USFL Week 10: Recap, Review, and a Look at the Upcoming Playoffs

Written and edited by Seth Brown 

June 18th, 2023

Maulers Prove Defense Wins Championships, Down the Generals 26-6 to Clinch First Playoff Berth in Franchise History

Entering Week 10, all four North Division teams had the same exact Playoff Scenario: Win and In. Pittsburgh and New Jersey last met in Week 2, where the Generals earned a dominant first win on the year, 20-3, in a beating of Pittsburgh. But in Week 10, with playoffs on the line for both teams, Pittsburgh earned its sweet revenge. New Jersey would start the scoring with a field goal and a 3-0 lead, but not long after, the usually dormant Maulers offense would march down the field and punch in a score thanks to Troy Williams and Isiah Hennie, giving Pittsburgh a 6-3 lead due to a missed extra point. Defense dominated the game, as early into the second quarter Maulers' Arnold Tarpley III would come down with an interception, giving Pitt good field position. Despite the pick, the Maulers would still struggle on offense, as that same drive, a bad snap for kicker Chris Blewitt would result in the Generals recovering the fumble. Both squads would exchange field goals, taking a Maulers 9-6 lead into halftime. Defense continued to decide the game, as halfway through the third quarter, Pittsburghs Eli Walker returned a fumble 46 yards for the score, adding another 7 to the Maulers now 16-6 lead. Into the fourth quarter, Pittsburghs Defense would continue to drag the team into its first ever postseason run, keeping the Generals off the scoreboard for the rest of the game, while the Maulers offense finally roared to life, putting up another field goal and a 4-yard TD run from Madre London to seal the victory 26-6, sending Pittsburgh into the playoffs. Pittsburgh looks to continue an incredible run after their 2022 season ended on a horrible 1-9 record, while New Jersey is left to pick up the pieces of their 3-7 season, following an incredible 9-1 run in 2022.

Stallions Hold Off Showboats, 27-20, Clinch 1 seed and South Regular Season Champions for Second Straight Season

Birmingham became the first team in the USFL to clinch a playoff berth, securing their spot in week 9 with a dominant 38-15 win over Houston. Entering week 10, though, Birmingham needed a win to secure their second straight South Division Title. On the other side of the ball, Memphis needed a blowout win, a tight Breakers loss, and a Panthers win to seal a postseason run. Memphis would strike first, as Dillon returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, putting the Showboats up 7-0 early. Birmingham would respond the following drive, putting up a field goal to cut the lead to 4 points. Memphis would respond, adding to their lead with another touchdown as Kelley threw a score to Papale, taking the Boats up 14-3. Birmingham would bring the game close on the next two drives, punching in a touchdown and a field goal to bring it within 1, 14-13. Inside the two minute warning, Memphis would put up a field goal of their own to extend their lead to 4 points, 17-13. Despite the Stallions entering field goal range, they would end the half without more points after a pass from McGough was tipped up and intercepted with 12 seconds left, allowing Memphis to take a 17-13 lead into halftime. Memphis, in need of a high scoring game for the tiebreaker over Houston, attempted an onside kick to start the second half, but failed as the kick went out of bounds. Despite failing the onside kick, however, Memphis would still receive the ball as Stallions RB Marable fumbled the ball away to Memphis just a few plays into the drive. Despite marching into the redzone, Kelley would throw an inteception trying to get the ball into the endzone, halting the Showboats need to light up the scoreboard. After punts were exchanged, Marable would punch in a touchdown up the middle to give the Stallions their first lead of the night, 20-17. After a 54 yard kick return by Dillon, Memphis was forced to take another field goal, tying the game up at 20 early into the fourth quarter. A fumble from Stallions Tight End Sternberger gives the ball back to Memphis, in a tied game, while Memphis still needs to put on dozens of points to remain in the playoff picture. After a third down conversion fell incomplete, Memphis attempted, and failed, a field goal to take the lead, leaving the game tied at 20 and giving the ball back to McGough and the Stallions, who take the ball down the field before McGough hit Sternberger for a touchdown to take a 27-20 lead over Memphis. In a desperate attempt to remain in the game, Memphis attempted a 4th and 9, but Kelley was hit as he threw and it fell incomplete with 1:54 left, leaving Memphis out of the playoffs with a 5-5 record, while Birmingham clinched the best record in the USFL for the second straight season, going 8-2 and securing the 1 seed in the USFL South. Despite their star QB, RB, and LB all missing the full season, Birmingham finds itself yet again as title favorites, and looking down the line to a potential dynasty in the making. 

