The Birmingham Stallions kicked off the USFL 2022 season in style, by rallying late to defeat the New Jersey Generals 28-24 in front of their home crowd at Protective Stadium.
The lone team with home-field advantage in the USFL’s season-long hub setting, the Stallions rode to a thrilling last-minute victory, thanks to the play of backup quarterback J’Mar Smith, who came off the bench, to spark the Stallions’ offensive attack.
Smith after struggling early on in relief of Alex McGough, led his team to two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to thwart a New Jersey Generals team, that went run-heavy, particularly in the second half, rushing for over 200 yards in the game. But the General’s efforts weren’t enough to put the Stallions away, who largely struggled for three quarters.
On the heels of this exciting game, The Birmingham Stallions (1-0) will play their first Southern divisional game against the Houston Gamblers next Saturday night. The heartbroken 0-1 New Jersey Generals are back in action in week two on Friday night, and they will face their Northern rival, the Michigan Panthers.
USFL Opening Game Recap: New Jersey Generals vs. Birmingham Stallions
Luis Perez opened up the game with a bang to lead the Generals’ on their first series. Perez connected with Randy Satterfield down the field for a 49-yard gain down to the Stallions’ 14-yard line. D’Andre Johnson would come in on the next play and rush for six yards. But the Generals offense would be faced with a 4th and one from the five. Mike Riley would opt to go for it, and the team would convert on a Trey Williams run.
On the next play, Luis Perez would find Randy Satterfield on a crossing route in the back of the end zone from six yards for the first touchdown of the USFL season. Nick Rose would convert the extra point to give New Jersey an early 7-0 lead.
The Stallions would take three plays to respond to the Generals’ scoring drive. After a kick return by Victor Bolden Jr. brought Birmingham out to the 43-yard line. Quarterback Alex McGough would scramble for 7 yards on first down. And thanks to a personal foul penalty by Shalom Luani, the Stallions would get the ball in Generals’ territory. One play later, Alex McGough took a shot deep in the end zone, and wide receiver Osiris Mitchell corralled it one-handed for a diving touchdown. Brandon Aubrey would convert the PAT to tie the game at 7.
The Generals’ offense could not respond to Birmingham’s counter strike and would go three and out and punt the ball away on their second series.
The Stallions would return the favor by going three and out on their second series. Thanks to two impressive back-to-back open field tackles by Shalom Luani.
On their third possession, the Generals would pick up a first down on a bruising third and short-run by Darius Victor. But the series would stall immediately afterward when DeMarquis Gates came into the backfield, untouched, and sacked Luis Perez for a seven-yard loss. New Jersey’s Brock Miller would punt the ball away for a second time.
After picking up one first down, the Stallions’ offense would stall and punt the ball away again. But the big story was that quarterback Alex McGough would limp off the field at the end of the series.
The Generals would get the ball on offense deep in their own territory inside the ten, and New Jersey would pick up a first down on three straight runs. As the first quarter was ending, Luis Perez would take a shot down the field to Alonzo Moore and draw a 15-yard pass interference penalty.
New Jersey’s offense would open the second quarter with a false start penalty, followed by another Birmingham sack shared by DeAndre Tillman and Seth Thomas. The two setbacks would lead to the Generals punting the ball away.
Despite limping off the field on Birmingham’s last possession. Alex McGough would return to the lineup for the Stallions. But a miscommunication upfront on his first play back would lead to a sack by Generals’ defensive linemen Deyon Sizer. Two plays later, A pass over the middle of the field would sail on McGough, and Shalom Luani would intercept the ball and return it near mid-field for the game’s first turnover.
De’Andre Johnson would start New Jersey’s next series at quarterback. An 18-yard screen pass to Trey Williams would bring the Generals to the Stallions’ 33-yard line. Luis Perez would return to the game two plays later. And he would complete his fifth pass of the game to tight end Braedon Bowman for 18 yards, who would break a tackle and get down to the 16-yard line.
Facing a third and seven in the red zone. Luis Perez would step up in the pocket and artfully direct a pass into the hands of Braedown Bowman for a thirteen-yard score. Nick Rose would nail the extra point to give the Generals a 14-7 lead.
The Stallions would look to respond on their next offensive series after nearly turning the ball over on two consecutive plays. McGough would settle for a short check-down pass leading to a three and out.
With the momentum on their side, The Generals’ offense would pick up a quick first down on another completion by Luis Perez to Randy Satterfield. In the game comes De”Andre Johnson, and he would find Satterfield for a 31-yard back-shoulder catch down the sidelines to Birmingham’s 27.
Needing a big play to help turn the tide, the Stallions’ defense would come up big when Scooby Wright would chase Luis Perez from behind and force a fumble. Birmingham’s Nate Holley would recover the loose ball to end the Generals drive.
But the Stallions’ offense could not capitalize on the turnover—engineering another quick three and out.
