Throwdown turns Renegades into Texas Toast

The first inaugural “Texas Throwdown” turned out to be a spectacle from start to finish. The Renegades and Roughnecks combined for nearly 600 yards of total offense, 5 touchdowns, and a whopping 6 turnovers. The game marked the third start for Renegades quarterback Landry Jones who started the game ice-cold, ending his first three possessions with interceptions. Off the other sideline, the de-facto league MVP, Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker, got off to a hot start and stayed that way throughout the game.

First quarter fireworks

Renegades got going early with a two-pronged rushing attack from backs Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar, rushing for a quick 22 yards in the first 4 plays before Landry Jones threw an interception to Roughnecks safety Cody Brown.

The Roughnecks were able to capitalize on the turnover and set up their first score, a 37-yard field goal from kicker Sergio Castillo.

On the subsequent possession, Landry Jones threw his second interception of the game; an errant pass to a well-covered Jazz Ferguson was stolen by Roughnecks corner Deatrick Nichols.

June Jones and the Roughnecks continued to take advantage of the turnovers using Castillo’s leg to extend the lead to 6-0 on a crisp 30-yarder.

Good ole fashioned shoot-out

The Renegades’ first three possessions all ended in interceptions as Landry Jones struggled to make clean throws. His third interception, again picked off by Deatrick Nichols, set the Roughnecks up with favorable field possession at the Dallas 40. A short 5-play drive culminated in a 6-yard touchdown dart from Walker to his workhorse wide-out Nick Holley.

On a bold 3-point conversion attempt, Walker showed impressive flexibility as the pocket collapsed around him and he was able to tuck the ball and run it in; one of only a handful of successful 3-point conversions in the league this season.

Though rumors swirled of an impending quarterback change, Dallas offensive coordinator Hal Mumme trusted his starter and kept Landry Jones under center. After throwing three interceptions in the first quarter, Jones stayed calm and regained his composure, making a series of decisive throws to tight end Donald Parham for a second-quarter touchdown and 2-point conversion.

Late in the half, Dallas kicker Austin MacGinnis was good from 46, setting a new career long and staying perfect on the season. His field goal closed the gap for the Renegades, down 15-11 with under a minute to go in the half. After the kickoff, the Roughnecks were able to get off a few productive plays before letting kicker Sergio Castillo try a field goal of his own, this one a 60-yard attempt. Castillo kicked the potential XFL record field goal wide right and it was returned for 50 yards before time expired.

2nd half adjustments

After a fiery first half, both teams settled into offensive plateaus. P.J. Walker threw his second interception of the season, and first since Week 1. On his next possession, Walker shook off any excitement he may have given Renegades fans by threading a third-down needle to receiver Blake Jackson for a 19-yard touchdown reception.

Meanwhile, Landry Jones and the Renegades ended two of their three third quarter drives with punts. Jones managed to piece together a solid drive out of three big passes to Parham and receiver Flynn Nagel for nearly 60 total yards. Lance Dunbar dealt the final blow of the drive with a one yard touchdown run. The Renegades then proceeded to convert a 3-point attempt of their own on a pass to Nagel, bringing the Roughnecks lead to a very fragile 21-20.

Last chances

Early in the fourth quarter, on his own 16, Landry Jones was sacked by Roughnecks linebacker Edmond Robinson who forced a fumble, recovered it, and ran it back for a game-defining touchdown, silencing the crowd.

Still behind by a single score, the Renegades continued to threaten the Roughnecks dominant performance until late into the 4th quarter, when Landry Jones was injured on a short 4th down run. He left the field limping on his left leg.

Renegades backup quarterback Philip Nelson stepped up and looked like he’d be able to close out the drive that Jones started. A completed a pass for 11 yards, a 6 yard slide, and a few favorable defensive penalties put Dallas within a few feet of the goal line. On a crucial 2nd and goal from the 3 yard-line, Nelson fumbled to Roughnecks linebacker DeMarquis Gates, all be ending the Renegades hopes for a comeback. The Dallas defense was unable to get a stop to regain possession and P.J. Walker ended the game on one knee.

Takeaways

In a game that was defined by explosive defensive takeaways and dynamic offensive schemes, the result was largely determined by Houston’s ability to capitalize on turnovers. The Roughnecks earned 21 of their 27 points off of turnovers. The Renegades, conversely, squandered their extra opportunity after Walker’s interception with a quick three-and-out.

