October 2, 2015 by Scott Dollen in Coverage with 6 comments
Chicago Machine, after going 0-3 in yesterday’s pool play, came out on fire in today’s prequarter, taking down defending champions Johnny Bravo 15-13 with a stunning combination of smooth offense and aerial dominance.
“We were on a ramp all day long yesterday, looking to play our best ultimate today. But the real improvement was the energy. Sometimes it’s hard to get up for Thursday. Bravo is a great team, great athletes; we can get up for that,” said Machine coach Andy Neilsen.
Meanwhile, Bravo’s story felt like the opposite. They had trouble completing even routine swings and unders, and while their execution improved from there, they never managed to get anything going deep, a far cry from their play during pool play yesterday. Their sideline, for whatever reason, looked flat from the outset. Mickle and Lance looked consistently frustrated and confused, either at their own play, the observing, or at the level at which Machine was operating.
“That’s how the format goes though,” said Mickle, clearly upset. “We played well yesterday, we didn’t play too well today. It was frustrating, but they played better than us.”
Machine Flips The Script On Offense
Machine’s energy was palpable from the outset, beginning the game with a series of breaks after numerous Bravo throwaways (which would become a pretty consistent theme in this game), and taking the game to 5-2. However, Machine’s defense hasn’t been their problem this season, but rather their relative inconsistency on offense.
Bravo broke back almost immediately, and at 5-4, the things looked shaky. The Machine offense looked on the brink of collapse, but today, it wasn’t going to happen. From that point on, Brett Matzuka, Bob Liu, and Ron Kubalanza ruled the Machine O-line, marching the disc up calmly and carefully, while cutters Cullen Geppert, AJ Nelson, and Goose Helton carved up space downfield.
Things looked easy, despite a Bravo defense that boasted Lance, Eric Johnson, and often Jimmy Mickle.
Neilsen chalked up Machine’s success on offense today to a combination of “adherence to the plan” and focusing on “trusting our teammates and the looks they are trying to generate.” Machine clearly has innovative throwers in Kubalanza, Matzuka, and Liu, but sometimes they can get a little too creative. Today, their artistry was on point. A few Kubalanza blades, and a solitary scoober from Matzuka were the extent of their risky throws.
Meanwhile, Bravo couldn’t keep up with them, either in the handler set or downfield. Matzkua and Walden Nelson cut consistently out of the handler spot, and Helton would come back to fill. They moved the disc through almost every player on the field. They just looked like they had legs, and Bravo didn’t.
Machine took half 8-6, rarely challenged on offense, and ensuring Bravo would need something extra in the second half.
Dominance In The Air
Out of half, Machine continued to roll on offense, but this time, their conservative marches up the field transitioned into an absolute aerial masterpiece.
Goose Helton unleashed a beautiful same third backhand huck to make it 9-6, and after a quick Mickle IO break for the hold, Machine immediately threw it deep to AJ Nelson, who roofed a couple Bravo players to make it 10-7. Helton, in particular, killed Bravo with his throws all second half, unleashing flat backhands to speedy Machine cutters.
Bravo continued to grind, even getting a break back after a Machine swing popped up, but their offense was never pretty. They relied heavily on Watson, Mickle, and Lance (who often trotted out on offense) to move the disc in 5 yard increments, but Machine gave them nothing. They went flat on almost all big throwers all game, and forced Bravo wide and under.
Bravo switched to ho-stack at one point in an attempt to rectify their downfield struggles, but Mickle got skied on a huck that hung in the air by Michael Schwenk (who owned that matchup most of the game), and Schwenk threw a beautiful OI backhand for the break to make it 12-9.
“A couple we threw popped up…We had a good deep game yesterday, today it didn’t look so good. Weren’t quite getting the power on it,” said Mickle.
Bravo Fights Back
It wasn’t over yet, as a Machine turn on a swing two points later gave Bravo life. They broke with Mickle and Lance, making it 13-12, and their sideline erupted for perhaps the first sign of life all game. It felt like a turning point. Machine was having none of it.
In response, Bob Liu trotted out on the O-line and threw an absolutely staggering full field OI bladey huck to Helton, who easily walked it into the endzone to quiet the crowd and make it 14-12.
Machine was hungry. They wanted to end the game on defense. Bart Watson had other ideas. Despite Machine’s tremendous pressure, he and Mickle worked it through everyone for a Bravo hold to make it 13-14.
Emotions High On The Final Point
Bravo would need a break to stay alive. Their sideline erupted for what felt like only the second time in the game, egging on their stacked D-line. You could hardly hear a thing. However, an observer clearly heard something, issuing Bravo’s third TMF of the game for language, and immediately, the disc was placed at the attacking brickmark, allowing Machine to punch it in easily on the break side, and the team that went 0-3 yesterday received their first win of the tournament, to advance to a quarter’s matchup against Ring.
Following the game, the Bravo players had reactions ranging from shock to absolute disgust with the observing. “They inserted themselves into the game unnecessarily,” said a visibly angry Sean Keegan following the game. Language TMF’s have plagued teams all tournament, and are something that numerous players and teams have expressed their displeasure for.
However, at the end of the day, it seemed every time Bravo tried to manufacture any energy, Machine responded with more. Their legs were better, their throws were better, and they earned the win outright.