21 Jan

Breakers lose 2nd straight after 4-0 start; every team within a game of first

It’s hard to believe, but the USFL has already entered the second half of its 2023 season. The second half promises to be an exciting one, as all eight teams are still in the hunt to earn one of the four playoff spots. In fact, every team in the USFL is either in first place or a game out of first through six weeks.

Week 6 started with the Memphis Showboats winning their third straight game (after an 0-3 start) by blanking the Pittsburgh Maulers, who fell to 2-4. Saturday’s second matchup saw the defending champion Birmingham Stallions post an impressive 27-13 win over the Michigan Panthers. Birmingham, after dropping two of its previous three games, improved to 4-2.

Sunday’s action started with the Philadelphia Stars evening their record to 3-3 after handing the once 4-0 New Orleans Breakers their second straight loss. Then the Houston Gamblers won their fourth straight game by defeating the New Jersey Generals, who dropped their third straight.

Below are the final scores from each game, followed by our biggest takeaway from each Week 6 contest.

Memphis Showboats 22, Pittsburgh Maulers 0
Birmingham Stallions 27, Michigan Panthers 13

Philadelphia Stars 16, New Orleans Breakers 10
Houston Gamblers 16, New Jersey Generals 10

Sunday’s games
Gamblers win by playing complementary football
Houston made two big defensive plays in the first half that led to quick scores from the offense. The first occurred when Donald Rutledge and Isaiah Pryor combined to stuff Generals running back Darius Victor on a fourth-and-2 play.

❌ BIG STOP ❌ pic.twitter.com/2byQJZCVr6

— Houston Gamblers (@USFLGamblers) May 21, 2023
Houston’s offense parlayed the stop into a 7-0 lead on Mark Thompson’s touchdown run moments later. Ahead 10-0 in the second quarter, Jeremiah Johnson’s pick of Generals quarterback Kyle Lauletta set up Nick Vogal’s 37-yard field goal on the half’s final play.

Houston’s defense came up big in the second half. They forced an incompletion on New Jersey’s 4th-and-12 attempt to keep the ball after making it a six-point game. Thompson then milked the remaining three minutes of game clock by picking up two first downs on the ground.

Stars slow Breakers offense; New Orleans now tied atop South
There wasn’t much separating the Stars and Breakers on Sunday. The biggest difference was the Stars’ defensive score on Amani Dennis’ 72-yard pick-six that gave Philadelphia a 13-0 lead less than four minutes into the second quarter.


Philadelphia Stars go up 13-0 in the 2nd quarter!! #USFL pic.twitter.com/of2stfSBPc

— Defiant Takes Football (@DefiantTakes) May 21, 2023
New Orleans — which now sits in a tie atop the South Division after its second straight loss — rallied back but was unable to complete its comeback bid after coming up empty on its last four possessions. The Breakers missed a golden opportunity to tie the score when Matt Coghlin missed a 42-yard field goal following Nevelle Clarke’s interception off Stars quarterback Case Cookus.

Sunday was a tough one for Breakers quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The USFL’s leading passer, Bethel-Thompson threw two interceptions against the Stars while completing less than 58% of his throws. This came on the heels of the Breakers’ first lost last week, when they managed just 10 points against the Showboats.

Saturday’s games
Defensive dominates again for Memphis
Defense has been one of the main reasons behind the Showboats’ three-game winning streak. Including Saturday’s shutout win over Pittsburgh, Memphis has held its last three opponents to a combined 20 points. Along with not allowing any points Saturday, the Showboats’ defense set up Memphis’ last score when Kyree Woods picked off Maulers quarterback James Morgan late in the third quarter. It was one of three interceptions for the Showboats defense.

Memphis also got a score from its special teams when Derrick Dillon returned a missed 59-yard field goal attempt 109 yards for a touchdown.

OMG!!! A 109-YARD TOUCHDOWN FOR @DerrickDillon4 💨

🎥: @USANetwork pic.twitter.com/O0TulvbYSW

— Memphis Showboats (@USFLShowboats) May 20, 2023
Stallions cash in on red zone opportunities
Statistically, it was a pretty even game between the Stallions and Panthers. The biggest different between the team teams was how they fared in the red zone. Birmingham scored touchdowns on three of its four trips inside Michigan’s 20-yard-line, while the Panthers were just 1 of 3 in the red zone.

Birmingham’s biggest red zone stand took place midway through the third quarter. Protecting a 20-10 lead, the Stallions forced Michigan to kick a field goal after Josh Love was unable to complete his third down pass. The Panthers then put the game away after scoring a touchdown on their ensuing drive. The back-breaking score was courtesy of Stallions quarterback Alex McGough, who threw two touchdown passes prior to his 10-yard touchdown run. McGough’s solid play was complemented by Stallions running back C.J. Marable, who ran for 100 yards on 18 carries.

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