Week 6 Review
In week six the Stars were heading toward a match-up with the Breakers who had been the best offense in the league to this point. The Breakers coming off of a loss to the Memphis Showboats in week 5, had shown they were not perfect, and had room for improvement. The Stars may have won in week 5, but it came with the caveat that their kicker Luis Aguilar kicked 8…yes, 8 field goals to win the game by 3 on a last second kick. This didn’t silence the critics as the pass rush failed to get home, and the offense couldn’t find the end-zone. It looked like McLeod Bethel-Thompson and the Breakers were headed for a get-right game against the Stars defense.
I had already been having nightmares of watching Anree Saint-Amour and Justus Reed meeting at the quarterback as our tackles turn around and look dumbfounded at what just happened to them. Wes Hills was surely in for a 100 yard day against our defense which couldn’t to this point stop the run game, and MBT was going to carve up the secondary.
Some of these things proved to be true, and some proved to be false. Which were they and how did the Stars fare against the vaunted Breakers? Did Dave the Wave rain on the Stars’ victory parade?
The Stars were able to finally produce some pressure which helped result in an errant pass that resulted in the first touchdown of the day for the Stars. Amani Dennis jumped a route, intercepted the pass and took it 72 yards the opposite direction for a touchdown. This was a huge momentum shift in the game and gave the defense even more confidence stepping back on the field.
If not for a pair of Cody Brown penalties that accounted for 19 yards, the Breakers might not have scored on their next drive. This could have left the Stars headed to halftime up by 13 points. These penalties kept this drive alive. The first a facemask penalty, took it from 2nd and 4 on the 8 to 1st and 4 on the 4 yard line. This gave the Breakers just enough attempts to punch it in with a pass to Johnnie Dixon. Their first points on the day, but the Breakers would close the gap to 6 and get the ball back at half.
In the Second Half…
Coming out of the half the Breakers drove down field and kicked a field goal bringing them within one score. On the ensuing drive, one of the most bizarre decisions I’ve ever seen happened when Cookus scrambled toward the right sideline to avoid the rush, and instead of taking a one yard loss under hand threw it to a defender for an interception. Giving the Breakers the ball back. This mistake would ultimately disappear in the wash when the Breakers kicker missed wide right. Leaving the score 13-10 with the Stars getting the ball back.
Ultimately the offense would drive down field for two more field goal attempts in the game. Aguilar would miss his first kick since week 3 late in the 4th leaving the score 16-10 Stars. The Stars have won back-to-back games without scoring a single offensive touchdown.
The Stars are finding ways to win that don’t involve scoring on offense, it’s not necessarily a sustainable way to win games, but it is very encouraging from a fan’s perspective. If/When the Stars figure out their offensive woes this team could be tough to beat.
The pass rush got back on the board notching two sacks of McLeod Bethel Thompson. Both Chris Nelson, and Adam Rodriguez adding to their career totals. They also caused a few errant throws that the secondary took advantage of. This defensive unit stepped up in a big way in two straight games slowing down two of the better offenses in the league. Forcing 6 turnovers in their last two victories is a big reason why the Stars stand atop the North division for now.
This was by far the best performance in the run game for the Stars. Producing 121 yards on the day. Today’s performance by Colburn (13 carries, 62 yards, 2 receptions, 13 yards) puts Colburn at 959 all purpose yards in his Stars career I expect him to top 1,000 against the Maulers. Dexter Williams was the most effective runner on the day with 6.3 yards per carry but he only saw 3 carries for 19 yards total. Cookus accounted for 43 yards.
The line did not allow a single sack after previously averaging nearly 5 sacks a game after week 5. Not only did Cookus have time to throw but running backs had room to run. I don’t know what the Stars told their offensive line this week, but it needs to be the pregame speech every week now. Great job by the guys up front rebounding from 5 straight ugly performances. While this was by no means a perfect performance for the Stars, it was encouraging and gives me hope for the rest of the season. This is the perfect time for this line to gel.
After watching the Stars again give up over 150 yards on the ground to the Generals I expected this would be another 100 yard day for Wes Hills. Hills didn’t top 100 yards, and managed 74 yards, just over 4 yards per carry, and didn’t score a touchdown on the day. This might be the most surprising facet of this victory for the Stars. To this point their ability To stop the run had been the Achilles heel of an otherwise talented defensive unit.
Case Cookus just finished what might be the worst performance of his USFL career. Given a rushing attack, and more time to throw I would have expected a better performance and an improvement in his recent stat lines. I would have been wrong. Cookus came out and looked like he was serving up some comfort food to the Breakers including the interception I spoke about before.
This was baffling to me, Cookus had been solid despite a lack of a rushing attack, or time to throw, but today given more of both he has his worst game in a Stars uniform. 17 of 27 for 238 yards 0 tds and 2 interceptions, and 1 fumble. He nearly ended up being the difference in this game for a Breakers victory. Cookus is better than this and I expect this to be an aberration.
Kick Off Coverage
The kickoff coverage unit needs to step it up. In this game Stove averaged nearly 26 yards per return. If not for a strong defensive effort on the day, this starting field position could have been dangerous. They face some really talented return men looking forward. This is one key factor they can correct to help out their defense. It’s clear the coaches had field position on their minds given the signing of Lirim Hajrullalu to handle punting and kick offs. Maybe the unit just needs to adjust to his big leg?
Week 7 Preview
With the Stars winning, and the Maulers, Generals, and Panthers all losing this week they’re on top of the division at just 3-3. With four games remaining in a division that still looks wide open this game could go a long way toward deciding who makes the playoffs out of the north.
The Maulers previously defeated the Stars to send them to the 4th spot in the division at 1-3. Now it could be the Stars who return the favor to the Maulers. One in thing is certain the Stars offense needs to find a way into the endzone going forward, kicking your way to victories isn’t a formula for a Championship team. In our last two victories Luis Aguilar accounted for 34 points out of the 40 scored by the Stars.
By all accounts Chris Rowland is done for the season which means the Stars need to continue to work Terry Wright into this offense. In the first half against the Breakers he had 3 targets, and 1 reception for 30 yards. He added 2 kick returns for 53 yards as well.
Betting Odds were not released when this article was submitted. If I had to guess I would expect to see a 3 point spread in Philadelphia’s favor due to their recent wins. I would expect an over/under of 42 points. Betting the under might be your best course of action in this game.
Stars are hot right now winning their last two games, albeit on the strength of their special teams and defense. The Maulers are fighting their own struggles, and are coming off their worst performance on offense this season. Scoring zero points as a team, and throwing three interceptions between two quarterbacks is not encouraging if you’re a Maulers fan. If the Stars defense can control the run game of the Maulers like the Showboats did, this should make it three in a row for the Stars. They HAVE to contain Troy Williams from running all over them, and Isaiah Hennie has to be your biggest concern in the passing game. He was targeted 11 times in their last game catching 8 for 103 yards bringing him to 44 targets, 29 receptions, 271 yards and 1 touchdown on the year.
24-20 Stars over the Maulers
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