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Recapping Week 1 in the UFL: Showboats’ defense leads the way against Roughnecks

The United Football League, the result of a merger between the XFL and USFL, kicked off Saturday, as the UFL opened its 10-week season with two games that pit former XFL teams against former USFL squads.

Saturday started with the champions of each league facing off in Arlington, Texas, with the two-time defending USFL champion Birmingham Stallions prevailing over the defending XFL champion Arlington Renegades. The Michigan Panthers upped the ante in the second game, as Jake Bates hit a 64-yard field goal with three seconds left to topple the St. Louis Battlehawks and make the ex-USFL teams 2-0 against their ex-XFL counterparts.

Sunday started with an upset, as the San Antonio Brahmas used a trick-play touchdown pass from a punter to a center to defeat the D.C. Defenders. The Memphis Showboats closed things out, outlasting the Houston Roughnecks in a defensive struggle.

Sunday’s games

The defenses controlled the action at Rice Stadium, as the Roughnecks (0-1) were held to 174 yards of offense while the victorious Showboats gained only 228 yards. But Memphis (1-0) prevailed thanks to a 15-0 start that was highlighted by a touchdown run by Christian McFarland and an 11-yard touchdown pass from Case Cookus to Vinny Papale.



Showboats’ Vinny Papale makes sensational toe-drag TD grab

Vinny Papale shows out with a toe-drag TD in the back of the end zone to extend Memphis’ lead over Houston.

That was more than enough for the Showboats’ defense, which sacked Houston quarterback Jarrett Guarantano four times and recovered three Roughnecks fumbles, including a muffed punt with 35 seconds remaining to seal the victory. Outside linebacker Greg Reaves had two sacks and a fumble recovery to lead Memphis.

Guarantano ran for a touchdown for Houston, which was otherwise held to two field goals. Linebacker Reuben Foster, a former Alabama star and a first-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, had an interception before being injured late in the fourth quarter.

The Brahmas went deep into their bag of tricks to beat D.C., as punter Brad Wing threw a 40-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass to center Alex Mollette in the second quarter to key an upset victory at the Alamodome. San Antonio (1-0) also got an 88-yard interception return from Darius Phillips to set up a game-icing touchdown run from quarterback Chase Garbers with 7:21 left. Garbers added first-half touchdown passes to Anthony McFarland Jr. and Jontre Kirklin en route to 158 passing yards.



Picked! Darius Phillips! vs. D.C. Jordan Ta’amu throws Interception

Picked! Darius Phillips! vs. D.C. Jordan Ta’amu throws Interception

Phillips’ interception and Garbers’ touchdown were set up by a bizarre sequence of plays. The Defenders (0-1) thought they had a chance to tie or go ahead with 10:47 left after Jordan Ta’amu threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Keke Coutee to temporarily draw them within 20-18. But San Antonio coach Wade Phillips challenged the play, saying that D.C. right tackle Jean Delance had committed a false start.

The officials agreed, reversing the touchdown, giving D.C. a 5-yard penalty, then adding on a 15-year flagrant personal foul penalty on Delance after he spit on San Antonio defensive end Delontae Scott, which resulted in Delance’s ejection. San Antonio was assessed a taunting penalty on the following play on defensive back Bryce Thompson after a hard hit on Ta’amu, who was knocked out of the game for two plays. Ta’amu reentered, then threw the pick to Phillips on his first play back.

Saturday’s games

Michigan kicker Jake Bates nailed a 64-yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Panthers a thrilling, last-minute win over the Battlehawks in a game that saw four lead changes in the final quarter. The Panthers drove 19 yards after St. Louis went ahead on a 5-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Marcell Ateman with 49 seconds left, followed by an extra-point conversion pass from McCarron to Jake Sutherland.



Jake Bates miraculously wins it for Michigan with 64-yard FG

Michigan takes down St. Louis as Jake Bates puts in a 64-yard field goal as time expires.

Bates’ kick was his first regular-season field goal attempt since high school, as he was a soccer player and kickoff specialist in college. He nailed the kick after St. Louis (0-1) called timeout before his first attempt, which was also good. The Panthers (1-0) also got two rushing touchdowns from quarterback E.J. Perry, who shrugged off two first-half interceptions, and 85 yards rushing from Wes Hills.

McCarron completed 24 of 37 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns for the Battlehawks, with both touchdowns coming in the fourth quarter. Ateman had six receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown while Sutherland added three receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown for St. Louis.

Stallions quarterback Matt Corral, a former Ole Miss star and 2022 third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, threw for 201 yards on 12-of-21 passing and delivered a beautiful 39-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain right before halftime to lead Birmingham to victory in the battle of defending champions.



Matt Corral hits Deon Cain for a Stallions TD

Matt Corral hits Deon Cain in the end zone to cut the Stallions’ deficit to 2.

The Corral-Cain touchdown got the Stallions (1-0) even with the Renegades at 11-11 with three seconds left in the first half. The Stallions carried that momentum over into the second half with short touchdown runs by Ricky Person Jr. and C.J. Marable. Marable led all rushers with 67 yards on the ground to go with his touchdown run for Birmingham, which is now 22-3 over the past two-plus seasons.

Arlington (0-1) got in the end zone first, as Luis Perez hit Isaiah Winstead on a 51-yard touchdown pass with 9:01 left in the second quarter to give the Renegades an 11-3 lead. Perez threw for a game-high 214 yards on 19-of-28 passing but tossed a costly fourth-quarter interception to Birmingham cornerback Mark Gilbert to sabotage a comeback attempt.

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