Up next

The Roughnecks return to TDECU Stadium next week where they will host the Seattle Dragons, who are coming off of a one-score loss in St. Louis. The matchup between the West divisions best and worst teams will be Saturday, March 7 at 2PM EDT on ABC.

The Renegades will stay in Arlington where they will try to regroup and finally win in front of their fans. Based on Landry Jones condition after getting injured today, it is likely he will still be on the sidelines next week so Philip Nelson may be getting his second start. They will host the New York Guardians immediately after the Roughnecks game on March 7, at 5PM EDT on FOX.

BattleHawks take Dragons down in the Dome

SAINT LOUIS — Led by an impressive performance by Jordan Ta’amu, the Saint Louis BattleHawks cruised past the Seattle Dragons to remain undefeated at home. Fighting off a late rally by the Dragons, the BattleHawks remain the favorite in the East division and continue to impress their consistently large crowds at home.

BattleHawks gain early lead

Getting off to a slow start on offense, both teams were forced to punt on their first possessions. It took until midway through the first quarter for Jordan Ta’amu to put together a drive that resulted in a great throw to De’Mornay Pierson-El for a BattleHawks touchdown. After a quick throw on the successful two-point conversion attempt, Saint Louis was up 8-0.

The Saint Louis defense continued to give Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers a lot of material for the coming week’s film study, forcing punts on 4 out of 5 Seattle possessions in the first half. Both teams were forced to settle for field goals at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second.

On the first play from scrimmage after the half’s two minute warning, BattleHawks Keith Ford made a highlight-worthy juggling catch from Ta’amu and found the end zone to put Saint Louis ahead 17 to 3.

Quarterback changes for Seattle

Coming out of the XFL’s short halftime, Dragons head coach Jim Zorn announced that his starting quarterback Brandon Silvers would be replaced in the second half after another lackluster performance. Silvers completed only 4 of 10 pass attempts, recording just 27 yards in the first half. Seattle needed a change to have any hope against a determined Saint Louis defense.

Silvers was replaced by backup BJ Daniels, a six year veteran of the NFL who had previously played for the Seattle Seahawks. Daniels settled in quickly, putting a drive together on his second possession which resulted in the first Dragons touchdown of the game.

Another field goal by Saint Louis kicker Taylor Russolino gave the BattleHawks a 10-point lead with a minute left in the third quarter.

The Dragons were certainly able to find some offensive rhythm behind Daniels, scoring another touchdown early in the final quarter, but the Saint Louis offense proved overwhelming for the Seattle defense. Jordan Ta’amu put together yet another impressive performance, throwing for 264 yards and a touchdown, as well as earning 63 yards on the ground.

With Seattle attempting to score in the finals minutes of the game, BattleHawks safety Will Hill came up with the game-sealing interception for Saint Louis, securing the ball and the win.

Up Next

Saint Louis remains undefeated at home and, behind the dual threat of quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, is the clear favorite in the East Division. They improve to 3-1 and will travel to DC to face the Defenders next Sunday in a key divisional game at 3:00PM EDT on FS1.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Dragons fall to last place in the West and will prepare for a tough road game as they take on PJ Walker and the Houston Roughnecks next Saturday at 2:00PM EST on ABC.

Guardians end losing streak in win over Wildcats

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Guardians traveled back to MetLife Stadium after losing both of their games on the road trip. In a game that came down to the wire, the Guardians come out on top 17-14 over the Los Angeles Wildcats. The Guardians came into the Week 4 matchup, without starting Quarterback Matt McGloin, who was sidelined with an apparent rib injury. Backup signal caller Luis Perez stepped in to the starting role and was able to make plays throughout the game when the team needed him. The Guardians offense, which struggled over the last few weeks, controlled the game through a balanced attack.

Perez helps Guardians offense get back on track

A fresh face at quarterback, Luis Perez led the offense with precise accurate passes all game. Perez threw for 150 yards and a touchdown, completing 18 of 26 passes. Perez began the game by leading the Guardians on a 10-play, 37-yard drive that ended in clean 51-yard field goal by Matt McCrane, this put the Guardians on the board first 3-0.

Early in the second quarter, a 12-play, 60-yard Guardians drive resulted in another field goal by McCrane, tying the game 6-6.

Just before the half, Perez delivered a 3-yard back shoulder jump ball to Guardians receiver Mekale Mckay for a touchdown, capping a drive in which he spread the ball around to receivers Colby Pearson, Jake Powell, and EJ Bibbs.

