USFL recap and more

The USFL kicked off last weekend. I recapped what happened and voiced my opinions on some of the latest criticism towards the start of the revived league from the mid-80s.

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Stallions star cornerback Brian Allen (#29) deflecting a pass intended for Generals star wide receiver KaVontae Turpin (#5).

Maddox Greenberg, Staff Writer

Last Saturday was a long-awaited day for me and millions of football fans: the kickoff of the United States Football League (USFL).  Despite the heavy criticism among XFL fans, NFL fans, and people who just are too nitpicky, the USFL started its inaugural season in almost 40 years in Birmingham, Alabama, where all of the games will be held.  I will address the criticisms later.  Now, let me recap for you the four games that happened from Saturday to Monday.

 

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. et, Fox and NBC

For the first time since Super Bowl I, two premiere broadcasting networks played the same game in the same country at the same time.  With about 17,500 fans in attendance, per wtok.com, and over three million viewers from home, the hometown Birmingham Stallions returned in front of a raucous crowd to take on the New Jersey Generals.

 

To start the desperately awaited return of the resurrected league, Generals quarterback Luis Perez launched a 49-yard dime to tight end Randy Satterfield.  That was just the first play!  Eventually, after a near 3:30 minute drive, Perez clicked with Satterfield again in the end zone to make the score 7-0.

 

Stallions quarterback Alex McGough quickly responded with a 35-yard one-handed touchdown pass to wide receiver Osirus Mitchell.  This evened out the score, 7-7.

 

In the second quarter with 9:16 on the clock, Perez threw it to tight end Brandon Bowman for a Generals 14-7 lead over the Stallions.  Stallions responded in the third with a CJ Marable three-yard rush touchdown, bringing the score back to a tie.

 

In the fourth, Generals backup quarterback De’Andre Johnson rushed for a four-yard touchdown, pushing the Generals back up by a touchdown.  Stallions backup quarterback J’Mar Smith threw a short pass to tight end Cary Angeline for the third tie in the game.  Generals kicker Nick Rose, who already missed two field goals wide left, notched a field goal just in range for a 24-21 lead with 1:54 minutes left.

 

With 29 seconds on the game clock, J’Mar Smith scrambled in the Generals redzone for a receiver to throw to, but eventually made his way in to give the Stallions their first lead of the game at 28-24.  Generals scrambled to get a first down, which, adopted from college football, means the clock immediately stops provided you complete a first down within the last two minutes of the half.  They did, but still in their territory.  Johnson had one last shot but overthrew to receiver Darrius Shepherd.  Stallions win the first game of the renewed season, 28-24.

 

Generals-Stallions highlights:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaTUApejBnY

 

 

Sunday, 12 p.m. et, NBC

After a near hour rain delay, the Houston Gamblers and Michigan Panthers, who were favored to win the USFL championship before the season commenced, took the field that was previously, a day ago, played on by the Generals-Stallions.

 

After the delay, the Gamblers put up only three points in the first.  In the second quarter, Panthers quarterback Shea Patterson was sacked in Houston territory, fumbled the ball which was recovered by Gamblers linebacker Reggie Northrup, and returned 90 yards for the first pick six of the day.  Off of a punt by the Panthers, Gamblers quarterback Clayton Thorson threw to receiver Isaiah Zuber who made a corner toe-tap catch over two defensive backs to extend the lead by 17.

 

After halftime, the Panthers called for a miracle.  Down 17-0, Michigan’s Patterson threw to receiver Lance Lenoir for six points.  Then, in the fourth, running back Stevie Scott III rushed up the middle on Houston’s five-yard line for an extra six-points, but he failed to secure an extra two-points, leaving the score to be 17-12.  Eventually, that was the final score.

 

Gamblers-Panthers highlights:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gY9NLXYdq14

 

 

Sunday, 4:30 p.m. et, USA Network

Postponed to a later time because the previous game was delayed, the Philadelphia Stars and New Orleans Breakers kicked off at around 6 p.m.  The Breakers defense did what they do best: “break” down the offense.  Breakers linebacker Vontae Diggs intercepted Stars quarterback Bryan Scott’s pass and returned it for a 37-yard pick six to cap off the first quarter.  In the second, with a 4th and 17 on Stars’ seven-yard line, Breakers wide receiver Chad Williams blocked a Matt Mengel punt that resulted in a safety.  New Orleans leads 9-0.

 

Chad Williams is like most USFL players in which they play multiple positions, including special teams, a much-needed unit in the USFL for players, because, obviously, the USFL roster is made up of 38 players on active roster compared to 53 on the NFL.

 

Before the half, Bryan Scott threw a six-yard pass to tight end Bug Howard for seven points.  In the second half, Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter was picked off by Stars cornerback Channing Stribling, which later resulted in a Stars 10-9 lead.

