USFL opener: Birmingham Stallions rally to 28-24 win over New Jersey Generals in thrilling first game

Osirus Mitchell USATSI Birmingham Stallions USFL
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The USFL's first game had just about everything, including a game-winning touchdown in the final minute. The score, courtesy of Stallions quarterback J'Mar Smith, gave the Birmingham Stallions a 28-24, come-from-behind win over the New Jersey Generals. 

The two teams combined to score 24 points in the fourth quarter, with Smith's score coming on a 2-yard touchdown run with 29 seconds left. Smith's touchdown came moments after the Generals took the lead on Nick Rose's 47-yard field goal with 1:54 left. Smith then led the Stallions on a game-winning, 59-yard drive while recording the first win of the USFL's 2022 season. The Generals lost despite gaining a jaw-dropping 222 rushing yards that included 98 yards and a score from quarterback De'Andre Johnson. 

Saturday's game started with a bang, with Generals quarterback Luis Perez hitting Randy Satterfield for a 48-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. The drive ended with Satterfield catching a 3-yard touchdown despite taking a nasty lick from a Stallions defender.  

The Stallions responded with a big play of their own, a 35-yard touchdown pass from Alex McGough to Osirus Mitchell less than four minutes into the game. New Jersey re-gained the lead by taking advantage of safety Shalom Luani's interception at the start of the second quarter. Facing a third-and-7 from the Stallions' 13-yard-line, Perez rolled to his right before hitting tight end Braedon Bowman in the end zone for the go-ahead score. 

With the score tied through three quarters, both teams scored touchdowns to start the fourth quarter. Johnson gave the Generals the lead on a 10-yard run, only to have the Stallions respond less than four minutes later when Smith found tight end Cary Angeline for a 28-yard score. Rose then gave the Generals a 24-21 lead before Smith executed a game-winning two-minute drill. 

Here's a full breakdown of what happened Saturday night in Birmingham. 

Why the Stallions won 

Birmingham's offense scored touchdowns on its last three possessions. Most of the damage was done by Smith, who started in the second half in place of McGough, who was sidelined with an injury. After going 0 of 4 in the first half, Smith completed 11 of 17 passes for 156 yards in the second half. The Stallions also received a big game from Mitchell, who finished the game with 96 yards on five receptions.  

Birmingham's defense also came up with a few timely stops. The Generals were threatening to add to their lead before halftime when linebacker Scooby Wright forced a fumble of Perez that was scooped up by safety Nate Holley. With the game tied late in the fourth quarter, the Stallions' defense forced the Generals to settle for a field goal after JoJo Tillery tackled Johnson two yards shy of the first down on third-and-10. Birmingham's defense then forced three incomplete passes on the game's final three plays.   

Why the Generals lost 

Two missed field goals certainly didn't help the Generals, who led for most of the game. Rose missed a 47-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. He then missed a 23-yard field goal to start the second half. 

Rose rewarded coach Mike Riley's faith in him when he made his third attempt with under two minutes left. That being said, Riley may be second-guessing his decision not to go for it in that situation given how much success his offense was having running the football. There was also the surprising disappearing act from Perez, who attempted just three passes in the second half after going 12-of-16 for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. 

New Jersey's defense, which played lights out in the first half, simply had no answer for Smith, who led Birmingham's offense on scoring drives of 80, 67 and 59 yards in the second half. 

Turning point 

The Generals were in control of the game after forcing a Stallions punt to start the second half. New Jersey then drove 75 yards and were in position to add to their lead before Rose missed his second field goal in as many drives. The Stallions' offense seemed to wake up after that, as Birmingham put together a nine-play, 80-yard drive that was punctuated by CJ Marable's 3-yard, game-tying touchdown run. Consecutive completions from Smith to Mitchell for a combined 44 yards set up the score.

Play of the game 

Satterfield's catch deserves mention, but the play of the game belongs to Smith, who capped off his big second half by scoring the game-winning touchdown. 

What's next  

The Generals will face the Michigan Panthers next Saturday night. The Stallions will take on the Houston Gamblers next Sunday night.  

This Sunday will feature a triple-header of USFL action that starts with the Panthers facing the Gamblers at noon. The New Orleans Breakers will take on the Stars at 4 p.m., while the USFL's opening weekend will commence with a prime time matchup in between the Tampa Bay Bandits and Pittsburgh Maulers.  

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Great start for the USFL. 

April 17, 2022, 2:49 AM
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Generals throw incomplete on the final play, as the Stallions rally for a 28-24 win. 

April 17, 2022, 2:49 AM
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Generals' first deep heave is broken up about 20 yards shy of the end zone. 