A successful two-point attempt gave third-string Guardians quarterback Marquise Williams some exposure as he ran a draw up the middle to put the Guardians up 14-6 going into halftime.

In the second half, a stout running attack led by back Darius Victor, along with a few key stops on defense, sealed the victory for New York. With 8:32 left in the third quarter, Wildcats kicker Nick Novak lined up for a 48-yard field that was blocked by Guardians defensive end Jarrell Owens. A huge play from Owens, preventing a field goal that would ultimately be the difference in the outcome of the game.

On the ensuing Wildcats possession, quarterback Josh Johnson completed a 42-yard bullet to wide-out Saeed Blacknall for a touchdown, and a 2-point conversion to Jordan Smallwood to tie the game 14-14.

On the subsequent possession, Johnson and the Wildcats offense drove just past midfield into Guardians territory before Guardians cornerback Jamar Summers came up with a critical interception who outplayed Wildcats receiver Levonte Whitfield downfield for the ball. Summers’s interception resulted in a short drive by the Guardian’s offense to set up the game-winning, 47-yard field goal by McCrane with 10:57 left in the fourth quarter.

After having his first field goal attempt blocked a quarter earlier, Nick Novak missed a 44-yard field goal wide left; a miss that otherwise would’ve kept the Wildcats in the game. The Guardians secured the game by handing the ball off to Darius Victor throughout the whole fourth quarter, letting the clock bleed off. Victor put on an impressive performance, rushing for 82 yards on 18 carries. With under a minute to go, punter Justin Vogel pinned the Wildcats on their eight-yard line. The Guardians defense held the Wildcats on their side of the 50 until time expired.

Wildcats come up short

The Wildcats had an overall, uneven performance in this loss to New York, 17-14. They started the game slowly offensively and could not find much separation until the final seconds of the first quarter and then not again until the end of the third. Tre McBride caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to gain the lead before the second.

They struggled to run the ball as last week’s offensive maverick, running back Martez Carter, was a late addition to the inactive list. Then, the offense fell stagnant again while Luis Perez led the Guardians an eight-point lead before halftime. The Wildcats’ offense eventually woke up in the late third quarter when Johnson drove them down into Guardians territory with his quick out routes. He set himself up to throw a perfect deep ball to Saeed Blacknall, getting his first catch and touchdown. Nick Novak struggled with field goals, missing two in the second half, which would’ve given the Wildcats a mid-fourth quarter advantage. The Wildcats offensive line struggled to give Johnson time in the pocket all game, leading to the interception Jamar Summers at a critical point in the game. They proceeded to fail a fourth-down conversion and allow New York to take time off the clock and hold on to a slim lead, beating Los Angeles in a low scoring, 17-14 victory.

What’s next

The Wildcats’ next game is Sunday, March 8th when they will meet the worst performing team in the East Division, the Tampa Bay Vipers, at 9:00PM EDT on ESPN.

The Guardians will travel to Dallas to take on the Renegades Saturday, March 7th at 5:00PM EST on FOX.

Wildcats Ready to Pounce in the Meadowlands

The first game of Week 4 has the Los Angeles Wildcats traveling across the nation to face the New York Guardians at Metlife Stadium. The Wildcats shocked the league by blowing out the Defenders at home last week. They will be on the road for the second time after falling to Houston in Week 1. Josh Johnson looks to build on his success last week after throwing for 278 yards and three touchdowns in a commanding 39-9 win.

Nelson Spruce, who is second in the league in receiving with 256 yards, will not play on Saturday vs. New York. Spruce, who had three catches for 75 yards, was seen with ice wrapped around his knee after the last game. We can expect Johnson to favor his next best receiver, Tre McBride, who had an excellent performance against DC with two touchdowns.

The Wildcats will need to get the run game working with Martez Carter, who had a three touchdown performance last week. If Los Angeles can move the chains and Mike Stevens and the defense force the Guardians to hurt offensively, there is the potential to see Winston Moss doused with Gatorade again.

Guardians Seek Offensive Answers

The New York Guardians have struggled and look to turn it around after consecutive road losses. They won their opener at home against Tampa Bay, and will try to improve to 2-2 and 2-0 at home. New York been unable to find answers on offense, Matt McGloin continues to underwhelm with three interceptions and only a single touchdown pass to his name this season. His QB rating is currently at a horrendous 52.2 and there is clear discord between McGloin and his coaches, Kevin Gilbride and G.A Mangus.

