The Philadelphia Stars will host the Pittsburgh Maulers this weekend in Detroit, with both USFL franchises looking to get back on track. It wasn’t an ideal week two performance for either team, falling to their respective opponents by double digits.
In both matchups in 2022 between these two teams, the Philadelphia Stars were victorious. They were close affairs, but the Stars ultimately found a way to get the job done.
⚡️ @2mjayc CAN FLY
He hands us the lead 🔥🌟
📺: FS1 pic.twitter.com/wfcvtm0yey
— Philadelphia Stars (@USFLStars) June 13, 2022
Philadelphia is coming off a tough loss to Michigan, where they were dominated on the defensive end. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Maulers have only posted six points on offense this year, with an 0-2 record.
Let’s take a look at the key factors ahead of Sunday’s showdown.
Right off the bat, it’s clear to see which team holds the advantage here. Case Cookus is one of the USFL’s top quarterbacks, slinging the football at a high level.
It was a tough outing for Case against Michigan, though. The Panthers defense got after him – sacking him four times and forcing multiple turnovers. With Cookus’ impressive tenure in the USFL so far, it would be expected to see him rebound this weekend.
To no one's surprise, Case Cookus and Jordan Suell got to work quickly to open up this @USFL game.@Jordan_Suell was one of Cookus' favorite targets last year – and for good reason. Does an excellent job of high-pointing this ball for the snag. #USFLpic.twitter.com/tN917tZYBi
— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) April 23, 2023
Ray Horton has to figure out what to do with his signal callers. Neither James Morgan or Troy Williams have been able to do much of anything this season, as Pittsburgh’s offense has been dead in the water. Horton should consider giving Williams more time this week, as he’s shown higher upside from a dual threat perspective.
If the defenses have their way, it could be an ugly outing. I’m confident that Case Cookus will produce some points, but it’s hard to gauge exactly what we’re going to get from the Maulers. It’s been a rough couple of weeks from that unit.
Who Needs To Step Up?
Pittsburgh desperately needs to figure out how to get their playmakers involved in effective and efficient ways. Madre London and Isiah Hennie have to see more consistent touches this weekend. That is their only hope. Hennie has been spectacular so far this season, shining as the lone bright spot within that offense.
How about this view on Isiah Hennie's punt return for a touchdown last night! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/I2rSzM2HHX
— Pittsburgh Maulers (@USFLMaulers) April 17, 2023
Matt Colburn should be an important piece for Bart Andrus against Pittsburgh. The Maulers have not defended the run very well this season, and Matt is an extremely talented back. He didn’t see much playing time against Michigan, largely due to Philadelphia’s offensive line struggles.
Speaking of which, the Stars are going to be in serious trouble if they can’t protect. This line has allowed nine sacks through just two weeks, and have not been able to produce much protection for Matt Colburn or Dexter Williams.
COLBURN SHOOTING FOR THE ENDZONE! 💫 @2mjayc pic.twitter.com/axbVBaM65I
— Philadelphia Stars (@USFLStars) April 24, 2023
Hopefully WR Chris Rowland is back, as he was missing in action in week two. He’s a key piece to Andrus’ offensive schemes, as a wide receiver and kick returner.
Pittsburgh has a ferocious defense. They’ve done everything they could do to keep the Maulers within striking distance for two straight weeks.
Boogie Roberts is someone to keep an eye on, having a couple of excellent performances on the young season so far. If he continues to develop in the USFL, he has potential to be one of the league’s premier pass rushers.
HERE COMES THE BOOGIE MAN! 😱 @boogiethegoat8 pic.twitter.com/0w0x9xvAXi
— Pittsburgh Maulers (@USFLMaulers) April 16, 2023
On the other hand, Philadelphia has to step up against the run. Reggie Corbin got whatever he wanted on Sunday night, posting 131 yards and two scores on just 11 carries. In week one, Alex Collins also saw plenty of success in Memphis.
If the Stars continue to struggle in this area, opponents will capitalize. Considering the Maulers have not been able to pass the football much at all, it may be worth trying their luck on the ground against a team that doesn’t have many answers for it quite yet.
Philadelphia Stars | Bart Andrus: Andrus has been a staple in the spring football scene for a while. He’s consistently made the right adjustments, and took this group to the Championship last season. Despite last week’s loss, it’s safe to assume that Bart will get them on the right track.
Pittsburgh Maulers | Ray Horton: In his head coaching debut, things haven’t gone so well for Ray Horton. Defensively, they’ve been special with his son Jarren at the helm. Offensively, it’s been a disaster. Horton has quite a bit to prove heading into this one.
Sunday afternoon’s game will tell us a lot about the USFL North Division. Can the Pittsburgh Maulers prove that they are competitive with their division rivals? Or, will Philadelphia stop the bleeding and put themselves back in a position to win the North?
Philadelphia is the clear favorite to win this game. They’ve beat Pittsburgh twice already, and look to be the stronger unit this year as well. The Maulers have to be firing on all cylinders to give themselves a chance in this one.
The game kicks off on Sunday, at 12pm ET on NBC. It will be the first game played at Ford Field this USFL season.
What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the Philadelphia Stars & Pittsburgh Maulers? Which USFL players do you expect to shine? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!