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Coming off road win, Force 'D' starting to roll

When Ernest Allen sacked Joe Germaine in the fourth quarter the Georgia Force defensive tackle's wife knew more about it then he did.

As a pass rusher, Allen loves hitting quarterbacks, and this one marked the 40th time in his Arena Football League career he got to one with the ball still in his hands.

"(I found out) after the game," Allen said. "My wife knew. She pays more attention to that stuff than I do. My wife is my statistician."

The 40 career sacks put Allen sixth on the AFL all-time list. As a stat, it proves Allen's longevity, durability and skill. For the Force (2-3), it is a sign of hope. The sack was part of a defensive awakening for the Force as they picked up their first road win of the season against Utah. Not only did Allen reach the sack milestone, Georgia also forced a turnover and stopped the Blaze three times.

"It is your responsibility as a (coaching) staff to preach stripping the ball, to preach turnovers, to preach getting to the ball," said Force defensive coordinator Bob Kronenberg. "Hopefully that is a sign of things to come for us."

More than just turnovers and stops, the penalties shrunk down to three. In its Week 1 loss to Dallas, the Force defense committed nine.

"It's not rocket science, penalties will create a bad situation," Kronenberg said.

Now the Force sit one game below .500 with the 0-4 Kansas City Brigade coming to town. They are a week away from a bye and the team is expecting to enter the needed off week on a two-game winning streak.

"Between the sixth and eighth week is when teams start to separate themselves," Allen said. "It helps you out seeing the final goal, making the playoffs. Going into the bye week at .500 would be huge."

"It makes a tremendous statement that after a relatively slow start that we were able to recover and get our execution and production back on track," Force head coach Doug Plank said of the team's chances to even its wins and losses. "The early games we had were very competitive."

The Brigade will come to Gwinnett winless and with a new quarterback after releasing John Fitzpatrick. Rookie quarterback D. Bryant will get his first start tonight, but Plank doesn't consider that unknown a big hurdle.

"The most important thing is that the offensive coordinator will remain the same," he said. "We do think the play selection will be similar."

With an awakening defense, Kronenberg expects to use his front to force the Brigade out of its plans, regardless of who is taking snaps.

"We are going to try to dictate the flow of this game," he said. "We are going to try to play the coverage and determine the speed at which we want to play."

And no one underestimates the value of returning home after two straight road games. In Utah, the team's luggage was taken to the wrong place after the nearly five-hour plane flight. Late night. Early morning.

"It sounds exciting, Utah: snow, mountains; Orlando: palm trees and water," Plank said. "Ultimately there are always problems or delays or baggage trouble and that adds to the length and frustration of a trip."

Said Allen: "Everybody is glad to be home for the next couple of weeks. We are looking forward to playing in front of that Gwinnett crowd again."

SideBar: ARENA FOOTBALL

Who: Kansas City Brigade at Georgia Force

When: Today, 7:30 p.m. (790-AM)

Where: Arena at Gwinnett Center, Duluth