Will the Guardians go back to Luis Perez at quarterback? He came in for McGloin against St. Louis and threw 4/5 for 39 yards and touchdown pass. Either Quarterback should be looking in the direction of former Charlotte and Carolina Panther wide receiver, Austin Duke, who led the team in receptions last week. The New York defensive front will have to step up once again with a red-hot Josh Johnson coming to town.

What to Watch

It will be interesting to see how Los Angeles fares without Nelson Spruce. Tre McBride will have an increased role so expect a big game from him. We will be interested to see what the Guardians will do offensively after two weeks of poor play. Will McGloin continue to start despite his blunders? Will we see Luis Perez again? Also, look to see if Los Angeles comes out flat after flying across the country from LA to NY. We are in for an exciting one as both teams look to improve to a 2-2 record.

Game Info

The Los Angeles Wildcats face the New York Guardians at 2:00 p.m. ET. The game will be played at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Broadcast coverage will be on ABC.

Prediction: 27-6 Wildcats

Difference makers: Josh Johnson, Tre McBride, Martez Carter

Defenders Week 4 Preview

 
Defenders Quarterback Cardale Jones is dropping back to pass. Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Quarterback play in the XFL is what wins games and if Cardale Jones does not improve his decision-making when the DC Defenders (-2.5) travel to prevent the 0-3 Tampa Bay Vipers from earning its first win of the 2020 season, there will be a cry for a quarterback change.

Cardale Jones may be on a short leash against the Vipers after his four-interception game against the LA Wildcats.

How short is the leash for Jones?

If Jones, 27, does not playback to the form from his first two games, former Buffalo Bulls quarterback Tyree Jackson is waiting for his opportunity.

Photo via @XFLDefenders/Twitter
DC Defenders backup quarterback Tyree Jackson.
Photo via @XFLDefenders/Twitter

Jackson, 22, has a similar skill set to Jones.  As a three-year starter at Buffalo, Jackson, the 6-foot-7 250 lbs quarterback, threw for 6,999 yards and 49 touchdowns.

Don’t let Jackson’s lack of rushing yards fool you; he only amassed 759 yards rushing while in three years at Buffalo. At the 2019 NFL combine, Jackson ran a 4.59 40-yard dash.

Opening a football season 2-1 for most seems like a good beginning, but the Defenders were outplayed from the start by the Wildcats.

The Defenders look to get right versus a Vipers defense that allows a 50 percent conversion rate on third-down.

What do the Defenders need to do for the win?

Perhaps Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton can force his team to make offensive adjustments and involve the running backs more.

The Defenders need to apply a thunder and lightning approach to the run game with Nick Brossette and Donell Pumphrey.

Brosette received a lot of touches last week once the game was out of control, rushing for 75 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.

Pumphrey, the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher, needs to be used similar to a Darren Sproles. A multi-purpose weapon that can catch balls out of the backfield and return kicks as well.

Coach Hamilton needs to find more efficient ways to get Pumphrey the ball in space.

The Vipers must have quality quarterback play for a chance to win

On defense, The Defenders must focus on running gameโ€”the Vipers average 140 yards-per-game on the ground, led by backs De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick.

Even after scoring 27 points against the Houston Roughnecks, opponents have outscored the Vipers by five touchdowns this season. The defense is not stopping anyone from scoring, allowing nearly 25 points-per-game.

Vipers are as efficient through the air as a snake trying to fly. Opening day starter, Aaron Murray, who missed the past two games due to injury, will suit up, but so will backup Taylor Cornelius.

Cornelius, 24, is 31-59 on the season for 310 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.

The Vipers do have size on the perimeter with a pair of 6-foot-3, 200 lbs receivers: Jackson State product, Dan Williams, and Arkansas -Montecillo standout, Jalen Tolliver.

No Defenders defensive back is taller than 6 feet.

Williams, despite hauling in 6 receptions for 123 yards in the first game against the NY Guardians defense, was held him to five receptions and 57 yards between the following two games.

Tolliver is the opposite, not producing much in the first two games before he blew up for eight receptions for 104 yards in Week 3.

The Vipers must try and move the ball in chunks down the field by exploiting the size advantage at the receiver position. Tampa fans are used to having large playmaking wide receivers on the field.

The Vipers will be without gadget player Quinton Flowers

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Quinton Flowers is taking a leave of absence from the Vipers and will be unavailable for Sunday’s game.

Flowers, 25, is a former AAC Offensive Player of the Year from the University of South Florida, where he played quarterback.

