Italy sends shock waves throughout Europe, upsets Team Austria

Behind two late touchdowns by Jordan Bouah, Team Italy stunned Austria, and the rest of Europe by beating the European #2 team 21-14 in Vienna, Austria in an IFAF European Championship Group A qualifier.

Trailing 14-6 early in the fourth quarter, Italy struck for two unanswered touchdowns, the last one with 36 seconds left in the game, to pull away from the Austrians, and then held on for the win.

The Italian defense kept the powerful Austrians from reaching the end zone for much of the game, while the offense led by quarterback Luke Zahradka, probed and tested, until Bouah used his blazing speed to get behind the Austrian secondary.

The Austrians were playing without their number one quarterback, Alex Thury, but much of the team that demolished Switzerland a couple of weeks ago, played in this game. However, three missed field goals from three different Austrian kickers spelled the difference.

Zahradka did not have a stellar day throwing the ball, but was superb when it counted. He completed 19 of 42 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns with Bouah his main target catching seven of 13 passes for 121 yards and both touchdowns along with a two-point conversion. Running back Mike Gentili rushed 13 times for 53 yards while catching four passes for 15 yards. Matteo Felli kicked both field goals and one extra point.

Team Italy WR Jordan Bouah hauls in a pass. Photo: Giulio Busi

For Austria, Rueben Seeber threw for 153 yards and one touchdown on 17 of 34 passing. Yannick Mayr who started the game, completed three of eight passes for 40 yards and another score. Bernhard Seikovits caught five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown while Felix Reisacher had two receptions, also for 63 yards and a touchdown.

The Austrians took control of the game early however, scoring on their first drive as Mayr, who started at quarterback, engineered a five play, 53 yard drive, tossing a 40 yard touchdown pass to Reisacher to take a 7-0 lead.

Neither team could move the ball effectively for much of the rest of the half. The Austrians reached Italy’s nine yard line but a field goal attempt by Reinhard Knaus sailed wide.

Zahradka was finally able to mount a sustained drive deep into Austrian territory late in the half, marching his team 76 yards in 16 plays, eating up almost six minutes on the clock. But Italy had to settle for a field goal from Felli and trailed 7-3 at the half.

With Italy unable to move the ball to start the second half, Austria found the end zone again as Seeber, in for Mayr, drove Austria from their own 33 yard line, down to the Italian six yard line in 10 plays, and then connected with Seikovits to give Austria a 14-3 lead midway through the third quarter.

Zahradka then moved Italy down to Austria’s 21 yard line and Felli made good on another field goal to narrow the lead to 14-6.

Team Italy QB Luke Zahradka Photo: Giulio Busi

The Austrians then went into ball control mode, using up four minutes on the clock to maneuver down to Italy’s 26. But another field goal attempt missed and Italy took over on their own 25 with 10 minutes left in the game. That’s when the Zahradka-Bouah connections came alive.

First, Zahradka connected with Bouah for a 47 yard touchdown with just under eight minutes remaining and the Bouah added a two point convert to tie the game at 14-14.

Then, following a third field goal miss from the Austrians, who had reached Italy’s 14 yard line, Zahradka mounted an eight play drive, moving Italy down to the Austrian 23 yard line. He found Bouah in the end zone on the next play and with 36 seconds left, Italy took a 21-14 lead.

Seeber took over and managed to get Austria down to the Italian 21 yard line but two straight incompletions ended the game and Italy began celebrating.

With the win, Italy has put themselves in the driver’s seat in Group A’s B Division. If Italy beats Team Switzerland on October 20, they will win the division and advance to the Championship tournament. Austria, the #2 team in Europe, would have to battle for fifth place. The last time Italy faced Switzerland, they defeated them 43-8.

Check out the winning touchdown

 

 

 

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