In an early-season test, the Houston Gamblers look to continue their good start to the season Saturday against the Birmingham Stallions.
A lot of praise came from the defense and their strong performance in their week one win against the Michigan Panthers. They were relentless in getting to the quarterbacks and creating multiple turnovers to earn their win. All three levels of the defense from the defensive line to the secondary made plays to set up their team for success.
As for the offense, that was a whole other story. The rushing attack led by offensive player of the week candidate Mark Thompson had success in the first half of the game but was silent in the second half. Quarterback Clayton Thorson had some nice throws in the contest but was inconsistent throughout the game.
This weekend will be a major test for the Gamblers with their focus being on improving the offense and continuing the success of the defense. Birmingham is coming into the game with a lot of momentum, on both sides of the ball, especially with the offensive player of the week quarterback J’Mar Smith. Houston has plenty to focus on in order to win the game and move to 2-0 on the young season.
Clayton Thorson Must Get Into Rhythm
It was about as inconsistent of a game as a fan will see from a quarterback. The first half went much better for Clayton Thorson as he was able to throw a beautiful touchdown pass to Isaiah Zuber off his back foot in the second quarter of the Michigan Panthers game. He was able to keep the offense moving and had a good balance between the running game and passing game.
The second half can be seen as forgettable with only three completions and an interception during that span. Head coach Kevin Sumlin tried to open up the offense with passing instead of sticking with running the football, but that gamble didn’t pay off as Houston never got into the flow of the half. Thorson missed on a lot of passes and didn’t take control of the game as the running game seemed to get the job done better.
Birmingham doesn’t play the same style as Michigan and will be able to create points on the board. If Houston wants to win this game, Thorson will have to step his game up. Jojo Ward and Thorson seemed to have developed good chemistry together so getting the ball in his hands could be a big help. Taking more deep shots down the field could open up the offense and give Thorson confidence throughout the game.
Secondary Must Contain Mitchell, Bolden Jr.
If there are two receivers that the Houston Gamblers’ defense must have their eyes on, it’s no doubt Osirus Mitchell and Victor Bolden Jr. Mitchell is the top possession receiver with great size and sure hands as he caught a beautiful one-handed catch in the first quarter. While Mitchell was the top receiver on the team. Bolden Jr. is a dangerous receiver and returner. The speedster can burn secondaries in multiple ways and is a threat to break out for a long play using his legs.
This puts pressure on Jamar Summers, Will Likely, Micah Abernathy, and the rest of the secondary. Summers has proven to be a shutdown corner and Likely surprised some with his nose for the football after being seen as a special teams returner. Those two along with Abernathy will be looked at to make sure they are preventing the two receivers from burning them.
Mitchell and Bolden Jr. will get the jump on those corners at times. It’s going to be about containing them and making sure they don’t get big plays. Fans know what the front seven of the defense can do so the defense needs to force the Stallions to run the ball which they were up and down with against New Jersey in week one.
Houston Needs an Ace to Close the Game
Even after the first game of the season, Houston’s defense seems focused and ready to go against Birmingham. That focus is going to be important since they need to make sure they play four quarters of football. This is easier to say to do it than not to.
Houston dominated the first half against Michigan, but poor offense and the defense being exhausted almost cost the Gamblers the game. They let the Panthers back in the game and were within inches of a foot being out of bounds from losing the game. The Stallions came from behind to see New Jersey lose their lead late in the fourth to win their game.
This Houston game already proved they could hold on and win tough games, but the offense has to do more to support the defense. Sumlin must trust the running game to carry them to a win. If Houston doesn’t win the time of possession, the Stallions might smell blood in the water and pounce on it to win.
It’s not known who will start at quarterback for Birmingham whether it’s Alex McGough or J’Mar Smith. Whoever does though, Houston’s defense must be ready to hold strong and let the offense control the game. Winning the turnover battle again will go a long way in Houston marking the Stallions off their kill list for week two.