, lined up out wide, and Ta’amu probably would have found him too on this day.
“I’m not the type to really favor one receiver; I’m just the type that tells guys to get open because I’m going to throw it to them,” said Ta’amu. “I had confidence in these guys from the jump, and having those weapons out there makes it much easier for me.”
A previous criticism of Ta’amu’s game was his inability to throw the deep-ball. As it turns out, he just hadn’t been given the opportunity. He threw a 43-yard dime to Keith Mumphrey down the left sideline in the fourth quarter, helping his team secure three crucial points that kept the Dragons from getting too close.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Ta’amu. “I love releasing my arm, and I was kind of licking my chops to let one loose.”
Ta’amu doesn't have a path similar to that of many of his teammates. He didn’t play in the NFL, in Canada, or in China like kicker Taylor Russolino did. Even though he never played professionally prior to this season, he still feels that he belongs.
As he strode to the podium at his post-game press conference, he gave his head coach Jonathan Hayes a handshake and displayed his Gucci sneakers for everyone to see.
Ta'amu's playing confident, he’s dressing confident, and he’s going to need to be confident next week when his BattleHawks roll into Audi Field to play the second-place DC Defenders (March 8, 3 p.m. ET, FS1).
“We played two away games the first two games, so it’s nothing new to us,” said Ta’amu. “We just have to go out there, play our game, and block everything else out.”
You can think that way when you're the one in complete control.