Behind the running of quarterback De’Andre Johnson, the Generals would pick up a first down on two straight runs. But a bad snap in the backfield would lead to Nate Holley tackling De’Andre Johnson for a nine-yard loss. The Generals would continue to go backward on offense after the Stallions would cause another tackle for loss in the backfield.
Facing a 3rd and 22, right before the two-minute warning. The Generals could not dig themselves out of the deep hole and punted the ball back to Birmingham.
J’Mar Smith would open the next series at quarterback for the Stallions’ offense. But he would quickly miss a wide-open Victor Bolden down the seams on third-down ending another Birmingham series.
With 50 seconds left in the quarter, New Jersey would get the ball at their 39 with two timeouts left in the first half. Luis Perez would beat the blitz with a stunning strike down the seam for 22 yards to KaVontae Turpin. The Generals would call timeout with twenty seconds left, and a dump pass would go nowhere, forcing NJ to use their last timeout with 11 seconds left.
Perez would complete one more pass in the flat, setting up a 47-yard field attempt, but Nick Rose’s kick would sail wide left.
The score would remain Generals 14 Stallions 7 going into the second half.
The Stallions would start the second half with an excellent kick return by Victor Bolden that would set the offense up near mid-field. J’Mar Smith was back in at quarterback. Unfortunately, Birmingham’s duo of quarterbacks would continue their struggles. After a near second interception by Shalom Luani. The Stallions would punt the ball back to New Jersey.
Leaning heavily on their ground game on their first series in the second half, New Jersey would pick up five first downs running the ball to get to the Stallions’ 10-yard line.
Facing a third and goal at the six, on the twelfth play of the series. The Stallions’ defense would hold the Generals to a 22yd field goal attempt, and Nick Rose would shank his second field goal attempt of the game, keeping Birmingham only down seven despite their struggles.
Needing a big play to get things started, J’Mar Smith would find Victor Bolden for a 17-yard pickup. Smith would keep things rolling by completing three first-down passes to Osiris Mitchell, and the last one was a 29-yard completion down to the General’s three-yard line. One play later, CJ Marable would cash in the score with a touchdown run, and Brandon Aubrey would convert the PAT to even the score at 14.
The Generals would continue to lean on their running game as the game progressed to the final quarter. Darius Victor would break off two big runs to get into Birmingham territory, and a 21-yard scamper by Victor would bring New Jersey to the 36-yard line.
However, facing a 4th and 4, the Generals would bypass a 48-yard field attempt by a struggling Nick Rose.
Birmingham’s defense’s botched assignment on the edge freed up Trey Williams for a thirteen-yard run for the first down.
The Generals would drive deep into the red zone, continuing to pound the football. De’Andre Johnson would score from four yards out on a QB sweep on the tenth play of another time-consuming series. The Generals would retake the lead 21-14.
The Stallions would ramp up their up-tempo offense down seven midway through the fourth quarter. As a result, it would cause two offsides penalties on the Generals’ defense.
Birmingham would rive swiftly into New Jersey territory. And the Stallions would answer the Generals’ score, tying the game on a 28-yard scoring strike from J’Mar Smith to Corey Angeline.
With the game now tied at 21. New Jersey’s offense would stick to their dominating ground attack, going over 200 yards in the game. The Generals would run their 17th consecutive running play to get them into Stallions territory with under three minutes left in regulation.
But an illegal formation penalty would set New Jersey back to a crucial third and ten from Birmingham’s 37-yard line as the two-minute warning arrived.
New Jersey would run the ball for an unprecedented 24th time, picking up 11-yards on a QB run by De”Andre Johnson. Instead of going for it on 4th down from the 30, Mike Riley opted to let a struggling Nick Rose attempt the go-ahead 47-yard field goal. Rose rewarded Riley’s faith by connecting on the kick to give New Jersey a 24-21 lead with 1:42 remaining.
J’Mar Smith would drive Birmingham past midfield with under a minute left. The Stallions would pick up 22 yards on one play to get to New Jersey’s 20-yard line when a facemask penalty was tacked on to a seven-yard run by CJ Marable.
Three plays later, the Stallions would convert a third down a screen pass of 12 yards to CJ Marable, setting up a first and goal situation.
With 29 seconds left, J’Mar Smith would roll outside the pocket and cut back inside to score the go-ahead score from two yards out. The Stallions’ first lead of the game put them ahead 28-24 with 23 seconds to go.
With the odds and time heavily against them, the Generals could not get into scoring position to attempt a hail mary attempt.
The Stallions hung on to win their first game in a thrilling come from behind fashion.
On the heels of this game, The Birmingham Stallions (1-0) will play their first Southern divisional game against the Houston Gamblers next Saturday night. The heartbroken 0-1 New Jersey Generals are back in action in week two on Friday night, and they will face their Northern rival, the Michigan Panthers.
FINAL STATS/BOX SCORE
New Jersey Generals