April 17, 2022, 2:48 AM
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J'Mar Smith runs it in for the go-ahead -- and maybe game winning? -- score with 23 seconds left. A game the Generals semi dominated they find themselves trailing with seconds left. 

April 17, 2022, 2:45 AM
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Marable gets the first down on a quick pass, as the Stallions are now within 10 yards of the game-winning TD. 

April 17, 2022, 2:42 AM
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Two overthrown end zone passes sets up third and 10. 

April 17, 2022, 2:42 AM
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A good run and a face mask penalty picks up 22 yards for the Stallions. They're at the Generals 20 with 48 seconds left. 

April 17, 2022, 2:40 AM
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Smith has the Stallions past midnight, but the clock is ticking. One minute left. 

April 17, 2022, 2:39 AM
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Rose makes this one, barely, from 47 yards out. Generals lead with 1:49 left. 

April 17, 2022, 2:35 AM
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Johnson runs again but is stopped just short of the marker. Honestly shocked they're going to the FG here, as Rose has missed two kicks already. 

April 17, 2022, 2:34 AM
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Stallions have no answer for Johnson, who finds the open space and gets a key first down on third-and-4. Generals now in Stallions territory. 

April 17, 2022, 2:28 AM
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And we have another TD and our second by a TE tonight. Cary Angeline catches Smith's 28-yard pass with 5:51 left. Really quick drive, 6 plays, 66 yards and took only 3:23. 

April 17, 2022, 2:25 AM
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Stallions having success with the hurry-up offense. Ja'Mar Smith has also warmed up. The offense has moved better with him under center. 

April 17, 2022, 2:22 AM
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The drive's 10th run produced a TD, as De'Andre Johnson does the honors on a designed QB run.  

April 17, 2022, 2:14 AM
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9 plays, 9 runs on this drive for the Generals. NJ gained over 60 rushing yards on their other drive of the half. 

April 17, 2022, 2:13 AM
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Trey Williams picks up the first down on fourth-and-4. Really surprising they went with a run, not surprising that they went for it as they've missed two field goals. 

April 17, 2022, 2:08 AM
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Big run by Darius Victor on third-and-1, as the Generals are now into Stallions territory. 

April 17, 2022, 2:05 AM
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We'll head to the fourth quarter with a tied score. 

April 17, 2022, 2:00 AM
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Osirus Mitchell's big night continues, as his catches of 28 and 16 yards set up the Stallions' game-tying score. 

April 17, 2022, 1:59 AM
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J'Mar Smith has found his groove and the Stallions have found the end zone. CJ Marable scores the USFL's first rushing TD. 

April 17, 2022, 1:56 AM
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The Generals gained most of their yards on their last drive on the ground. Williams and Johnson now up to a combined 93 yards on 16 carries. In any event, the Stallions just picked up a big first down. 

April 17, 2022, 1:52 AM
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Generals 12-play drive ends with Nick Rose missing a 22-yard field goal. He missed a 47-yarder at the end of the first half. 

April 17, 2022, 1:48 AM
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Generals forced to call their second timeout of the half on their first drive of the half. Stallions fans getting loud as the Generals are closing in on another score. 

April 17, 2022, 1:44 AM
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And just like that, the Generals get a nice run by Trey Williams, as New Jersey is getting into a groove on offense. They're going up tempo and aren't taking much time between plays. 

April 17, 2022, 1:39 AM
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Both offenses struggling, which is to be expected in a Week 1 game. What's surprising is neither teams' ability to adjust to their early struggles. It's always good to lean on the run in situations like this. 

April 17, 2022, 1:36 AM
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Stallions get the ball to start the second half. McGough may be done for the night with an injury, so it's J'Mar Smith's show. 

April 17, 2022, 1:28 AM
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Really, the key to the second half is the Stallions getting something going through the air. 5 of 14 passing isn't going to get it done. 

April 17, 2022, 1:27 AM
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Halftime Stats: 

Total yards: Generals 241-88 

Perez (NJ): 12 of 16, 142 yards, 2 TDs  

Sutterfield (NJ): 4 catches, 99 yards, 1 TD  

Luani (NJ): 4 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU 

Stallions QBs: 5 of 14, 55 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT  

April 17, 2022, 1:22 AM
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We're at halftime, with the Generals enjoying a 14-7 lead. They had a chance to make it 17-7 but Nick Rose hooked his 47-yard attempt. 

April 17, 2022, 1:16 AM
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An overthrow leads to another Stallions punt. Generals will get one last chance to add to their lead with a minute left until halftime. 

April 17, 2022, 1:10 AM
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