While at USF, Flowers averaged 2,673 yards passing and 1,199 yards rushing with a total of 112 touchdowns in his final three seasons as a starter.

The model XFL quarterback suits Flowers’s skill set, good the great arm and good mobility.

This may be the worst move the Vipers have made, besides choosing Aaron Murray as their starter to begin the season.

Prediction

The Vipers offense played better last week, but Defenders still have the superior player at the most crucial position of quarterback.

Defenders (-2.5) (44.5+/-)

Final score: DC Defenders 26, TB Vipers 21.

Around the League – Week 3

The XFL’s third week of the 2020 XFL season continued to showcase entertainment value from within the league. From crazy homemade fan costumes and fights, to a sellout crowd Saint Louis BattleHawks’ much-anticipated home opener, the XFL has proven itself as the gift that keeps on giving.

Rare Love for the Instant Replay

One of the most unique features of the XFL is the transparency of the replay analysis by the on-field referees and the sky judges in the booth. With live mics on both groups, viewers at home can listen in to the discussion and debate as the officials confirm or overturn the call on the field.

Commentators on all networks have echoed the prevailing sentiment in the media that this is a great move for sports. In the era of instant replay, this is something that could be easily applied to other professional sports leagues, particularly the NFL. Allowing fans to hear, in realtime, the reasoning behind penalty calls might help fanbases avoid erupting on social media after difficult, game-defining calls (I’m looking at you Saints fans.)

Outrageous Fan Attire

(via @XFLBattleHawks/Twitter)

With new teams, new logos and mascots and not huge amount of team gear to start out the season, fans have none the less been…. creative when it comes to showing love for their teams.

(via the XFL on ABC)

From homemade costumes, to painted faces, masks and shoulder pads, we have seen some incredibly innovative costumes. Two of the best seen this weekend include a Tampa Bay Vipers fan who made a mask and helmet combo and a Saint Louis BattleHawks fan who was prepared to take flight with some hand-activated wings.

(via the XFL on ESPN)

Sellout in Saint Louis

Since the Rams moved back to the Golden State in 2016, Saint Louis has been without a professional football team. When the XFL announced team locations for this season, many were curious what the football starved fans of the Gateway City would think of their new team.

After playing their first two game on the road, the BattleHawks finally returned to their new home at the Dome. The announced attendance of 29,554 was a sellout of the stadium’s lower bowl. This singlehandedly boosted the weekend’s overall XFL attendance to 81,942, a 7.4% increase from Week 2.

Host TeamStadiumAttendance% Change
Tampa Bay VipersRaymond James Stadium18,117Home Opener
Seattle DragonsCenturyLink Field22,06024.38
St. Louis BattleHawksThe Dome at America’s Center29,554Home Opener
Los Angeles WildcatsDignity Health Sports Park12,21118.6
Total% Change
81,9427.4

While the weekend’s overall attendance was record breaking thanks to the BattleHawks fans, attendance in Seattle and Los Angeles dwindled. The Wildcats’ dismal 12,211 is something that should cause concern for league executives. Hopefully the team’s recent success persuades some ambivalent sports enthusiasts to make their way down to Carson in the coming weeks.

What’s Ahead

Right now the XFL is healthy and active, showing fans at home and in the stadium what football can be. Each week seems to cement the legitimacy and legacy of the league further into the annals of sports history. Every game seems to invite us to rethink some of the norms of American Football; last week we saw the league’s first 3-point conversion, this week the first onside kick and kickoff returned for a touchdown.

The key for the XFL will be maintaining this momentum once its novelty wears off. There are no more inaugural home openers and the number of “firsts” slims each week, ultimately leaving fans with just an on-field product that needs to resonate and inspire fandom. The league boasts fantastic quality of play and parity among its teams, what matters is if people care enough to watch that.

Next week as we see the TV ratings and attendance numbers settle at an equilibrium, we’ll have a better idea of how strong the XFL really is.

BattleHawks soar in home opener

ST. LOUIS, Missouri- The Saint Louis BattleHawks defeated the New York Guardians 29-9 Sunday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd. Coming into the game, both East division teams held a record of (1-1). After Sunday’s performance, the BattleHawks showed who deserves to stand at the top of the East division. Jumping out to an early lead, the team from the Gateway City showed no signs of slowing down. The Guardians continued to struggle, failing to score double-digit points for the second game in a row.

