Not surprisingly, week ten brought us plenty of exciting action in the USFL. Even though the games were relatively meaningless (outside of the tank bowl), everybody brought the intensity to Legion Field.
Something that isn't being talked about enough: @twll3 finished the @USFL's season second in rushing yards. Dude has been crushing it week in and week out. Averaging 4.9YPC on 12 carries per game.
For obvious reasons, Pittsburgh finishes the season in dead last. It’s unfortunate, because the team does possess plenty of talent, just like every other team in the USFL. However, they did not execute. Some of that can certainly be blamed on HC Kirby Wilson, who failed to lead the team to wins. His interesting approach (rotating QB’s for no reason, running the ball up the middle constantly) hasn’t worked too well.
What a second half it's been for @iwh_v as he hauls in yet another score! 🔨
It’s a shame, because players like Vad Lee, Madre London, Delvon Hardaway, Boogie Roberts, etc. deserve better. But, at the end of the day, the Maulers won’t make strides forward until change is made – and it starts at the top with Kirby. If he doesn’t make adjustments in year two (or, if the USFL doesn’t bring in another coach), Pittsburgh will not see success.
Tampa Bay played like one of the worst teams in the USFL during the second half of the year, going 1-4 in that span. There was no offensive chemistry. Jordan Ta’amu seemed to do everything that he could, but got very little support from teammates. Ta’amu threw 12 interceptions of his own this season, something that didn’t help Todd Haley’s offense at all. He did finish the year with the most passing yards, finishing with over 2,000 on the year.
THE FOCUS FOR THE TD 🔥
What at catch by @DerrickDillon4 for the longest passing TD of the season 🙌
If the Bandits want to be successful next season, everything has to change. First and foremost, Tampa needs to develop a ground game – something that was nonexistent for most of the year. Defensively, they improved as the season went on, but they need to draft/recruit some leaders that can dominate. Look at Birmingham for example: guys like DeMarquis Gates have fired up that defense all year long. Tampa needs that. Finally, the ridiculous mistakes have to end. In a MUST-WIN week nine matchup vs. New Orleans, the team had nine penalties in the first half alone. Discipline and execution must be a focus heading into 2023.
Michigan finished the season strong. Sure, they only won against the Pittsburgh Maulers. But, this team showed how incredibly talented they were – unfortunately, bad luck kept them from winning more games. Missed kicks, stupid turnovers, and injuries hampered the Panthers all season long. This team is much better than their 2-8 record reflects. The team has three solid quarterbacks in Josh Love, Eric Barriere, and Paxton Lynch – who had an exceptional performance to close out the year.
This is a great throw from Paxton. It's a shame he's dealt with so many injuries this season. Michigan has actually had multiple QB's with loads of potential (Love, Lynch, Barriere) – just haven't been able to find a way to win.pic.twitter.com/HPggAJvj5r
Jeff Fisher simply needs to find a quarterback that stays healthy – and stick with him for a full season. Michigan’s defense is quite good, featuring some of the league’s best defenders (i.e. Frank Ginda, Cavon Walker). Similar to Pittsburgh, Michigan just needs to execute when the game is on the line. If Michigan can find consistency across the board, they will be a playoff team in year two.
How about those Houston Gamblers. No, it wasn’t an ideal season. Yes, they finished in fourth place in the South. But, these past two weeks showed a much different attitude. Houston took down Birmingham and New Orleans in back to back weeks, finishing the 2022 season strong. It is important to remember that this team has lost four games this year in the final seconds. Houston is just a few plays away from being in the postseason, and that is not an exaggeration. This team has so much talent: but just could not get over the hump of finding ways to close out games.
Chris Odom making another huge play? Who would've seen that one coming. Seriously, this guy has to be in an NFL camp in a few weeks. Absolutely deserves it. pic.twitter.com/rM1f3Cwou8
Chris Odom has to be in an NFL camp this summer. He was absolutely sensational, as was most of Houston’s defense. Kevin Sumlin put together one of the best defenses in the league. I’ll tell you one thing: There isn’t a team in the USFL that would want to face off against this unit in the playoffs. Disappointingly, Houston dealt with injuries and inconsistency from an offensive standpoint, which held them back from reaching their full potential. Clayton Thorson and Kenji Bahar developed a bit during the season, but if the Gamblers want to be more competitive next season, they should find a new signal caller.