 

After that field goal, Breakers running back TJ Logan rushed in for a touchdown.  Soon after, Stars running back Darnell Holland, too, rushed for a touchdown.  Both running backs improved the score to a 17-17 even split heading into the fourth quarter.  Late in the fourth, with less than 4:30 minutes left in the game, the Breakers finished the deal with a touchdown by running back Jordan Ellis to finalize the score to be 23-17.

 

Stars-Breakers highlights:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5UwD8HNxk4

 

Monday, 7 p.m. et, FS1

After being postponed due to weather the previous night, the Tampa Bay Bandits dueled against the already hated Pittsburgh Maulers.  I say that because the head coach, Kirby Wilson, fired running back De’Veon Smith because he chose pizza over chicken salad (no, seriously).  Already fans are making fun of Wilson for that ill-considered decision.

 

The beginning of the game was like a knockout punch from Mike Tyson on Pittsburgh’s trash defense.  It took the Bandits 4:11 minutes to do eight plays for 68 yards for former FAU Owl (the school I’ll be going to this summer) running back BJ Emmons to score a touchdown.  Later, Tampa Bay, with their offense moving astonishingly well, kicked a field goal to close out the first quarter leading 10-0.

 

Bandits quarterback and spring league football veteran Jordan Ta’amu threw to receiver Jordan Lasley to secure Tampa’s last score of the night, 17-0.

 

With Tampa’s defense pounding Pittsburgh’s offense, Pittsburgh was only given a field goal throughout the entire game.  Tampa Bay eventually won, 17-3, to close out the opening season.

 

Bandits-Maulers highlights:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTyn6Rzx7nA

 

All four South division teams won while all four North division teams lost.  Games for the USFL go on every Saturday through Monday all ten weeks (until further notice) then playoffs in Canton, Ohio.

 

Now, to spark on the criticism about the USFL and my opinion on it.  Fans of spring football, XFL, NFL, and just doubters in general, hated how the USFL played in Birmingham, a city not known for really anything, the low attendance at all other games except the hometown Stallions, the noise of the drone, and the recent news by the XFL.

 

“I thought it was good for the spring.  Being it is a developmental league.  But the skill wasn’t as smooth as we are used to seeing in the NFL, but I think that is expected,” replied math teacher and quarterback coach for East Lake AJ Toscano.

 

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia both announced Tuesday that they will pay more than the USFL pays its players and will have better benefits.  A lot of football fans hated this.  I don’t like this because, as most fans pointed out on my Facebook sports groups, the XFL is holding a grudge on the USFL.  Sure, they are now backed by the NFL financially speaking, but if The Rock and the XFL want to better promote spring football, why take out a league like the USFL that just started?  Help out each other.  Work together instead of trying to push each other down.  You both have the same mission: give athletes the opportunity to play the game they love and possibly join the NFL through your leagues.

 

The USFL has great angles like the helmet cam and the drone cam.  Fans didn’t like how, due to the low attendance rate and tons of microphones on the players, referees, and coaches, they capture the noise of the drone flying around.  The drone camera angles were cool for certain plays, though.

 

I’m confident the low attendance won’t last long.  This is their first week.  They played on Easter Sunday, competing against playoff NBA basketball, MLB games, and college football spring training.  The games were good.  Trust that in a few weeks the games will be stellar, and fans will come.  Fans have pointed that the NFL plays on family holidays and play through inclement weather and they do just fine.  Well, first off, the USFL’s first week of football shouldn’t have been on a holiday because, in case you don’t know, the USFL isn’t the NFL! The NFL did have success for their first Thanksgiving Day game for attendance, and the Christmas Eve/Day games come up once in a while, and same for Halloween and any other holidays, but they got those fans to attend after they, the fans, were used to the product.  For the USFL, this is their first time back.  Give it some time.  Also, the USFL cares more about the TV ratings and the views.  Of course, it does seem weird to see very few people in a stadium fit for 40,000.  The first game had three million cable TV and TV views, and 770,000 views during the Stars-Breakers game.

 

“I think [the USFL may resolve its problems],” said AP Literature and journalism teacher and newspaper advisor Tara Barbieri on the issue of the low attendance at the other games. “[That is] the problem when you have a hub city and don’t have fans of that particular team.”

 

Lastly, I don’t know why Birmingham.  Birmingham could use this as an opportunity for tourism.  But they should have used a city like Vegas or New Orleans which; one, has an indoor stadium and two, has a big enough city to get people to attend and has things for them to do before and after the games.

 

Like what Pat McAfee said on The Pat McAfee Show, if the USFL starts to get better, putting A-list players on primetime, the USFL will begin to grow.

 

With Vegas, you could get people from all around the world spend easy money to attend a great game.  But they won’t do Vegas because the XFL has Vegas as an expansion team.

 

It is important to have spring football because more states are legalizing gambling.  People need to bet on things, including football.  But football lasts only a certain amount of time.  People need the product they crave.  As long as, per an NBC Sports clip I saw, the USFL retains that three million mark on viewership, the league could succeed.  And I and so many football fans want to see that before the XFL, MLFB (Major League Football), and APL (American Patriot League) kickoff in the next couple of years.