The New Jersey Generals wrapped up their regular season on Saturday, besting the Philadelphia Stars 26-23, to win their ninth straight game. The Generals finish up the 2022 USFL campaign at 9-1. But the stakes will be much higher next Saturday, when New Jersey meets Philly again, with a trip to the league championship game on the line.
The top two teams in the North Division, the Generals (9-1) and Stars (6-4), will meet next Saturday again in the opening round of the USFL playoffs, June 25 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX. The USFL’s best four teams are leaving Alabama for Canton, Ohio.
But before we get there, let’s take a brief look at Saturday’s unique season finale between the Generals and Stars at historic Legion Field.
New Jersey Generals-Philadelphia Stars Season Finale Recap
Despite speculation heading into the finale that both head coaches, Mike Riley and Bart Andrus, would employ a preseason-style lineup. Except for a couple of key defensive starters sitting the game out. The Generals and Stars went with their regular lineups in the scorching Birmingham heat.
The size of USFL gameday rosters (40) would have prevented both teams coaches from sitting several starters, even if they wanted to. Luckily both teams came out of the game without any serious injuries.
One of the other factors in continuing to dress starters is that USFL players are paid more if they are on the active roster. ($4,500 not including a win bonus versus $1,500 on inactive list/practice roster). So coaches like Riley and Andrus were looking out for their guys.
The New Jersey Generals might not have explicitly game-planned against the Stars tendencies on Saturday afternoon. Perhaps saving their best for when it matters most. But New Jersey stuck to their usual script, regardless. The Generals didn’t deviate from what got them to the dance. Every week’s box score for New Jersey reads the same. The Generals run the ball heavily and dominate the time of possession. Same story in week ten, as they controlled the clock for 35 minutes and rushed for 178 yards.
Darius Victor scored his league-leading tenth touchdown of the season on Saturday. But it was his teammate, Trey Williams, who shined against the Stars for the second time this season. Williams currently leads the USFL in rushing with 579 yards, and Victor is only two behind him at 577. The duo ran for nearly 1,200 yards in ten games this season.
On Saturday, Williams led New Jersey with 114 rushing yards, including an electrifying, 61-yard run for a score on the game’s opening drive.
It’s the second time Williams has surpassed over 100 yards on the ground against the Stars. In a Week 3 24-16 win over Philadelphia, Williams totaled 110 rushing yards.
The Generals jumped out to a 14-3 lead on the strength of Williams’ running and a 16-yard touchdown pass by Luis Perez to Alonzo Moore. New Jersey’s veteran soldiers like Moore, who finished the day with seven receptions, 84 yards, and two scores, were the difference in this contest.
Making a solid case again as the league’s most efficient signal-caller, Luis Perez was 14-of-18 for 138 passing yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions against Philly. Perez finished the season, completing 71 percent of his passes for 1,200 yards, nine touchdowns, and only one interception in 173 pass attempts.
As they have done all season, New Jersey relied on all three facets to win their ninth straight. Unheralded punter Brock Miller, who wasn’t one of the six individual Generals to net All-USFL team honors, had another great day at the office. Miller boomed an 85-yard punt that caught the attention of former NFL All-Pro Pat McAfee.
The Stars, despite not having anything tangible at stake in this game, to their credit, fought back down two scores early to get within three late and nearly won the game on their final possession before Case Cookus (19/33 244yds, 2tds) was intercepted on a deep throw by New Jersey safety Shalom Luani, sealing the victory for the Generals.
The Stars moved the ball effectively against New Jersey on Saturday even though Philly coach Bart Andrus admitted after the game that he didn’t show his hand before their all-important playoff showdown next Saturday. “Did we open up the whole playbook? No,” Andrus said. “So, we have some things that we’ll run next week, and we’ll look a little different.”
The Generals will see a different Stars team in Canton. But New Jersey hopes they get the same winning outcome they have garnered for the last nine games.