BattleHawks Dominate Early

All cylinders were firing Sunday when the BattleHawks took the field at The Dome At America’s Center. The BattleHawks got off to a hot start with a 14-yard TD by former Seahawks RB Christine Michael. Michael’s score put the BattleHawks up 6-0.

Special teams played a big part in the win on Sunday, including the first-ever kickoff return for a touchdown in XFL history. With 12:23 left in the second quarter, BattleHawks’ returner Keith Mumphrey received the kick from Matt McCrane. Mumphrey went around to the left and pitched it to Joe Powell on the reverse; Powell outran the whole Defenders’ kick off team and took it 84 yards to the house.

Taylor Russolino hit a 39-yard field goal to make it 15-3 with 4:29 left in the second quarter. Another big play on special teams occurred when Saint Louis blocked a punt with 2:15 left in the half. The blocked punt set up great field position for the BattleHawks offense. From a yard out, Matt Jones rushed it in for six making the score 21-3. The final score of the first half, came on a pass from Ta’amu rolling out to his right and hitting Alonzo Rusell making the score 23-3.

The only points that Saint Louis scored in the second half came from the leg of Russolino. He connected on a pair of field goals including an impressive 58 yarder.

The BattleHawks combined for 273 total yards, 16 total first downs, and 156 yards rushing on offense. A solid performance on the defensive side of the ball as the BattleHawks only allowed two scores, a 36-yard field goal and a late fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Luis Perez. The home opener couldn’t have gone any better for Saint Louis.

Guardians Continue to Struggle

An inability to find an identity on offense continues to burden the Guardians. Three quarterbacks threw the ball Sunday afternoon, combining 19 for 31 for 217 passings yards and one score. The Guardians scored three points going into the half with kicker Matt McCrane connecting on a 53-yard field goal. Matt McGloin threw an interception with 30 seconds left before halftime to BattleHawks safety Kenny Robinson Jr.

The Guardians did score a touchdown with 6:19 left in the fourth quarter. QB Luis Perez connected with New York receiver Austin Duke for an eight-yard touchdown, making the final score 29-9. The Guardians continue to stammer on offense causing frustration for the coaching staff. Quarterbacks Coach G.A. Magnus was seen showing emotion after McGloin’s red-zone interception before the half.

Next To Come

The BattleHawks will look to come off an impressive Week 3 win with another home game against the Seattle Dragons. The game will air next Saturday at 5:00 P.M. EST on FOX

The Guardians will try to end their losing streak with a home matchup against the LA Wildcats. The game will be broadcasted Saturday at 2:00 P.M. EST on ABC.

Wildcats dominate in win over Defenders

CARSON, Calif. โ€“ Perhaps the DC Defenders were feeling themselves a bit too much after a dominant opening to the season, fall to 2-1, after receiving a slap in the face, losing 39-9 to the LA Wildcats, Sunday.

The Wildcats (1-2), first win saw the team score more points tonight than the previous two losses combined.

The Wildcats defense on the prowl, forcing five turnovers, pressuring Defender quarterback Cardale Jones into 13-26 for 103 yards and four interceptions, twice by Mike Stevens. The Wildcats held the Defenders to 2-of-12 on third down and averaging 4.1 yards-per-play.

Jones was playing confused for much of the first half. Jones threw two interceptions in the first quarter and only completed 6-of-14 passes for only 39 yards. Defender receivers could not gain any separation from the Wildcat defensive backs.

A 32-yard field goal attempt by Defenders kicker Ty Rausa was true for three points, preventing the Defenders from being shutout in the first half to the Wildcats, 27-3 after Jones was able to move the Defenders within field goal range. The Defenders would never play that close from scrimmage again.

Wildcats quarterback, Josh Johnson, completing 71 percent of his passes in the first half with two touchdown passes of 40 and 28 yards, both receiver Tre McBride.

Photo via XFL/Los Angeles Wildcats

Johnson made his case for MVP, passing for 278 yards on 18-25 passing with three touchdowns.

McBride, the William and Mary Tribe product, leaves the game in the third with an apparent head injury was blowing up, collecting five catches for 109 yards.

Johnson’s passing options were not limited to McBride as Nelson Spruce, entering the game leading the XFL in targets, receptions, and yards steps up in the third pulling in 75 yards on three receptions.

Wildcats running back Martez Carter was “Mr. Excitement” scoring in the passing game and rushing the ball scoring two touchdowns, two on the ground and one through the air and 75 yards of total offense.

