Week 6 in the USFL was bookended with a couple of nail-biters.
During the opening game of the weekend slate, the Stars were able to capitalize on a number of turnovers and fend off a last-second rally by the Tampa Bay Bandits, who had the ball on the Philadelphia 5-yard line in the closing seconds. Meanwhile, the Generals were on the winning side of a buzzer-beater as quarterback Luis Perez pushed the ball over the goal-line as the clock hit zero to give New Jersey the win over Houston. This is an all-too-familiar feeling for the Gamblers, who have now lost three straight games on the final play.
Elsewhere, the Birmingham Stallions were able to remain undefeated, improving to 6-0 on Saturday night in a win over the Panthers. The Stallions' star was recent signee Bo Scarbrough, as the former Alabama running back rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. On Sunday, the New Orleans Breakers improved to 4-2 thanks in part to a dominating day by corner Ike Brown, who hauled in two interceptions. This loss to New Orleans dropped the Pittsburgh Maulers to 1-5.
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Philadelphia Stars 35, Tampa Bay Bandits 28
Birmingham Stallions 33, Michigan Panthers 17
New Orleans Breakers 26, Pittsburgh Maulers 16
New Jersey Generals 26, Houston Gamblers 25
Turnovers difference in Stars' win over Bandits
Sometimes football is as simple as not turning the ball over. As the Bandits fall to 3-3 on the season after losing the Stars on Saturday, that inability to protect the football proved to be their undoing. Tampa Bay gave the ball away three times (one interception and two fumbles) on the afternoon and it directly led to 14 points for Philadelphia, who enjoyed tremendous field position following two of those turnovers. After Jordan Ta'amu's interception in the first quarter, the Stars needed to travel just 10 yards to get into the end zone. Then, a muffed punt was recovered by Philadelphia, who would only need to travel 17 yards to score that touchdown.
Despite those issues, the Bandits still had an opportunity to pull out the win in the closing seconds, but failed to find the end zone after getting the ball as far down as the Philadelphia 5-yard line.
Stallions remain perfect with help from Scarbrough
The Birmingham Stallions have won six games in six weeks, as the USFL's fan favorite continues to play like the best team in the league. Their 33-17 win over the Michigan Panthers wasn't perfect, but the Stallions' new running back certainly showed out.
Birmingham signed former Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough on May 9. He didn't get too much run in Week 5, but came prepared to play on Saturday night. On 16 carries, Scarbrough rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown -- a fourth-quarter, 28-yard scamper which extended the Stallions' lead to nine points. Having an effective back like Scarbrough is just going to make life easier for J'Mar Smith and Alex McGough down the stretch.
Ike Brown breaks the game open for Breakers
The New Orleans Breakers moved to 4-2 on the season and are keeping within striking distance of the undefeated Stallions in the South Division after a win over the 1-5 Maulers. The 26-16 win over Pittsburgh was more dominant than the final score suggests as New Orleans was up by as much as 20 in the fourth quarter. A large part of the win falls on the shoulders of Breakers corner Ike Brown, who hauled in two interceptions on the day.
His last pick in particular helped destroy any momentum that the Maulers may have been able to put together in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh was moving the ball down the field and was at the New Orleans 8 yard line before Brown was able to jump in front of Vad Lee's pass to make the interception and return it 97 yards for the touchdown. That score gave the Breakers a 20-point cushion which was plenty of wiggle room even as the Maulers scored touchdowns on their text two drives.
Must-see chaos on blocked field goal attempt
In one of the wilder sequences in the USFL this season, New Jersey had a field goal blocked and inexplicably ended up getting the ball back with a fresh set of downs.
Midway through the third quarter, Generals kicker Austin Jones' 23-yard field goal attempt on fourth-and-5 was blocked by the Gamblers. The ball was picked up by Houston's Donald Payne and as he was moving upfield he fumbled the football. New Jersey would recover that fumble at the Houston 47-yard line and maintain possession with a new set of downs. With that breath of new life, the Generals would take 10 plays to find the end zone on the ensuing possession.
Heartbreak for Houston yet again
The Houston Gamblers just can't catch a break. For the third week in a row, they have lost a game on the final play. This time around they allowed Generals quarterback Luis Perez to extend the football over the goal line on a second effort that thrust New Jersey to a 26-25 victory as the clock hit zero.
For a minute, it did look like the Gamblers were going to finally hang on and earn their second win of the season, especially after defensive lineman Tomasi Laulile was able to recover a fumble midway through the fourth quarter and return it 59 yards for a touchdown to put them up 25-20.
While the late game execution by the Gamblers is horrid, they didn't do themselves any favors throughout Sunday's action as they turned the ball over and generally played poorly on special teams.
De'Andre Johnson leaves game with injury
While the Generals were able to come away with a win on Sunday -- their fifth straight -- they largely did it without quarterback De'Andre Johnson, who suffered an injury in the first quarter that knocked him out of the game.
New Jersey ditched its two-quarterback attack last week with success as Johnson put together a strong performance in a win over the Breakers. Before going down in this game, Johnson seemed like he was picking up where he left off completing all four of his throws for 52 yards and a touchdown. Thanks to his ability as a passer and with what he can do with his legs, missing Johnson for any considerable amount of time will lower the Generals' ceiling offensively.