For the second straight season, the USFL Championship was a thrilling experience in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Birmingham Stallions came away with a 28-12 victory over the Pittsburgh Maulers, claiming the trophy once again. Skip Holtz and the Stallions finished the season with a league-best record of 8-2, and went 2-0 in the postseason to clinch back-to-back titles.
We're counting down our Top 5 plays from the 2023 Championship Game 🏆
It was an entertaining game from start to finish, with Birmingham ultimately pulling away in the second half. Let’s take a look at some of the major takeaways from the USFL Championship, highlighting the factors that played into a sixteen-point victory for the Stallions.
The USFL 2023 MVP was absolutely unstoppable in the Championship. He dazzled and danced his way to another sensational performance, leading Birmingham to victory.
Albeit one turnover in the second half, McGough played clean football. His ability to maneuver in the pocket, escaping pressure consistently, has been on full display in 2023. While Pittsburgh did what they could, the Maulers simply had zero answers for Alex McGough’s dual threat capabilities.
Deon Cain: Championship MVP
Deon Cain, the former national Champion with Clemson, now adds another ring to his collection. Cain has been an up and coming playmaker for Birmingham in the 2023 season, as both a kick returner and wide receiver.
This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite photos I've ever taken.
In the Championship, he put on a show. Deon Cain finished the night with three receiving touchdowns, and 171 all-purpose yards. 75% of his catches during the game were scores. Despite the Maulers featuring such a strong secondary, Deon had no problem finding the end zone.
Pittsburgh’s Offensive Struggles
Something that the Pittsburgh Maulers struggled with all year long was scoring touchdowns. They could move the ball between the 20’s relatively smoothly, but often found themselves settling for field goals on what were promising drives.
Pittsburgh's inability to consistently score touchdowns throughout the 2023 season is haunting them tonight in the #USFL Championship.
This turned out to be the case on Saturday night. Two red zone appearances resulted in zero touchdowns, as Pittsburgh ultimately kicked four field goals, compiling only 12 points on the night.
While Ray Horton’s offense showed growth throughout the season – which included a 31 point affair in a win last week against Michigan – they took a step backwards against Birmingham. Execution, especially in late-game situations, have not been their bread and butter. This was evident in the Championship.
How about that Birmingham Stallions defense? John Chavis’ squad was on point, keeping Pittsburgh out of the end zone for the entire game.
While this unit may not have gotten the credit they deserve throughout the year, they tightened up and did their job well, especially during the final few weeks. The late additions of CB JoJo Tillery and LB Scooby Wright (returning from injuries) proved to be the push they needed down the stretch.
The Stallions defense combined for six sacks on the night, alongside nine TFL. Their “bend not break” mantra proved to be the difference, as Pittsburgh had to settle for field goals time and time again. They also held QB Troy Williams to just 3.9 YPA, which is quite impressive.
While the offense may get most of the attention – and rightfully so – the defense deserves their flowers as well.
Birmingham Ground Game: The Stallions combined for 150 rushing yards between Alex McGough, CJ Marable, and Ricky Person. They averaged 6.5 YPC, providing the passing attack with some stability and support.
WRDavion Davis: Davion Davis has been excellent for Birmingham, and got the scoring started in the Championship. He finished the night with three catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.
CB JoJo Tillery had an incredible Championship performance for the @USFLStallions:
CBJoJo Tillery: One of the underappreciated storylines in 2023 is JoJo Tillery. He returned to the team in week seven, and instantly made their defense better. Tillery led the Stallions with ten tackles, alongside a sack and a forced fumble.
CBLorenzo Burns: Burns posted seven tackles, which included two TFL in the Championship. It goes to show how versatile Lorenzo truly is, flying around the field to make plays consistently.
DTKeyshon Camp: Camp had a wild USFL journey this year. He started the season with Birmingham, and was cut in training camp. He ended up with Philadelphia, but was released midseason. Keyshon then re-signed with the Stallions, and ended up posting three tackles and two sacks in the USFL Championship.
WRIsiah Hennie: Isiah Hennie did a bit of everything for the Pittsburgh Maulers in 2023, and was reliable on Saturday night. Hennie led the Maulers with 55 receiving yards on eight catches.
LBKyahva Tezino: The All-USFL linebacker was all over the place during the USFL Championship. He finished the night with 13 total tackles, which is a high for both Pittsburgh and Birmingham. Despite the loss, Tezino was excellent.
LBReuben Foster: Tezino’s partner-in-crime, Reuben Foster, made an impact as well. The former first round NFL pick racked up seven tackles, one TFL, one FF, and one sack against the Stallions. He also made a key 4th down stop early in the game.
SArnold Tarpley III: Tarpley had another impressive game, which is no surprise. He was an All-USFL safety for Jarren Horton’s defense this year, and finished the night with seven tackles.
The Birmingham Stallions truly are a dynasty in the making. Since the USFL returned two years ago, Skip Holtz and the Stallions have won both Championships so far, dominating their way to two titles.
While the Pittsburgh Maulers put up a respectable fight, it was clear that Birmingham simply out-manned them from top to bottom. Across the board, the Stallions are stacked – retaining so much talent from 2022, while adding valuable pieces along the way.
The atmosphere itself was fantastic, with plenty of fans showing up – even though the weather had originally predicted thunderstorms in the area. While it was a Maulers-centric crowd, the Stallions fans who made the trip made their presence known, and got their money’s worth out of it.
Overall, it was another successful season for the USFL. We were thoroughly entertained from the first snap to the very last, with hundreds of athletes showcasing why they belong on the professional stage. Season three can’t come fast enough.
What are your thoughts on the USFL Championship this year? Which players were your favorite to watch? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!