Philadelphia seems to have heated things up at the right point in the season, ultimately upsetting the 9-1 New Jersey Generals last weekend. To bring home the trophy Case Cookus and company are going to hope for another upset. It’s definitely going to be an uphill battle, as the Stars are out both of their starting backs. It was expected that Matt Colburn would be out after one of his teammates helped him off the field last weekend. But, many were surprised this week when the league announced that Darnell Holland was also on the inactive list.
Birmingham comes into the game as the clear favorites, they’ve dominated all season only accruing one-loss the entire season. They’ll look to continue their winning ways, but for only the second time the team will be playing on the road. They were able to pull it out against the New Orleans Breakers, but with the Stars on such a roll, it may not be as easy as many seem that it will be.
Case Cookus and the Stars received the kickoff to start the game, giving them the firs possession and a chance to get an early lead. Unfortunately for the franchise, the Birmingham defense forced a quick three and out for Philadelphia. With both starting backs out, Cookus took each shot by air, which Stallions seemed to be prepared for.
J’Mar Smith and the Stallions offense now had their first possession with the ball, looking to get the edge over their opponents early.
The first play looked to set the tone for Birmingham, Bo Scarbrough broke loose and moved the chains easy.
With the Stars offense back on the field, the now decided to test out their running game. Dexter Williams grabbed 5 on his first attempt, but the second he another 9 to give them a fresh set of downs. Next Cookus target Rowland to give him his first completion of the night.
With the Stars at 2nd & 4, 13-yards away from the end-zone, Coach Andrus opted to call a timeout to strategize their next step. Dexter Williams brought them 1-yard away from first and goal, but the team had one more shot. They may have went to the well one too many times, with Williams taking a loss of four and forcing Philadelphia to bring out their kicking unit.
Luis Aguilar came out and knocked in from 32-yards out to tie things up with 3:49 to go in the first.
Birmingham continued to roll, but this time were hoping to grab a touchdown rather than another field goal. Victor Bolden did his team well on the kickoff, giving them some nice yardage and field position.
Harlon Williams came in big, when near mid-field spun around his blockers to move the chain nd bring it to the 36-yard line. It didn’t take the team long to capitalize, Bo Scarbrough came in with a big run bringing it all the way home for their first touchdown of the night.
So far the game has been hot, other than the opening drive, each since has seen points added to the board. Philadelphia ended the first quarter at 3rd & 8 at their own 37.
Starting out the 2nd, Cookus targeted Jordan Suell, which ultimately incomplete. Luckily for Philadelphia, the play drew a pass interference call, bringing them passed mid-field at the 48-yard line.
The Stars continued to march down the field, and Birmingham’s defense was partially the reason. One short yardage, they drew the foul giving Cookus a new set of downs near the 35.
They tried to keep up the momentum, but Cookus ultimately came up short his shot to the end-zone. Andrus didn’t feel comfortable bringing Aguilar in to kick from 52-yards out, forcing them to punt it away. They may not had added anymore points, but the Philadelphia defense pinned the Stallions against their own 1-yard line.
Birmingham put up a fight, but still it wasn’t enough to get them a fresh set of downs. After three attempts the team punted it back to Philadelphia, which would hope to tie it up before heading to the half.
Case Cookus took things into his ow hands to start the drive, moving the ball far down the field. As things go, they drew a holding call, pushing them back and then some. The next play went poorly for them as well, with Cookus losing the ball. Luckily, he was able to recover it an throw it away before taking a loss of yards.
Just when things looked like they may need to give it up, Jordan Suell came in with a huge reception to bring them 25-yards out from the end-zone.
Luis Aguilar came back out for the extra-point attempt, but ultimately went no good. The game now sits at 10-9 in Birmingham’s favor with 8:07 left in the first half.
Victor Bolden once again came in clutch on the kickoff return, and continued moving the chains on the first play of the game to bring them into enemy territory. On the very next play, J’Mar Smith spotting Marlin Williams wide-open near the end-zone and found his man and grabbed another touchdown.
With the extra-point good, the Stallions extend their lead over the Stars to 17-9.
Paul Terry continued to shine for the Stars today, moving the ball passed mid-field on third down to bring them 45-yards out from the nd-zone and a fresh set of downs.
Philadelphia had been struggling on third down all night, and this drive was no different. The Stallions defense came in big, pushing Cookus back 13-yards. With the team out of scoring position, Coach Andrus opted to do the safe thing and punt it away.
On Birmingham’s first play of the drive, it looked as if Scarbrough had broke free to get them far down the field.
The play drew two penalties, offsetting each other. It also brough Birmingham back where they started. At least that’s what it seemed. After review the refs pulled back the blindside call, putting the Stallions back 6-yards from another score.
Transparency every time ✅
Listen in on the review process of the blindside block and face mask that occurred during Bo Scarbrough's 70-yard run for the Stallions ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/byMH8ngLni
Birmingham ultimately found themselves 4-yards out, but after got in their own way. Bad penalties pushed them out to the 10, but they still had a chance to grab some more points before the half. They were almost picked off on third down, and decided to bring out their kicking unit.