Defenders Head Coach Pep Hamilton needed to involve the NCAA All-Time leading rusher, Donnel Pumphrey, more, giving him more touches in open space. Pumphrey only had two receptions for seven yards and rushed for 40 on eight carries  The Defenders were running and were able to rush the ball reasonably well, outrushing Los Angeles 173-to-55, averaging 5.2 yards-per-rush. Nick Brossette amassed 75 yards on eight carries, much of them once the game was out of hand.

Hamilton and his team will need to dig deep if they want to bounce back from this shellacking when they travel back across the country to play the 0-3 Tampa Bay Vipers in Raymond James Stadium on March 1. The Wildcats will play their next game a day earlier in the Meadowlands against the New York Guardians.

Game Preview: Guardians At BattleHawks Week 3

ST. LOUIS — The first game this Sunday will feature the New York Guardians traveling to The Dome at America’s Center. The Guardians look to get their first road win of the season after a disappointing shutout loss to the DC Defenders. The BattleHawks also lost their Week 2 matchup against the Houston Roughnecks who were led by quarterback PJ Walker. Walker proved too much to handle as the BattleHawks fell 28-24. A marquee matchup presents itself this week for the BattleHawks when they play their first home game of the season in front of a St. Louis crowd. Yes folks, for the first time in over three and a half years, football will be played in the Gateway City.

Guardians seek redemption

New York fans had much to be frustrated about last week. With only 137 yards and an average under three yards per play, it was easy to see why Quarterback Matt McGloin was so vocal on the disappointing offensive performance. After an interview at the half, McGloin started the opening drive of the 3rd quarter by throwing a pick-six. McGloin was benched, throwing 2 interceptions, and finishing 8 of 19 for 42 yards on the day. The Guardians look to turnaround their offensive woes against a BattleHawks defense that did let up four scores to a Roughnecks offense, but only allowed 238 yards of total offense. The Guardians’ defense will have their hands full again this week with a Saint Louis offense lead by Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu. The Guardians will face a BattleHawks offense that plays primarily off their running attack. A mixture of RPO’s and play action plays make the BattleHawks offense explosive and dangerous.

BattleHawks will look past close Week 2 loss

The BattleHawks fell just short in their Week 2 matchup against the Roughnecks. Without looking at the final score, the stat line for the game showed the BattleHawks winning in almost every category. Outgaining the Roughnecks with 152 yards offense, 10 first downs, and 9 third conversions, it was two costly interceptions by Ta’ amu that would end up as the deciding factor in the matchup.

The BattleHawks will play a New York Guardians team that struggled to find any rhythm in their Week 2 loss against the Defenders. The BattleHawks strong secondary will look to have their way with a Guardians passing offense that only threw for 95 yards last Saturday.

What to Watch

Look out for Guardians receiver Mekale McKay. Standing at 6’6, the large frame of McKay can be be an X-Factor at crucial times for the New York offense. A strong connection between McGloin and McKay was evident in the Week 1 victory against the Tampa Bay Vipers. The Guardians will need a big game from Mckay in order to open up the whole offense.

Arguably the most important factor in Sunday’s game will be the St. Louis crowd. A field that once hosted the Greatest Show on Turf will now be the home for the BattleHawks. The first home game ever for the BattleHawks will have the crowd in a frenzy. Three and a half years is a long time for a city that loves its football. It is likely the home crowd will affect the composure of the visiting Guardians this afternoon.

Game Info

The game is scheduled at 2:00 PM local time at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Broadcast coverage will be on ESPN.

Game Preview: Posse of Renegades rides northwest To Seattle

SEATTLE — This afternoon at 4:00PM CST, the (-5) Dallas Renegades (1-1) continue their journey through the West with a matchup against their divisional foe (+5) Seattle Dragons (1-1). The Renegades are a 5-point favorite at Seattle with an expected total of 43.5 points.

Dallas eked out a 25-18 win last week in a tumultuous game against the Los Angeles Wildcats. They finished the game in a 4th-quarter shootout to bounce back from a disappointing 15-9 Week 1 loss against St. Louis BattleHawks at home in Arlington. Meanwhile, the Dragons follow a similar redemption path, losing by a dozen to the DC Defendersย before beating the Tampa Vipers, 17-9, at home the following week.

