Will Freeman

Michigan Panthers 20

Tampa Bay Bandits 27

Well, this was an exciting start to USFL’s Week 5. The first two scores involved trickery. First was a double forward pass from Shea Patterson to Joe Walker, then a 30-yard pass touchdown to Ryan O’Malley for his first of the season. Then the Bandits answered back with a flea-flicker score that Juwan Johnson pitched back to Jordan Ta’amu, only for him to fumble it, recover it, then throw it to  wideout Derrick Dillion, before getting sacked, a 50-yard pass for the score. Then, the Panthers kicked a 36-yard field goal by kicker AND punter Cole Murphy. Before that, Murphy threw a fake punt pass to convert a fourth down. The Bandits answered back with a score by running back Jon Washington running it in for 3 yards. The Panthers answered back again with a 41-yard field goal to end the first half. In the 3rd quarter, it was all Bandits with Ta’Amu throwing a beautiful wide-open 43-yard pass to John Franklin III. The Bandits defense then forced a turnover by getting an interception from linebacker Christian Sam. In the 4th, the Panthers tied it on a passing touchdown from Patterson to tight end La’Michael Pettway for 25 yards. Unfortunately, the momentum stopped for the Panthers and within two minutes the Bandits scored again with a 30-yard run by Washington. Bandits linebacker Greg Reaves then forced a fumble on Christian Scarlett to seal the win for Tampa.

As much as I dislike Jeff Fisher, the Panthers were vastly improved from last week. Patterson had his best performance in the USFL going 23 for 27 with 306 passing yards, a TD, and an interception.  Lance Lenoir, Jr led the Panthers in receiving yards with 85. The Panthers rushing attack took a nosedive from previous weeks with only 85 yards, and 46 came from Patterson. The Bandits saw improvement on defense by causing a number of turnovers to help get their record to 3-2. Strong defensive performance this week by Sam, with 7 tackles, 1 for loss, an interception, and 3 passes defended.

New Orleans Breakers 17

New Jersey Generals 27

This time around the New Jersey Generals did not go with a two QB system of Luis Perez and De’Andre Johnson. Johnson played the entire game and had a fine performance of 255 total yards, 213 of those yards came from the air, 39 from the ground, and 2 rushing TDs to get the victory. Johnson was also 14 for 21, had an interception, and zero TDs. The Breakers were running a man defense, which allowed big runs from Johnson and Darius Victor, who finished with 85 rushing yards on 16 rushes, and a touchdown. The Generals’ leading receiver was KaVontae Turpin with 5 catches and 106 receiving yards. The Breakers however were without their offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone this week due to him attending his daughter’s wedding. Kyle Sloter had a frustrating afternoon as the Generals defense gave him fits. Sloter finished 15 of 36, for 155 passing yards, 2 TDs and 2 picks. It also didn’t help that the game was delayed for 45 minutes due to lightning. After the delay, Sloter could not get into a rhythm and had a scary moment when he went down for an injury, but then he came back to finish the game. There were a few more stoppages with injured players after the delay. The rushing attack didn’t help much either, as the leading rusher for the Breakers was linebacker Jerod Fernandez. Yes, you read that correct, a linebacker. He got 43 yards on a fake punt run to convert a fourth down. The Generals would move to 4-1 and still top the North, while the Breakers dropped to 3-2 and 2 games behind the undefeated Stallions.

Birmingham Stallions 30

Philadelphia Stars 17

Before the game, it was announced that defensive star of the Stallions, linebacker Scooby Wright would be inactive for this game. It showed on the Stars’ first drive when they scored pretty easily as quarterback Case Cookus threw down the field and ended with a 2-yard run TD by running back Matthew Corburn II. The Stallions did answer back as Alex McGough threw a wide open pass to WR Paul Terry. McGough threw inaccurate while stationary, but his accuracy improved while throwing on the run. In the 2nd quarter, the Stars answered back with a 9-yard rushing TD from their wideout Terry. McGough soon threw an interception that ended up giving the Stars a 49-yard FG by their new kicker Luis Aguilar. Stallions then changed QBs with J’Mar Smith. That change resulted with a TD thrown by Smith for 38 yards to Marlon Williams. Smith had way better accuracy than McGough did earlier in the game. The Stallions defense recovered a sack fumble, but failed to capitalize with missed 23-yard FG by Brandon Aubrey to end the 1st half. The Stallions answered in the 2nd half with a rushing touchdown for 29 yards by CJ Marable. The rest of the 3rd quarter went back and forth until the Stallions scored a FG. Then the Stallions defense forced a fumble and recovered it to end the 3rd quarter. It seemed in the fourth, the Stars defense brought pressure and got multiple sacks on Smith, but that momentum was stopped by a roughing the kicker penalty to give the Stallions a reset on their own 25. The reset resulted in a Smith rushing TD to continue the Stallions undefeated streak.

Pittsburgh Maulers 21

Houston Gamblers 20

In the battle of bottom teams of the two divisions of the USFL, the first series had promise for the  Maulers until they missed a FG causing a turnover on downs giving the ball to Houston. The Gamblers responded with a passing TD from Clayton Thorson for 24 yards to WR Isaiah Zuber. Houston then scored a 45 yard FG by Nick Vogel to increase their lead to 10 at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. The Maulers in the 2nd quarter changed QBs from Kyle Lauletta to newly signed Vad Lee. With Lee at the helm, the Maulers were able to put points on the board with a 51-yard FG by Ramiz Ahmed for his season’s best. Maulers then responded with another FG at the 2 minute warning. The Gamblers, thanks to another long catch from WR Zuber, got an opportunity to add more points, but missed the FG attempt. At halftime, it was Gamblers 10, Maulers 6. In the 3rd, the Gamblers responded with a 1-yard rush TD from Thorson. Maulers then responded back with help from an unnecessary roughness penalty and got a 24-yard FG from Ahmed, his third of the game. The story of the 4th quarter was turnovers. First by Maulers cornerback Keith Gibson Jr., then Gamblers corner Will Likely, and then a Thornton fumble recovered by Maulers defensive end Carlo Kemp that resulted into a passing touchdown by Lee to wideout Bailey Gaither. Gamblers responded back with a 44-yard FG with less than 4 minutes in the game. The game ended as Lee connected with Gaither in the end zone as time expired nabbing Pittsburgh’s first USFL win. The Gamblers once again blew a lead they had at halftime. Lee looked pretty good for only one week of practice, and his performance help the Maulers offense moved the ball more than it did with Lauletta. If the Maulers can get Lee going, there is a chance they could make an impact in the North division.

Overview:

This has been the best week of football for the USFL hands down. All the games came to the final seconds. Kicking has shown an overall improvement. I also like that during the lightning delay that they interviewed the players and Mike Pereira. I will take that over them showing documentaries that Fox has done in the past within weather delays for their sports programs. We’re at the midpoint of the season with the two best teams as of know, being the Stallions for the South and the Generals for the North. Still any team from the bottom of each division still has a chance to make the playoffs. Let’s see what happens in week 6.

MY Week 6 picks

Stars Vs Bandits – Bandits

Stallions Vs Panthers – Stallions

Breakers Vs Maulers – Maulers

Generals Vs Gamblers – Generals

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