Saturday’s slate of games in the USFL continued this evening, with a showdown between the Birmingham Stallions and the Tampa Bay Bandits. The Stallions were 8-1 on the year, while Tampa Bay had been eliminated from playoff contention last week, sitting at 4-5.
When these two teams met back in week four, Birmingham held on for a close 16-10 win. In fact, “The Sharkdog” was born in that game, as Scooby Wright III made a clutch sack on Jordan Ta’amu in the fourth quarter.
Let’s take a look at what happened in today’s game between these two teams, as they both closed out their regular seasons.
Tampa Bay got the football to start the game, but similar to most of the season, could not get off to a good start. A quick three and out left the team with no choice but to punt the ball immediately.
However, their defense came to play. Birmingham had a difficult time getting the passing game going early, which led to a turnover. DJ Neal intercepted a pass by J’Mar Smith, putting the Bandits offense in an excellent position.
To open up their next possession, J’Mar Smith found Osiris Mitchell for a big gain, putting them in a position to score. However, a bobbled handoff between Smith and Bo Scarbrough resulted in a fumble, and Tampa Bay recovered.
The Bandits could not capitalize on the turnover, though, having to punt quickly. Heading into the next quarter, it was a 0-0 ball game.
As was the trend for the first quarter, both offenses had a tough time. Birmingham had to punt again, giving Tampa Bay a chance to strike first. Brady White came into the game to replace Jordan Ta’amu, but he didn’t see much success either, and the Bandits gave the ball back to the Stallions.
Birmingham finally took advantage. Alex McGough came in at quarterback, and marched the team down the field efficiently. McGough found Marlon Williams in the red zone, who broke multiple tackles and scored the touchdown. With a few minutes left in the half, the Stallions took a 7-0 lead.
BOOM.@TheReall__6 just fought through THREE Bandits defenders to get into the endzone 😱
Todd Haley’s offense was unable to get into a rhythm really at all in the first half, punting once again. Alex McGough proved to be the offensive spark that Skip Holtz was looking for. McGough marched the team down the field again, before scrambling and diving into the endzone in an athletic manner.
ALEX MCGOUGH, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
The QB uses his legs, hurdles and finds the endzone for six!
Brady White got the start for the Bandits, but didn’t do much for their offense. Tampa Bay had to punt – but Birmingham followed suit, punting the ball right back.
After a long drought of being unable to score on offense, Tampa Bay finally made it happen. Jordan Ta’amu found Derrick Dillon, who made a juggling catch – and then turned on the jets for a 75 yard touchdown. A failed two point attempt made it a 14-6 ball game.
THE FOCUS FOR THE TD 🔥
What at catch by @DerrickDillon4 for the longest passing TD of the season 🙌
The Bandits tried to do the 4th and 12 conversion to get themselves the ball back, but it failed miserably. DeMarquis Gates blew Ta’amu up in the backfield, and Birmingham was set up in great field position.
Birmingham’s center struggled all afternoon though, and this was evident on the next drive. A bad snap to McGough resulted in the ball being loose on the ground, and Travis Feeney picked it up for Tampa Bay.
It seemed like Tampa Bay was ready to get right back in the game. Jordan Ta’amu made some excellent throws to put them deep in Birmingham territory. However, a pass to the endzone was intercepted by Tay Hayes, ending the Bandits’ drive without putting any points on the board.
After a missed two point conversion, the Stallions led 14-12 with one quarter left to play.
Birmingham swiftly marched down the field in the fourth quarter, helped out by a couple of bad penalties from Tampa Bay. CJ Marable ended up scoring for the Stallions, making Bandits defenders look foolish as he broke through their tackles into the end zone.
The Bandits would not go away quietly. Jordan Ta’amu continued to make big plays for his team, even when they were backed up in near impossible situations. After a huge fourth down conversion, Ta’amu found DeQuan Hampton for the score. After a three point try that just barely missed the mark, Tampa only trailed 21-18.
TOUCHDOWN BANDITS 🤠
We've got a 3 point game with 7 minutes left to play 👀
Even though the Stallions got off to a good start on their next possession, Tampa Bay’s defense came up with a big stop, giving themselves one more chance to either tie the game, or take the lead.
Jordan Ta’amu did everything he could to keep Tampa Bay in the game, as he has done every week. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. On 4th and 11, Ta’amu just missed Vinny Papale, and Birmingham got the turnover on downs.
Birmingham rediscovered their footing this weekend, finding a way to win after a tough loss to Houston last week. Alex McGough was excellent for Skip Holtz today, making all sorts of plays with his arm – and his legs.
This was another tough loss for Todd Haley’s Bandits. Once again, they were right there with a chance to win. But, costly mistakes ultimately prevented them from winning, summing up the second half of their season.
With today’s win, Birmingham finished the year with a 9-1 record. On the other hand, Tampa Bay dropped to 4-6, losing two straight to close out the season.
What did you think of Birmingham vs. Tampa Bay? Which players do you think played the best on both teams? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!