Brandon Aubrey came out and put three more on the board with a successful 28-yard attempt.
The Stars decided to run the clock and head to the half. They were now down by 11, but had plenty of time to get back into the game.
Birmingham would receive the kickoff to start the second half. With possession, they’d look to keep racking up the points. Philadelphia’s defense kept the heat on, forcing a quick three and out. Birmingham would now punt it away, giving Philly a chance to chisel away at their lead.
The Stars started a bit shaky, but ultimately found their footing. Dexter Williams, who’s playing his first game for the team continued to put it all out there. He broke a few tackles to bring his team into enemy territory.
With under 20-yards to go, Cookus connected with Jordan Suell to bring them to first and goal from the 3. They were close, but they were finding hard to punch it in. They now found themselves in another 3rd down, hoping to convert.
This time Cookus was able to get it in, once again finding Jordan Suell to edge closer to the Stallions.
Case Cookus is battling out there for the @USFLStars 😤
Take another look at his TD that brings Philly within 5 points 🌟
Things started out scary for the Stallion, with the incomplete pass almost being picked off by the Stars.
From there, they couldn’t get any more movement and brought out the kicking unit to try for three. From 38-yards out, Brandon Aubrey went wide-right keeping the score 20-15 in their favor.
Case Cookus started things out going incomplete to Jordan Suell, but a roughing penalty gave them a new set of downs.
Dexter Williams once again had a chance to showcase his skills, grabbing a huge first down for the team bringing them into enemy territory. Just when it seems they were unstoppable on this drive, Willie Yarbary came in with a big sack.
Birmingham’s defense then got in their own way, drawing a lot a roughing penalty to give the Stars great field position at the 12.
Cookus then went to Devin Grey on the next drive, to give them their first lead of the game.
With the team only leading by one, Coach Andrus opted to go for two to give them some extra padding. Cookus went to Suell for the conversion and now a three point lead over the Stallions with 11:18 remaining in the game.
Alex McGough continued to serve as QB for Birmingham. With a little over 10-minutes to go there was a lot of time left for them to regain the lead.
After a few good plays out of Birmingham, Jordan Moore picked off McGough to give them possession with 9:08 to go.
On 3rd down, Cookus was twisted up bringing the game to a stop. He ended up being carted off the field, and after speaking with league sources it looks like he has a broken fibula. Clearly, this was horrible news for the Stars and for Cookus himself.
Going into the offseason it was expected that Case Cookus was going to get a few looks from the NFL. If we’ve learned anything this season, it’s that Cookus has the fight in him. He may be down for now, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see him again in the future.
A deserved standing O for Case Cookus as he’s carted off the field.
Philadelphia was now forced to punt it away, bringing Birmingham’s offense back on the field. Alex McGough came back in for the Stallions and it looked as if he would finish out the game.
McGough was marching the Stallions down the field, giving them a good chance to get back on top.
The Stars defense drew a DPI, giving Birmingham a free 15-yards. This put them in a great position to score, and they did just that. They couldn’t get it done on the first try, but the next play saw McGough connect with Victor Bolden to give them late lead.
This time, Aubrey knocked in the extra-point, making it a 33-23 game with less than 3-minutes remaining.
KJ Costello came back out, and there was little time left to get back into this. Especially now that it was a two possession game. Urgency was clearly on their mind, and Costello wasted no time moving the ball down the field and ultimately grabbing his first TD of the night via Chris Rowland.
Aguilar secured the extra-point, making it a three point game in Birmingham’s favor. Coach Andrus opted for the 4th & 12 option rather than a punt, in hopes to get the ball back before the game closed out.
Things didn’t go as planned, and Costello couldn’t connect on the play ending their potential drive.
The Stallions offence would come back on the field with 1:43 remaining, but Philadelphia still had two timeouts up their sleeve to stop the clock. Philly’s defense came out big, stopping Birmingham and forcing a punt, leaving 1:33 on the clock for the Stars to comeback.
Coach Holtz could have opted for a field goal, but decided it was just too far out to go for it. Instead, they would look to punt and pin Philadelphia back. Unfortunately for the Stallions, the strategy failed when the ball bobbled out of the special teams hands giving the Stars possession at the 20.
There wasn’t much time left, but it was enough to get a win. Things did not go as planned for Costello and the Stars. The game was sealed when Costello was picked off with less than 30 seconds to go.
At the end of the day, the Birmingham Stallions were able to bring home the championship trophy on the road. After a season of questions around Birmingham’s permanent home field advantage, they proved that they can get it done at home or on the road.
Philadelphia kept the game competitive, but with Cookus coming out it added another level of adjustment that the team wasn’t prepared to make.
What did you think of the inaugural USFL Championship? Did your team come out on top? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.