Both teams have struggled to find an offensive identity thus far, but believe they are closer to the top than their records reflect. Dallas took a step closer to finding that offensive identity last week, when quarterback Landry Jones and his offense gained momentum in the 4th quarter against the Wildcats. The Renegades, with their Offensive Coordinator Hal Mumme’s staple Air Raid offense, love to pass the ball, often ignoring the run game entirely. This affinity for the passing led Dallas to struggle to find the end zone in Week 1 where their only points came from kicker Austin MacGinnis’s three field goals. He was the only Renegade to score in the first half of Week 2 as well, putting another field goal through uprights in Carson. It wasn’t until Mumme embraced the run game and transition the offensive to a more balanced attack did the Renegades finally start to score touchdowns, creating 22 second-half points against the Wildcats.

Cameron Artis-Payne scores his second touchdown on the ground against the Wildcats
(via ABC Network)

Seattle put up 19 points and 310 total yards against the talented Defenders secondary. The Dragons faced a greater struggled to move the ball at home a week later, gaining only 199 yards of offense against the Vipers, though this may be more indicative of the Tampa Bay defensive prowess. The Vipers have managed to accomplish an unconventional feat, outgaining both the New York Guardians 394-226 in a 23-3 Week 1 loss and the Dragons 289-199 in a 17-9 Week 2 loss.

These two teams have already met once, though not in an official game. They held a joint practice with a live scrimmage last month, so they are not complete strangers. A primary difference is where Landry Jones (knee) stands now.

Keys to the game for Dallas

Keep the offense balanced

The Renegades lead the league in passing yards (524 through two games), with Landry Jones sitting in 5th in passing (305 YPG) having played in only one game. He is also the first and only XFL player to have thrown for over 300 yards in a single game.

Those impressive stats have come at a cost.

When Dallas relied heavily on the passing game, all their scoring came from one source, kicker Austin MacGinnis, who is now 5 for 5 on Field Goals (tied for the league lead). It wasn’t until Mumme began to trust his backfield, primarily former Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne, that the offense found the end zone.

Cameron Artis Payne speaks to the Media after practice on February 19th
(via XFL Dallas Renegades)

Still not convinced about the importance of the run game in Dallas’ success?

In a losing effort against the Defenders, Dallas ran for only 58 total yards as opposed to 154 yards last week in the win over the Vipers.

While Dallas should look to throw the ball when they can, especially if they can target Donald Parham (leads all TE’s in receiving) or Josh Crockett (deep play threat), it is critical that they trust Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar to run the ball. The Renegades lead the league in Yards Per Carry and they need to capitalize on that.

Touchdowns, not Field Goals

Until Cameron Artis-Payne scored the first touchdown in Dallas Renegades history, with 9:00 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the first 15 points in all came from kicker Austin MacGinnis. As cool as that stat sounds, having a kicker lead the team in scoring through two games is not particularly promising. If the Renegades want to continue winning games into the playoffs and the Championship, they must place a heavier emphasis on balanced offensive efficiency, rather than having to trust the Special Teams unit to close drives. Against the St. Louis BattleHawks, all of Dallas’ field goals came inside the St. Louis 24-yard line (kicking from 31, 41, & 22 yards respectively).  Against the Wildcats, their first 6 points came from field goals kicked behind the 23 and 27-yard lines. Both kicks capped drives that made it inside the red zone before being forced back. A more balanced offense will help prevent drives from stalling out this far inside the opponents’ territory.

Defense, Defense, Defense

A big concern for Renegades last weekend was allowing Wildcats quarterback Josh Johnson to make his way downfield more often than not. Johnson combined with wide out Nelson Spruce for two separate touchdown connections. The Renegades also gave up crucial defensive pass interference penalties on deep throws that fell incomplete. This sloppy execution allowed the Wildcats multiple opportunities to score. The Renegades benefited from the Wildcats shooting themselves in the foot through costly unforced turnovers. A better scoring offense like Seattle (4th in league scoring) will likely make Dallas pay for giving up long drives and big penalties.

Win the turnover battle

The Seattle Dragons have forced 5 turnovers on defense this season and are a +3 in season turnover differential. Dallas, on the other hand, is a -1 in turnover differential after a 3-turnover game last week, which included 2 interceptions thrown by Landry Jones. Turnovers kept the Wildcats in the game late last week, so managing turnovers this afternoon will be a huge key to avoiding an upset at the hands of the Dragons, perhaps the deciding factor of the game.

Prediction

In an important early matchup for both teams to build momentum within the division moving forward, Dallas turns it over too many times in a losing effort. Both teams find the end zone a few times but Seattle wins 23-19.