Dacia Vienna Vikings rein in Austria’s leading passing attack in blow out win over Graz Giants

Just two weeks removed from pushing their opponents to the brink in an overtime thriller, the Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants headed into Saturday’s rematch against the Dacia Vienna Vikings as the league’s hottest passing offense.

Quarterback Conor Miller was leading the league in yards through the air and touchdowns. Receiver Darrell Adams was the country’s most dangerous weapon, boasting sizeable leads in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

Both will retain their titles this week in spite of their performance in Vienna,  after a talented Vikings secondary hungry for redemption after a CEFL semi-final loss to the rival Swarco Raiders rendered the Giant’s offense completely inept on their way to a 42-16 victory.

Graz failed to muster a single offensive point, with Miller completing just 34 percent of his passes and Adams a complete non-factor with a single catch for a loss of six yards. By contrast, the Vikings posted their best day passing on the season, with quarterbacks Eystin Salum and Nico Hrouda combining for six touchdown passes.

A blowout initially looked doubtful when the Vikings‘ first drive ended in disaster. After a three and out, the snap sailed over the head of punter Dennis Tasic and into the endzone. He scrambled to get the kick off but was punished for it by Thomas Schnurrer and Benedikt Probstmeier, who combined for the block. Stefan Promitzer promptly recovered for the opening touchdown, but the momentum would not last.

Dacia Vienna Vikings WR #19 Daniel Schwam had 4 Catches for 139 Yards and 2 TDs Photo: Andreas Bischof

Eystin Salum came right back with a 10-play drive to rectify the situation and Daniel Schwam lost his shoe but held on to the ball as he hauled in a contested touchdown on the redzone fade. Schwam was back at it early in the second and a well-timed pump-and-go with Salum resulted in a 72-yard gain after the receiver broke through the first tackle. He followed it up two plays later with a toe-tapping over the shoulder grab for a 22-yard score to give his team the lead.

Points would come in bunches in this one and a bad punt quickly got the Vikings in scoring position once again. Backup Nico Hrouda stepped behind center for the finisher and Salum flexed out wide, out jumping two defenders for the 16-yard touchdown.

Another high snap on a punt added a safety for the Giants late in the third quarter but the usually scramble-happy Salum continued to find success through the air. He delivered a 36-yard dime to Schwam to get the drive moving, then connected with Maurice Wappl over the middle for a 15-yard score.

The Giants would find their way into the redzone in the fourth quarter thanks to a 26-yard gain from Florian Bierbaumer, but the Vienna secondary held firm to force the turnover on downs. Salum responded with a rare error and Stefan Promitzer made an easy interception, but receiver Raoul Hrouda came in like a torpedo to knock the ball loose and the Vikings retained possession. It was his brother Nico who took advantage and again found his fellow quarterback Salum, who drug Paul Stadlober into the endzone for a 31-yard touchdown.

Salum added one more touchdown toss of his own to Raoul Hrouda with 34 seconds remaining and the game was iced. Juwan Haynes managed to return the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a meaningless score, padding a 42-16 result that could have been more stark had Vienna’s special teams matched the performance of their offense and defense.

Vikings QB #3 Eystin Salum catching a TD pass from backup QB Nico Hrouda Photo: Andreas Bischof

Conor Miller finished just 10 of 29 for 154 yards for the Giants, shockingly committing no turnovers. Wenzel Rock carried 15 times for 54 yards. Big Florian Bierbaumer was the lone bright spot, hauling in six catches for 128 yards, while Nikolaus Terlitza, Thomas Schnurrer and Stefan Promitzer stood out on defense.

As went Eystin Salum, so did the Vikings, as the versatile quarterback had a day for the ages. He completed 21 of 35 passes for 291 yards, four touchdowns and one pick, added 32 yards on the ground and was his team’s third leading receiver with two catches for 47 yards and a pair of scores. Both were courtesy of Nico Hrouda, his only two passes on the day.

Daniel Schwam led the way with four catches for 139 yards and two scores. Maurice Wappl added one of his own to go with three catches for 56 yards. Florian Wegan again found himself over the century mark with 15 carries for 111 yards, while Andrew Spencer and Benjamin Straight ended with three pass break ups a-piece on a banner day for the secondary.

While the game struggled to live up to the rematch hype, Vienna’s blowout victory is important to the Austrian standings, where the Vikings sit alone at 6-0. The talented Giants have fallen to fifth place and are on the outside looking in at 2-4, just one upset away from disaster with two games remaining.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.