ANAHEIM -- When Russ Michna needed a receiver to catch a touchdown pass Saturday night, he knew where to look. Michna connected with Rod Harper on four scoring passes to lead the SaberCats to a 48-32 victory over the L.A. KISS at the Honda Center.
"Tonight it was me, but we have so much talent receiving that it could be anybody's night," Harper said. "But tonight, that's how it shook out."
Harper was the recipient of three scoring passes in the first half, as San Jose (4-3) built a 27-18 lead. Two of the receptions came on fourth down, including a 15-yard score on fourth-and-long with 17 seconds left in the half.
Harper went up high at the back of the end zone, caught the ball and went over the boards into the crowd. The official ruled Harper maintained possession of the ball. A subsequent challenge by the KISS upheld that ruling.
"I didn't realize how high I was," Harper said. "The next thing I knew, I was in the stands. I'm glad I was able to hold on."
The first-ever meeting between the SaberCats and the KISS, playing its inaugural AFL season, was close for nearly three quarters.
San Jose built its largest lead at 34-18 with 9:56 left in the third quarter. SaberCats defensive back Clevan Thomas intercepted L.A. quarterback JJ Raterink at the San Jose 3. The SaberCats capped a four-play drive with Michna hitting Harper with a 16-yard slant in the end zone.
On the ensuing drive, San Jose had another takeaway when Thomas recovered a fumble. But on the first play of the SaberCats drive, Michna threw his lone interception of the game. The KISS (2-4) scored on a 3-yard keeper by Raterink, who also called his own number for the successful two-point conversion to cut San Jose's lead to eight at 34-26 with 3:14 left in the third.
San Jose coach Darren Arbet said he told his team at halftime to be more physical.
"I think we had a read on some of the things they were doing," Arbet said. "I told them to just let it all hang out, be physical and go get the football."
The SaberCats pulled away in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard scoring run by Odie Armstrong and a 21-yard catch-and-run fom Michna to lineman Rich Ranglin.
Michna finished with 249 yards and six touchdowns. Harper, second in the AFL in receptions this season, had nine catches for 64 yards.
"It was a physical game and that's what I wanted," Arbet said. "L.A. came out and played hard and they wouldn't go away."