They started with the first loss of the USFL season, but the New Jersey Generals (6-1) have now clinched the league’s first playoff spot after a 20-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Bandits (3-4).
New Jersey Generals
The Generals controlled the pace in the first half by securing a 17-3 halftime lead and held on after a furious rally by the Bandits ultimately fell short.
“Really proud of our team” said Generals head coach Mike Riley. “These guys are really competitive. We always talking about playing the full 60 minutes and they do. We are really proud to be the first team to make it to the first year of USFL playoffs.”
Luis Perez was back in the saddle as the starter with DeAndre Johnson sidelined by an injury. Without the dual-threat quarterback to insert, Riley relied on Perez’s steady hand to lead the offense. A flurry of jet sweeps and fakes allowed Perez to utilize play action and keep the Bandits off balance while Darius Victor piled up yards by pounding it up the middle of the field. Perez finished 19 for 25 (76%) with 174 yards, one touchdown while not turning the ball over.
KaVontae Turpin once again proved to be a dangerous weapon for the Generals as he caught and run into the end zone in the first quarter. While Turpin accounted for just 27 all-purpose yards, his touchdown proved once against how lethal the speed demon is in space.
Turnover creation was also paramount in building an early lead. Three interceptions of Bandits’ quarterback Jordan Ta’amu set the offense for most of the day as two of Ta’amu’s picks came at the hands of Generals cornerback Dravon Agnew-Henry who under cut sideline routes both times.
“We have a lot of great receivers on the team” said Agnew-Henry. “I put myself in uncomfortable situations in practice so come game time it’s easy.”
The Generals defense harassed Ta’amu for most of the day and complimented a relatively efficient offensive performance. An all-around effort has characterized the North division leaders all season as they head towards the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Bandits
For the Bandits it was the same story for a second consecutive week. A late comeback drive thwarted at the goal line.
“Disappointing loss for our team” said Bandits head coach Todd Haley. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we have a team that really cares and really wants to do good things. But it’s kind of the story of last week.”
The Bandits attempted a late rally when Ta’amu hit John Franklin III for a 20-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to a one score game. After getting a stop on defense Tampa Bay had one last drive with under two minutes left. Like in week 6, Ta’amu calmly led them down inside the Generals’ 10-yard line. However, for the second straight week the Bandits’ attempt at a late game-tying drive fell short as Ta’amu’s fourth down pass into the end zone was batted down by Askew-Henry, his primary tormentor of the day.
Despite some creative play-calling that at one point saw offensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi catching a pass as a tight end, turnovers once again reared their ugly head. Three more picks piled on to the worst turnover margin in the league. Generating yards has not yet barred the results the Bandits have expected with a competent offensive staff.
The Bandits were run over by the Philadelphia Stars in week 6 and faced a daunting task of slowing down the league’s most prolific running attack. The Generals came into today’s contest averaging 177 yards on the ground and grinding their opponents into sawdust by second halves. However, the Bandits held the vaunted attack to just 96 rushing yards, a season low for New Jersey.
The Bandits are below .500 and remain a game and a half back of the New Orleans Breakers for the second playoff spot in the South division.
Stay with USFL News Hub to the road to the playoffs.