USFL Week 1: Recap & Rankings

USFL Week 1: Recap of the Games and Ranking All Eight Teams

Written and edited by Seth Brown, April 17th, 2023

Stars QB Case Cookus throws a touchdown pass to Devin Gray to put the Stars up 27-17 in the second half. Image from USFL website

Stars Fly High In Close Win Over Showboats

The first game of the USFL season was a nailbiter. Despite Philadelphia going up big before the half, Memphis gave viewers reason to worry late in the game. On the Showboats first drive, Stars CB Channing Stribling would end it early with an interception. After the pick, Stars RB Chris Rowland cashed it in for 6, putting the Stars up 7-0 early. After a horrible start, Memphis got back on track, as Brady White hit Rashard Davis for a 43 yard score to tie the game up at 7. After taking inspiration from their NFL brothers in the same city, the Stars would use the famous Philly Special to convert a 4th-and-1 with Case Cookus before later throwing a touchdown to Matt Colburn II to give the Stars a 14-7 lead. After Memphis stalled again, Stars RB Dexter Williams thundered into the endzone to put the stars up 20-7, although the extra point was blocked. Memphis put up a Field Goal to make the score Stars 20, Showboats 10 going into halftime. After the half, Memphis gave Philadelphia reason to be scared as they marched down the field on an 80 yard drive, capped off by a Brady White to Ryan McDaniel touchdown pass to cut the stars lead to 3 at     20-17. Late in the third, however, the Stars finally answered with a touchdown of their own by Devin Gray to extend their lead, 27-17. Halfway into the fourth, the final score of the game would be Alex Collins running it in to finish the game Stars 27, Showboats 23.

Final Score: Stars 27-23 Showboats

Stallions Backup Quarterback Alex McGough, in to relieve injured J'Mar Smith. Image from USFL website

Stallions Roll Past Generals 

In a game featuring last years two best teams, who both finished 9-1, this game was supposed to be a thriller. it ended as anything but, as the Stallions ran circles around a disappointing Generals team, even with Stallions starting QB Smith and star WR Marlon Williams out of the game early. After the Generals fumbled the ball away on their opening drive, J'Mar Smith would unleash an incredible 61-yard pass to Austin Watkins to put the Stallions up 7-0 early. The rest of the first quarter remained scoreless, although early in the second Generals QB Dakota Prukop ran in a 2-yard score to tie the game at 7. The Stallions and Generals would exchange field goals and defensive stands for the second quarter after the Generals turned the ball over and downs and J'Mar Smith turned it over with a pick, knotting the game up at 10-10 late in the second quarter. Right before the half ended, with Smith now out of the game, Stallions backup QB Alex McGough would come in and throw a 6-yard score to Sternberger to give the Stallions a 17-10 lead going into halftime. Despite going 3-and-out to start the second half, the Stallions would get the ball right back on a second Generals fumble, then wasted no time as McGough punched in a          29-yard rushing score to put the Stallions up 24-10 over the Generals early in the third quarter. The rest of the third quarter remained scoreless, and after a Stallions Field Goal in the fourth to put them up 27-10, neither squad would score again.

Final Score: Stallions 27-10 Generals

Panthers QB Josh Love, who set a USFL record with a 90.5% completion percentage in the win over Houston. Image from USFL website

Michigan Panthers Dominate Struggling Houston Gamblers

With just 5 combined wins between these two squads last season, many expected these two teams to come in at 7 and 8 in the rankings in 2023. Houston may, but Michigan is looking to rise well above those spots, and this game proved it as Michigan punched Houston right in the mouth again and again in a monumental victory, capped off with Josh Love having a career day, going 19-21, 216 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT, and a 90.5% completion percentage, the USFLs new record. After the Gamblers first drive stalled, the Panthers wasted no time marching down the field, capped off with a Josh Love to Marcus Baugh score to put the panthers up 6-0 early. With high winds in the area, many extra points would miss in this game. Answering back, Gamblers RB T.J. Pledger would punch in a score of his own to knot the game at 6-6. After a few uneventful drives and a Panthers field goal to go up 9-6, Panthers WR Joe Walker would muff a punt and give the Gamblers great field position, allowing Pledger to punch in his second score of the day and giving the Gamblers a 13-9 lead going into halftime. Despite Houston's halftime lead, the second half was all Panthers. After a massive interception and return for Panthers CB Saba, Panthers RB Stevie Scott punched in a score to put the panthers up 16-13. The Gamblers continued to struggle as their offense fumbled the ball away to the Panthers, who turned around and scored again on a Trey Quinn receiving score to put Michigan up 22-13. After an interception was overturned by penalty, Panthers Defensive Lineman Breeland Speaks would force a fumble on the very next play, giving Michigan the ball back on their third turnover of the game. Josh Love would put the game away with a third score of the game, hitting Joe Walker in stride to put Michigan up 29-13. Houston, in an attempt to make the loss look a bit better, tried to go downfield but was intercepted yet again.

Final Score: Panthers 29-13 Gamblers

Maulers Pass Rush was putting in work all game, getting many QB hits, Pressures, and even a score. Image from USFL News Hub. 

Breakers Triumph Over Maulers In Defensive Slugfest

These two teams had very different stories last year. The Maulers would finish   1-9 with the worst record in the USFL, while the Breakers finished 6-4, tied for 2nd best record in the USFL, and with a playoff berth. However, these two teams look very similar and well matched heading into this season. After an incredible opening kickoff return and lateral, the Maulers got set up on the Breakers 41-yard line. After a Breakers stand, the Maulers took the Field Goal, going up 3-0. A massive 37-yard pass from McLeod Bethel-Thompson to Jonathan Adams would set the Breakers up on the 5-yard line, but the Maulers defense held strong with a big sack from Boogie Roberts, and forced New Orleans to settle for a Field Goal, knotting the game at 3-3. After both defenses dug in, the Breakers would break the silence and put up a        51-yard Field Goal to go up 6-3 late in the first quarter. After Maulers punter Matt Mengel pinned the Breakers at the 1-yard line, Maulers LB Peuben Foster would give the Maulers life, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Kyahva Tezino and taken into the endzone for the first defensive score of the USFL season to give the Maulers a 9-6 lead. After a promising Breakers drive, the Maulers defense again forced New Orleans to take a field goal, tying it up at 9 a piece. A Pittsburgh blocked field goal would end the half. Entering the third quarter, yet another promising New Orleans drive was thwarted late by the Maulers defense as New Orleans had to take its fourth Field Goal of the day and go up 12-9. A while later, a very familiar story unfolded - the Breakers drive deep, the Maulers dig in, and a fifth Breakers Field goal is kicked to take a 15-9 lead. After a promising kickoff return and drive taking the Maulers just inches from the endzone, the Breakers would dig in and force the Maulers to turn it over on downs. After the Breakers took the ball to midfield and had to punt, Pittsburgh's Isiah Hennie would run the punt all the way back for a score, tying the game at 15-15. Late in the fourth, after many defensive stands from both sides, New Orleans finally broke the silence, scoring the first and last offensive score of the game with a Bethel-Thompson passing touchdown to Jones to finish the game off, 22-15.
Final Score: Breakers 22-15 Maulers

Booth Sports USFL Rankings: Week 1

Prior rankings used are from our Preseason rankings, found on the home page or our twitter

2) Philadelphia Stars =

3) Michigan Panthers +1

4) Memphis Showboats +3

5) New Orleans Breakers -1

6) New Jersey Generals +2

7) Pittsburgh Maulers -1

8) Houston Gamblers -5