Breakers Hold Out in Defensive Slugfest Against Gamblers Rally, Enter Postseason for Second Straight Season, 17-10

Both squads entered today with playoffs on their mind. If New Orleans won, they enter the playoffs for the second consecutive season. If Houston won, they would have a chance to enter the playoffs for the first time as a franchise if the Philadelphia Stars beat the Michigan Panthers, which would hand the tiebreaker over New Orleans to Houston. The game started wrong for both teams, as neither could score in the first quarter. New Orleans would break the silence early in the second, though, as McLeod Bethel-Thompson unleashed a dime to Johnnie Dixon for a 30 yard score to go up 7-0. Breakers Defensive Back Vontae Diggs would get the ball back for New Orleans soon after, coming up with an interception in the end zone to keep Houston off the board, entering halftime with a 7-0 lead. Entering the second half, Bethel-Thompson would build onto a promising Breakers lead as he found Dee Anderson on a slant to go up 14-0. With the playoffs now looking grim for Houston, they would claw their way back into the game and within a score as Mark Thompson punched in yet another touchdown in a historic season to bring the game within 1 score, 14-7. The rest of the game would remain a defensive slugfest, as Bethel-Thompson would get sacked on a key 3rd down and force the Breakers to settle for a field goal to take a 17-7 lead, and Houston would respond with its own kick to bring the game within 7 again, 17-10. However, on a drive Houston required a touchdown to remain in the game, Kenji Bahar would fumble the snap, recover, and then be sacked for a loss of 11 yards to bring up 3rd and 19. After failing to convert for the fourth down on the next two snaps, Houston would be eliminated from the playoffs, confirming that the South Division Championship will be a rematch of 2022, with the 2 Seed, 7-3 New Orleans Breakers taking on the 1 seed, 8-2 Birmingham Stallions in Birmingham, Alabama. New Orleans looks to end Birminghams repeat hopes, while Houston looks to build off of a promising season.

Panthers Mount Massive Comeback, Become First Team in USFL History to Prevent Stars from Reaching Title Game, 23-20

Entering this game, both North division squads had the same scenario: Win. And. In. Both of these squads are also the only teams in the North to ever win USFL titles: The Panthers beat the Stars in 1983 to win the USFLs first ever title, and the Stars won consecutive titles in 1984 and 1985, although they had made all four USFL championships, losing in 1983 and 2022. With their past titles behind them, both of these teams entered Ford Field to battle for the right to enter the playoffs and fight for another championship. The Stars would strike first and strike fast, taking the opening drive all the way down for a score, as Case Cookus hit Terry Wright on a 23 yard touchdown throw to take an early 7-0 lead. After a 3-and-out from Michigan, Philly would score again, putting up a field goal to take a 10-0 lead and looking like the clear favorites to make the postseason out of this game. Marcus Simms of the Panthers had other plans, however, as his 53 yard Kick Return allowed the Panthers to make it a one score game with their own field goal, cutting the lead to 7, at 10-3. Philadelphia would capitalize on Michigans slow start, however, putting up another field goal and touchdown to extend their lead to 14, at 20-6 entering halftime. Ford Field was quiet as it looked as the hometown Panthers playoff hopes had finally died, and the 2-0 start was for nothing. However, Michigan would open the third quarter with another monster kick return from Simms, allowing them to start the second half with a field goal and trimming the lead to 11. On the following Stars possession, they went 3-and-out, but when trying to punt the ball away, none other than Marcus Simms added to his monster game, blocking the punt and allowing AJ Richardson to return it for a score, cutting the lead down to 5 at 20-15. Michigans defense began to hold strong, allowing 0 second half points as the offense finally found the endzone as E.J. Perry, who took over the Quarterback job from Josh Love, fumbled the snap, recovered his own fumble, and ran it in for a score. Perry would convert the 2 point attempt with a mass to Marcus Baugh, securing Michigans first lead of the night, 23-20. Neither squad would score again, as Michigan mounted its 14 point, 2 score comeback to become the only team to ever prevent the Philadelphia Stars from reaching a title game. Michigan now takes on Pittsburgh in the North Division Championship, hoping for a chance to secure the Panthers second USFL title.