DULUTH - When stops matter as much as scores, turnovers kill games.
In the Georgia Force's season and home opener the turnovers started early and let Dallas play from ahead for most of the game in a 51-41 win.
"If you have just one more turnover than the other team then your likelihood to win is about 90 percent," said Force head coach Doug Plank. "The energy you get from a turnover it worth its weight. Players start to believe. That was a real setback for us. Ultimately that was the difference in this football game."
Georgia turned the ball over four times, with two fumbles, an interception and a turnover on downs. The Desperados turned the ball over twice.
The first Georgia giveaway put the Force on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Greisen's first completion to Carl Morris gained 14 yards down to the 15, but the ball came loose on the tackle against the wall and Dallas recovered.
Greisen, the league's highest rated passer in 2007, finished the game 25 of 40 for 349 yards and five touchdowns.
Seven plays later, Dallas turned the fumble into points with a one-yard completion to Will Pettis.
After the Force answered with a score, it took its first lead when Dallas' Bobby Perry fumbled the kickoff on the 7 and Fred Coleman recovered it in the end zone to give Georgia a 13-7 lead. The score was one of the few breaks the Force would get all afternoon.
"Any coach or any team that is trying to rely on the bounce of the ball to win games is headed in the wrong direction," Plank said.
Then came the interception.
With 4:21 left in the second quarter, trailing 21-10, Greisen's pass to Brent Holmes sailed high and was picked off by Jermaine Jones at the goal line. Three minutes later, Dallas turned the second Force turnover into six when Clint Dolezel connected with Will Pettis. The missed extra point by Remy Hamilton made the score 27-20 with less than a minute to play in the half.
Dolezel finished the game 27 of 38 for 283 yards and seven touchdowns, battling through much of the game with an injury to his throwing shoulder.
After the Force failed to score on its drive, it got its final break of the game. Dallas attempted a field goal with six seconds in the half and Holmes brought the miss out of the end zone. As Holmes cut back across the field the ball was knocked loose and recovered by Dallas in end zone, but a penalty on the kick by the Desperados negated the touchdown and the Force only trailed by seven at the half.
Aside from the fumble, the second-year Holmes had a breakout game, scoring three touchdowns on catches of 5, 38 and 44 yards. They were his first catches and touchdowns in an AFL regular season game.
"It was our first game and we wanted to win that one," said Holmes, who led the Force with 156 yards receiving. "You have to come out aggressive and stay aggressive."
But the turnovers kept coming.
Coleman fumbled on a fourth-and-goal in the third quarter, giving Dallas the ball on the 15. But Dallas returned the favor when David Crocker picked off Dolezel in the end zone and the Force scored four plays later on a 38-yard strike from Greisen to Holmes.
The Force nearly tied the game when Crocker took a pass off the back wall in the end zone and took it all 50 yards. But the official ruled a fan interfered with the ball before Crocker picked it up making it an incomplete pass. Dallas scored two plays later pushing the margin back to 14 points.
Crocker was carried off the field on a stretcher on the next series with a lower back bruise and will be evaluated during the week, but Plank said X-rays showed no bone damage.
"Knowing that statistically the fact that in the Arena Football League teams that have won in Week 1 have twice as likely a chance of going to the playoffs, I am not going to diminish this or take it lightly," Plank said. "This is going to be a great teaching tool for us."