USFL Week 1 score, takeaways: Jordan Ta'amu, Tampa Bay Bandits roll Pittsburgh Maulers on Monday night

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The conclusion of Week 1 of the 2022 USFL season was pushed into Monday, as the Sunday matchup between the Pittsburgh Maulers and Tampa Bay Bandits was postponed due to weather. It gave football fans an offseason taste of Monday night football, and the Bandits escaped with a 17-3 victory.

Tampa Bay jumped out to a quick lead and didn't look back. Sparked by No. 2 overall pick quarterback Jordan Ta'amu, Tampa Bay went 68 yards on eight plays on its first drive, and BJ Emmons punched it in from three yards out for the first score of the game. Ta'amu later found Jordan Lasley for his first USFL touchdown towards the end of the second quarter to push the lead to 17. In all, he completed 18 of 30 passes for 164 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. 

The Maulers started slow but rebounded in the second half to put some good things on tape. Both quarterbacks in Josh Love and Kyle Lauletta played, but Love got the majority of the reps. He finished Week 1 completing 9 of 16 passes for 121 yards. This offense never got into rhythm, though, and went 0 of 3 in the red zone. 

Below, we will dive more deeply into what went down in the USFL on Monday night. Here are our takeaways from Saturday night's opener, as well as Sunday's two games, and also be sure to check out the USFL standings and season schedule.

Saturday
Birmingham Stallions 28, New Jersey Generals 24

Sunday
Houston Gamblers 17, Michigan Panthers 12 
New Orleans Breakers 23, Philadelphia Stars 17 

Monday
Tampa Bay Bandits 17, Pittsburgh Maulers 3

Why the Bandits won

Coming into this new spring league, everyone was wondering about the quarterback play. The best football teams in any league are carried by their signal-callers, so this week was about finding out who the best throwers would be. Ta'amu had a solid game, as he completed 18 of 30 passes for 164 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was mostly accurate throwing the ball and made some plays with his legs -- escaping would-be sacks. We didn't get to see the former Ole Miss star push much in the second half due to the Bandits' lead, but overall, he had a solid performance. 

Tight end Cheyenne O'Grady looks like he could be a difference maker in this offense. He caught seven of 10 targets for 78 yards.

Another main reason the Bandits found themselves victorious Monday night is that they got great pushes from their offensive and defensive fronts. The Maulers averaged just 2.8 yards per rush, 3.3 yards per play and allowed three sacks. This Pepper Johnson-led Bandits defense looked great. 

Why the Maulers lost

The Maulers got off to an incredibly slow start. They played both of their quarterbacks in the first half, yet didn't attempt a pass on their first two drives. The offensive line struggled to pave running lanes for Madre London and Garrett Groshek -- both of whom are exciting when they get a bit of wiggle room. Groshek rushed 16 times for 55 yards.

Pittsburgh loved to run off of play action, and it gave Love great looks on some plays, but turned disastrous on others. Love didn't get a chance to reset and turn his eyes downfield on some of those calls before he had defenders in his face.

The defense was solid in the second half as evidenced by their zero points allowed in the final two quarters, but the offense never found a rhythm. 

Turning point

The Maulers were in the game until the fourth quarter. After a field goal got them within 14, they had some life. Still, Pittsburgh was unable to do anything in the red zone. 

On fourth-and-5 from inside Tampa Bay's 10-yard line halfway through the fourth quarter, the Maulers were unable to move the sticks or score that first touchdown. Credit to the Bandits' defense for playing motivated all night long.

Play of the game

What's next

The Bandits will serve as the home team against the 1-0 New Orleans Breakers this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. As for the Maulers, they'll serve as the visiting team to the 0-1 Philadelphia Stars on Saturday at noon ET. 

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Jeff Thomas catches a 32-yard bomb on 4th and 11! Pittsburgh just won't lay down! What a play. Let's see what the Maulers do here. They have to remain aggressive. No more red zone trip ups. 

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Ta'amu tried to fit it in a tight window, and wasn't accurate enough. Tipped up and picked off, and the Maulers have life. 

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The penetration the Bandits are getting is special at this point. Doesn't matter if line is run blocking or pass blocking. 

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Cramps for everyone! Could be a brutal fourth quarter. 

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Shocked by the lack of fans tonight, and for yesterday as well. I get it was Easter Sunday, but still.

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This was the longest and most successful drive of the game for the Maulers (9 plays 47 yards), and they are going to kick for 3 as opposed to going for it on fourth and goal. Points on the board. 17-3. 

I'm expecting Ta'amu to come out and respond nicely. 

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Gaither had that touchdown. Has to reel that in. Not the easiest catch, but he's the guy making plays downfield. 

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Madre London has rushed for 11 yards on 10 carries, but he's a good player. Not getting much of a chance on these inside runs. 

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Bailey Gaither now has two catches for 43 yards. A bright spot. 

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Maulers getting something going! They have been running playaction so often, and it's working. 30 yards to the red zone. 

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The consistent push the Bandits have gotten on both sides of the ball really has played a big role in this one. They haven't been perfect every single play as evidenced by that failed fourth-down conversion, but they have won the overall battle. 

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Halftime stats: 

Jordan Ta'amu 14/22 for 135 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

BJ Emmons: 26 yards on 9 carries, scored a touchdown as well.

For the Maulers, Josh Love and Kyle Lauletta combined to go 3 of 10 for 37 yards. Garrett Groshek has 25 yards on 9 carries. 

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Bandits' third drive of the game goes 10 plays, 55 yards and ends in a field goal. 10-0 TB, and the Maulers haven't even thrown the ball yet. 

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Madre London is a good player, but he hasn't had much of an opportunity to do anything. Here comes Jordan Ta'amu. 

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Maulers look terrible early on. Two drives, zero passing attempts. Bandits defensive and offensive fronts looking good. 

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Maulers go three-and-out on their first drive despite the fact that Groshek picked up five yards on first down. Looked like Pittsburgh was going to go for it, but eventually brought on the punt team. Three rushes zero passes. Not sure what to think about that just yet. 

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Whoa Josh Love starting over Kyle Lauletta at QB for the Maulers

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