Week two of the USFL concluded tonight, with a primetime matchup between the Philadelphia Stars and Michigan Panthers. Both of these teams were sensational in week one, looking like the strongest teams in the North.
Philadelphia took down the Memphis Showboats in the USFL opener, fueled by Case Cookus’ return – alongside an electrifying offensive performance across the board. Bart Andrus did an excellent job retaining and recruiting quality talent to his team.
Meanwhile, the Michigan Panthers got their first win of the season, as Mike Nolan’s head coaching debut went about as smoothly as it could have gone. Josh Love emerged as a star last week, setting a USFL record in the process.
Let’s take a look at what happened, as it was an entertaining showdown in Canton.
Philadelphia got the ball first, meaning we saw Case Cookus take the field. He got to work right away, tossing a deep ball to Jordan Suell who made a fantastic catch to put them in the red zone.
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
An excellent defensive play by Garrett Marino set the tone for Michigan’s defense after the big pass. The Panthers held Philadelphia to a field goal, and the Stars went up 3-0.
Michigan had excellent field position on their first drive, due to Reggie Corbin’s return. Philadelphia would catch a break, as Cole Murphy’s 47 yard field goal went off the upright, and did not bounce in.
Meanwhile, the Stars couldn’t get things going on their end, and punted. It was a whole lot of defense in this first quarter, as neither offense could find their footing. Michigan sent it right back to Philadelphia.
With one quarter in the books, the Philadelphia Stars held a 3-0 lead – and were marching down the field.
Michigan was able to capitalize. Reggie Corbin ripped off a large chunk of yardage, which set the team up nicely. Then, Josh Love fired a strike to Cole Hikutini, who waltzed his way into the end zone for the score. Just like that, the Panthers led 7-3.
Josh Love stepped up in a big way on 3rd and 16. Ish Hyman broke loose towards the sidelines, and Love threw a perfect pass under pressure to keep the drive alive. However, he would then make a mistake – as Amani Dennis baited him into an interception.
Michgian looked primed to score, but shot themselves in the foot with a couple of mistakes. Joe Walker dropped a deep ball, which led to another punt. The defense made up for it, as Corrion Ballard came up clutch with an interception on Cookus.
– Despite such high-profile offenses, both defenses set the tone early & haven't relented – Philadelphia has to run the ball; Colburn is too talented to not see more touches – Mike Nolan has revolutionized Michigan's defense
What a night it was for Amani Dennis. Michigan pushed the ball down the field early in the second half, but then Love made another mistake. He threw it to Dennis again, who set up Philadelphia with great field position.
Philadelphia went to Matt Colburn a lot on their next drive, which was the right move. He put on a show, making multiple plays for the team. Colburn ran it in from a yard out, and the game was tied at 10-10.
With fifteen minutes left to play, the Michigan Panthers held a seven point advantage.
Philadelphia had a decent march to put themselves in scoring position, but was unable to capitalize. On 4th and 1, Bart Andrus decided to go for it. Dexter Williams dropped a screen pass, and Michigan took over on downs.
Reggie Corbin put his stamp on this one. He knocked off a couple of solid runs, which set up a 52 yard touchdown dash. With several minutes left to play, Corbin had the team in front 24-10.
Philadelphia’s defense held up, forcing a punt to give their offense one more crack at it. On 4th and 6, Cookus kept the drive alive with a heave to Overton, who made a phenomenal catch to move the chains.
Unfortunately, that would be their last breath. Offensive PI negated a touchdown, and then Breeland Speaks made his presence known yet again, forcing a fumble on an injured Case Cookus.
The Michigan Panthers held on to win, 24-10 over the Philadelphia Stars.
We asked Michigan Panthers HC Mike Nolan if attacking a weakened Philadelphia offensive line was emphasized before the game:
Q: “Was the game plan to attack an injured offensive line today?”
A: “Yes and no. When an opponent is down to their backups…starters are starters for a reason. So, we were hoping we’d have a little more success, like we did. Since we played the backups. We were fortunate it worked out that way. But, it took 60 minutes for that to happen. We had our ups and downs, and they did a nice job, and the quarterback threw for a lot of yards…he did have some time. I don’t want to take too much credit, because they did play well.”
Reggie Corbin also attributed some of his success tonight to the ability to be in OC Eric Marty’s system for a second year (question asked by Ace of the USFL Network). The chemistry they have built as a unit is certainly paying off in dividends this season so far.
The Michigan Panthers are a legitimate force to be reckoned with in the USFL this season. Reggie Corbin is back to running the football at an All-USFL level. His game today was ridiculous, posting over 130 yards on just 11 carries – and two scores.
Meanwhile, the Panthers defense was unstoppable. They controlled the game from the get go, as Philadelphia’s banged up offensive line had no chance. It was a perfect ending for Breeland Speaks, who has now made game-winning and/or major impact plays in multiple outings this season. Mike Nolan has his team looking like one of the hottest in the USFL.
The Philadelphia Stars will look to regroup next week against New Jersey. This was a tough loss for Andrus, as QB Case Cookus never found a rhythm whatsoever. Philadelphia’s offensive line was missing two starters, but regardless, there are no excuses for such poor protection.
At the same time, the Stars could not find a way to stop Reggie Corbin in the second half. While they efficiently contained Josh Love down the stretch, there was nothing they could do against the former All-USFL RB. As the season continues, this is something that Bart Andrus will have to address.
What are your thoughts on this game between the Michigan Panthers and Philadelphia Stars? Which USFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!