Orlando FL. Camping World Stadium.— Coach Hines Ward did what good coaches do and turned a loss into a lesson. After a gut punch of a defeat in their home debut, the Brahmas bounced back against a reeling Orlando Guardians team. The lesson, stay focused for four full quarters and “ball out baby”.
Jack Coan led the Brahmas down the field, converting in their own territory on an early 4th and 2 to Alize Mack. The drive culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to TE Deon Yelder. The following 2pt pass attempt fell incomplete in the back of the endzone.
Paxton Lynch started once again and opened up by hitting Javonta Payton for a 35-yard strike, bringing the crowd to its feet. A penalty on the next play wiped out a long run by Jah-Maine Martin leaving Orlando with a 1st and 20. On second down Delontae Scott sacked Lynch. After a short pass, the Guardians were faced with 3rd and 26.
Running a draw on 3rd and very long the Guardians were able to convert on a 38-yard run by Martin down to the 13-yard line. That 38-yard run is the longest in the XFL so far. Two short runs put the ball on the 8-yard line where Lynch found a wide-open Eli Rogers for 6. The 1 point attempt was snuffed out by the Brahmas’ defense.
Both teams were forced to punt on their second possessions after both defenses made adjustments, to end the quarter tied at 6. Brahmas 6 Guardians 6
San Antonio started with the ball at their own 28 after a punt. But the Brahmas were forced to punt themselves after not being able to move the ball. Lynch looked comfortable this week but Orlando was not able to overcome a pair of penalties. One erased an 11-yard run by the QB on 3rd and 9. Penalties again forced Orlando to punt the ball back to the Brahmas.
After a Brahmas punt, Deondre Francois made his season debut. Starting with three consecutive runs, Orlando moved the ball on the ground. They could not, however, capitalize in the passing game. The Brahmas’ defense toughened up forcing another punt.
Coan started the final drive of the half 3 for 3 passing, taking what the defense was giving him. That included a late hit out of bounds that sent him sliding into the Orlando bench, literally. The penalty gave the ball to San Antonio on the Orlando 29-yard line.
With 1:26 left till halftime, the Brahmas drove the ball down to the 19-yard line. There the Notre Dame alum, Coan, hit another Notre Dame alum Alize Mack with a strike over his defender or 6. The 1 point attempt was good, as Coan threw a fade in the corner to T.J. Vasher.
Orlando would get the ball back with 57 seconds to go in the half. Hoping to utilize the XFL’s “comeback rules” where the clock stops on first downs to create momentum. Starting at their own 31, Lynch hit Cody Latimer who fought to get out of bounds. This stopped the clock at 49 seconds. A 3-yard run on first down burned 20 seconds as the Guardians failed to use one of their 3 timeouts to stop the clock. A dropped pass on the next play left Orlando with a 3rd and 7 with 23 seconds after the incompletion stopped the clock.
Lynch scrambled for a first down at the Brahmas 47-yard line and Orlando took its first time out with .16 in the half. Lynch completes a pass for another first down. First and 10, ball on the 37-yard line, and 10 seconds on the game clock. Playing for the field goal attempt Orlando runs a draw but is stopped in the backfield taking 4 seconds off the clock and putting them on the 38-yard line. After taking a timeout and conferring with the kicker, Orlando chooses to kick. They missed the 56-yard attempt. Halftime Brahmas 13 Orlando 6
Opening the second half with the ball, Orlando was unable to move the ball forcing another punt. San Antonio got their ground game going, after rushing for -7 yards in the first half, with XFL leading rusher Kalen Ballage ripping off runs of 5 and 8 yards. Jack Coan kept the ball rushing for two first downs. After moving the ball deep in Orlando territory, Coan hit Jalen Tolliver with a 24-yard pass to open up the scoring in the second half. The 1 point attempt was successful with Coan hitting Mack once again.
Forced to punt after failing to convert on three downs, San Antonio blocked Johnny Townsend’s kick and recovered the ball at the 8-yard line. Coan hit Alize Mack once again on a designed RPO at the 2-yard line and the big TE rumbled inside the goal line. The play has initially ruled a touchdown, but a review determined he was down at the 1-yard line. Jon Hillman powered it in from there, and also converted the 1-point attempt.
Francios began the next drive as Coach Terrel Buckley looked to spark his offense. After being unable to sustain a drive the Brahmas were called for roughing the kicker, giving Orlando a fresh set of downs. The penalty moved Orlando inside San Antonio’s territory at the 45. A false start penalty on Orlando kicked off a series of head-scratching penalties by both teams. On 3rd and 9 from the 44, a deep pass resulted in an offensive pass interference call that gave the ball to Orlando at the 2-yard line.
Orlando was called for another false start on the very next play, moving the ball to the 7-yard line. A short pass moved the ball to the 4-yard line then an incompletion made it 3rd and goal with 7 seconds left in the 3rd quarter. Orlando ran the clock out ending the quarter. The Brahmas scored 21 straight, unanswered points in the 3rd quarter. Brahmas 27 Guardians 6
The Guardians started the final quarter in scoring territory with 3rd and goal, a short pass in the endzone was called defensive pass interference. The foul was challenged by Hines Ward, who was successful, making it 4th and goal. A Guardians touchdown run was negated by a holding call.
Facing 4th and goal from the 19-yard line a pass into the endzone resulted in another defensive pass interference penalty. Orlando has the ball on the 1-yard line and a fresh set of downs. A run on first down was suffocated by the Brahmas. Second down saw another run that was stopped for a 3-yard loss. Third and goal from the 4-yard line saw Francois hit Cody Latimer for a touchdown. The 2-point attempt was no good after Francois’ pass fell incomplete. The 20-play drive saw 6 accepted penalties from both teams.
San Antonio began the next possession with 2 consecutive runs by Kalen Ballage but was forced to give the ball back when Coan’s third-down pass fell incomplete. Down by 15, despite numerous self-inflicted wounds, the Guardians were not out of the game due to the XFL’s unique scoring system. This fact was not wasted on the Brahmas after giving up 15 points late in a loss the week prior.
Starting at their own 25-yard line Orlando was unable to earn a first down and was forced to go for it on 4th and 10 after their punter was injured on a prior possession. Francois’ pass was intercepted by Ranthony Texada and returned to the 21-yard line of Orlando. Starting with excellent field possession San Antonio was content to keep the ball on the ground and take time off the clock. The Brahmas settled for a Parker Romo 40-yard field goal to extend the lead.
Paxton Lynch returned under center with 4:34 left in regulation but was unable to generate any offense. Orlando’s offense used almost 3 minutes of game clock and showed little urgency. Coach Buckley decided to use his “golden challenge” on a defensive pass interference that wasn’t called. He ultimately lost that challenge and their final time out. Taking over with 1:55 left on the clock San Antonio handed the ball to Kalen Ballage on 3 consecutive plays for 15 yards and a game-sealing first down. Lessons learned!
Final Brahmas 30 Guardians 12
Observations and notes
- QB Jack Coan looked more comfortable completing 16/24, 3TDs, and 67% completion. He ran 3 times for 23 yards, including 2 big first downs.
- Head coach Hines Ward moved the offensive and defensive coordinators from the field to the
- The Guardians had 13 penalties for 100 yards.
- Hines Ward chose to go for 1 point on every extra point attempt.
- Next week The I-10 rivalry begins with a big divisional game against the unbeaten Houston