Houston Gamblers 20 Pittsburg Maulers 19
Another week of close but no cigar, the Pittsburg Maulers are drawing comparisons to the Orlando Guardians of the XFL. They have the talent to stay in games but seem to struggle mightily in closing them out. Their defense has kept them in many games this season that they had no business being in, this game was no exception. Pittsburg took a 17-6 lead into the 4th quarter, and they were looking ripe for the upset. Pittsburgh outgained Houston 326-256 and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
Through 3 quarters, they had only surrendered 6 points on a 23-yard Mark Thompson touchdown. The Mauler’s defense held Kenji Behar mostly in check, as he would finish only 11 for 20 for 146 and a touchdown. Mauler’s quarterback Troy Williams had one of his best games of the season with 214 passing yards, 36 rushing yards, and the Mauler’s only touchdown. So what went wrong? Inability to finish
The Maulers had 3 long drives that took 6 minutes plus off-the-clock end in field goals. This left Houston still in a game they shouldn’t have been. Houston was able to mount a comeback off of this, with 2 touchdown drives in the 4th quarter. The first was the opening drive of the 4th quarter when Behar Found Keke Chism for a 14-yard touchdown (his 2nd this season). The second came on a Mark Thompson (14 carries 98 yards, 2 touchdowns) rush late in the 4th from 33 yards out that gave Houston the lead for good. A missed 41-yard field goal secured our final score.
Spring football history, and looking forward
This game featured an interesting historical side note. Mark Thompson, with his second touchdown of the season, now has 13 on the year. This represents the most in a spring football season since Hershel Walker. For those of you who don’t remember, He managed 2,411 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns in 18 games in 1985. This should put Mark Thompson at least in consideration for USFL MVP.
Going forward, we see two teams going in very different directions. The Houston Gamblers sit at 5-3 in a 3-way tie for second place in their division (Sound familiar XFL fans?). They host the Stallions this week (Memphis Sunday 2 pm, NBC). Hopefully, this game will provide some clarity and someone will distance themselves within this division.
For the Pittsburgh Maulers, thanks to a weak North division, the playoffs are still within reach. They would need to win their final two games, starting this weekend with Michigan (Saturday 12 pm, Fox). They would also need Michigan to lose their remaining two games to seal a spot. If Michigan goes 1-1, we will have to go to a tiebreaker.
Birmingham Stallions 27 Philadelphia Stars 24
Have we really come to expect anything else from these two teams? Three times these teams have met and two of these have come down to the final possession. Last year’s championship game was a 33-30 thriller that saw the Stallions take home the championship. This year’s rematch was no exception. In a very back-and-forth game, Case Cookus completed a 52-yard touchdown drive with a 7-yard pass to running back Dexter Williams to take a 24-20 lead. This was the third touchdown in Case Cookus 265 yard performance, that was sadly overshadowed.
It was overshadowed because, the Stars made just one mistake, they scored too early. Alex McGough got the ball back and capped his own colossal day (333 yards 3 TDs). With 32 seconds left, McGough finds La’Michael Pettway from 7 yards out for his 3rd touchdown pass. An interception on a final Hail Mary attempt sealed the win for Birmingham.
Big Day for Wide Receivers
With both quarterbacks having hug days, this game also featured some great pass-catching performances. Former first-round wide receiver Corey Coleman is making his presence felt, as he continues to catch fire late in the season. Coleman now leads the USFL in receiving yards after 107 yards on 4 catches and a touchdown. This game pushed Coleman past the Breaker’s Sage Surrat by 7 yards for the league lead. For the Stallions, Davion Davis came up huge with his own 100-yard performance (4 receptions 120 yards 1 TD).
For the Philadelphia Stars, their path is clear. With a 4-4 record in their division, one more win will seal their playoff birth. Their first attempt at securing it will be this weekend against the New Jersey Generals (Sunday 7 pm, Fox). For the Birmingham Stallions, their path is also clear. They have 2 divisional games approaching, starting with their rematch against the Houston Gamblers. With a one-game lead in their division, 2 wins will secure their division championship and a playoff birth. Lose one, or potentially both, and we could wind up with a 3-way tie that will see a potentially deserving playoff team watching from home (See St. Louis Battlehawks)