New Orleans enters the postseason as a team that has yet to fully discover their identity. At some points during the season, they’ve looked like the USFL’s best team. Then, in other moments, they look horrible. Kyle Sloter is the key to the Breakers potential. If he plays well, the entire unit works seamlessly, as it should. When Sloter doesn’t get enough support, he then attempts to do too much, which almost always results in turnovers, missed opportunities, and less points for Larry Fedora’s offense.
Defensively, the Breakers have rediscovered their fire that we saw early on. Davin Bellamy, Jerod Fernandez, Vontae Diggs, and others have been excellent all season long. As we hit the playoffs, these athletes have to be leaders on this New Orleans team. Overall, the Breakers have been very inconsistent throughout large portions of the year. Now is their chance to prove that they are the real deal. Can Sloter and company get the job done in Canton?
Philadelphia’s fate is in their own hands. They have the talent to beat anybody in the league – yes, even New Jersey. If they can maintain their mistakes, and play consistent football for four quarters, this team is capable of doing incredible things. Case Cookus has to play great football for this team to perform well. When Cookus is cooking, things go smoothly. He had a decent performance on Saturday, and has seemingly found his footing throughout the second half of the season.
The Stars’ defense has improved over the course of the season, but still has work to do if they want to beat the Generals. Josh Banderas being back in the lineup will help quite a bit, as he has been a leader for the team – when healthy. While this Philadelphia team has a ways to go before joining elite company in the USFL, what they have accomplished this season is impressive.
Interestingly enough, the Birmingham Stallions finally found a rhythm on offense by inserting Alex McGough into the game. After a rough start, the Stallions put up 21 points, finding quite a bit of success against Tampa Bay’s defense. While J’Mar Smith will likely see time in the postseason, it may not hurt to use McGough, as he’s looked sharp in the limited playing time he has had recently. Now, as long as Holtz can find a way to get his ground game going, this team will be in good shape offensively. Bo Scarbrough has not been on the same level as he was a few weeks ago, which is a bit concerning. Hopefully, he will be back to where he was: dominating opposing defenses.
ALEX MCGOUGH, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
The QB uses his legs, hurdles and finds the endzone for six!
Speaking of defense, Birmingham’s unit has been one of the most consistent all year long, and this was evident on Saturday. DeMarquis Gates has been nothing but a leader, playing at an extremely high level. If Chris Odom didn’t have such a spectacular season, Gates certainly could have won defensive player of the year. At the end of the day, the Stallions hold a 9-1 record mainly because of their defense: a force that has been consistent since day one.
The Generals are smokin’ hot. This team hasn’t lost a game since April 16th. Mike Riley just won Coach Of The Year. Darius Victor took home Offensive Player Of The Year. And, KaVontae Turpin shocked everyone by winning MVP – which was very well deserved. Riley’s offense is simply unfair. Trey Willaims and Victor are two of the league’s top three running backs. Luis Perez and DeAndre Johnson are both excellent options at QB. Then, Darius Shepherd, KaVontae Turpin, and Alonzo Moore give those quarterbacks deadly weapons to throw to. In all seriousness, how are you supposed to stop this unit?
Everybody had a tough time keeping up with Alonzo Moore today 🌬️ #InTheTrenches
Defensively, the Generals continue to get the job done. This squad has been getting better and better with each passing week. Toby Johnson, D’Quan Hines, Shalom Luani, and plenty of others have made serious contributions to make this defense elite. If New Jersey plays complete football across the board, as they have for the majority of the year, the Generals should be crowned USFL Champions in a couple of weeks.
The USFL’s 2022 season told multiple different stories. Teams like Birmingham and New Jersey have looked solid all year long. Others, such as Tampa Bay, seemed to disband when the going got tough. Houston and Michigan were both very talented, but just couldn’t execute when it mattered.
Overall, the regular season was quite entertaining in the USFL, and we can’t wait to see what happens in the playoffs. Don’t miss out, as we have two exciting matchups this Saturday.
Just 3 more days until the Inaugural USFL Playoffs kick off in Canton 🗓⏰