Week seven of the USFL kicked off with the 5-1 New Jersey Generals taking on the 3-3 Tampa Bay Bandits. New Jersey can potentially clinch a playoff berth with a win – while the Bandits are playing for their postseason lives in the South Division.
There's a lot on the line in the first matchup of Week 7 ⚔️
Last week, New Jersey found a way to win in the final seconds, as Luis Perez dove over the goal line to beat Houston. On the other hand, Tampa Bay lost in a shootout with Philadelphia, falling just short down the stretch.
Let’s take a look at what happened in today’s matchup between these two teams – as it was an entertaining affair from start to finish.
New Jersey got the ball first, but looked stagnant offensively. Luis Perez was deemed the starter, as DeAndre Johnson was inactive due to an injury suffered last week. Despite Tampa Bay forcing a quick punt, the Bandits could not get things going on their end, as a Bryson Young sack quickly ended their first drive.
This time, the Generals offense looked a lot more fluent. Darius Victor got the team off to a great start with a few excellent runs, before Perez found KaVontae Turpin who bounced off defenders into the endzone. Just like that, New Jersey led 7-0.
8 plays. 73 yards. 1 touchdown. WHAT A DRIVE.@KaVontaeTurpin takes it in for six and the Generals are off and running!
Tampa Bay started to march as the first quarter wound down, and made an impressive 4th down conversion on a beautiful throw from Jordan Ta’amu to his offensive lineman, Corbin Kaufusi. Heading into the second period, the Generals were up 7-0, but the Bandits were marching.
Darius Victor and the Generals continued to dominate on the ground, however. A slow and methodical drive down the field put New Jersey inside Tampa’s redzone, and Victor did the rest. Up the middle he went on consecutive plays, until he finally found the endzone on an athletic dive – putting the Generals up 14-3.
Things did not get any better for Tampa Bay. Dropped passes became a theme in the first half – which led to little confidence from Ta’amu when throwing the football. On third down, he was intercepted by Dravon Askew-Henry, setting up the Generals with excellent field position.
Luckily for the Bandits, a missed field goal kept the game at an 11 point deficit – giving the team another chance to pull closer before halftime. Unfortunately for Tampa, nothing went right offensively for the majority of the first half – as a fourth down conversion was unsuccessful, handing New Jersey the football right back.
New Jersey took advantage of the solid field position, eventually settling for an Austin Jones’ field goal to give the team a 17-3 lead.
Todd Haley’s defense was able to generate a much needed stop, forcing a couple of incompletions from Luis Perez. With a two score deficit and plenty of time left in the period, Tampa had a great opportunity to get right back into the game.
Jordan Ta’amu mightily struggled throughout the afternoon, and despite making a couple of decent throws here and there, he could not find a rhythm. Ta’amu missed a wide open Derrick Dillon in the end zone, which caused the team to have to settle for a field goal. Rausa’s kick was good, but the Bandits still trailed 17-6.
With fifteen minutes left to play, the Bandits had a lot of work to do.
New Jersey’s next drive got off to a bang, as Alonzo Moore made an incredible catch deep down the field to put the team in scoring position. The Generals were able to put points on the board, as Austin Jones knocked through a 43 yard field goal, making it a 20-6 ball game.
Tampa Bay finally put together a complete drive, and did so efficiently. Ta’amu found Vinny Papale for a big gain, before throwing a bullet to John Franklin in the endzone. With over ten minutes remaining, Tampa trailed 20-13.
They could not capitalize though, even after converting on fourth down. Tampa punted the ball, pinning New Jersey inside their own ten yard line. Their defense stepped up to the challenge again, giving themselves one last crack at it offensively.
This team simply wouldn’t go away quietly. Papale and Cheyenne O’Grady made a couple of unreal catches to keep the drive alive, pushing Tampa Bay into Generals territory. That being said, New Jersey’s defense held their ground. On fourth down, a pass from Ta’amu to Dillon in the end zone was broken up by Askew-Henry – sealing the deal for the Generals.
Jordan Ta’amu really struggled through most of this ball game, but turned it around towards the end of the game. If he can become more consistent down the stretch, Tampa Bay will still have a chance at making the playoffs. Ultimately, it was Dravon Askew-Henry who dominated Ta’amu today, eventually making the game-winning play for the Generals.
With this win, New Jersey improves to 6-1 on the season. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay drops to 3-4, remaining in the third seed.