With five of ten weeks of the USFL regular season complete, the Tampa Bay Bandits currently hold a 3-2 record. Despite being above .500, the South division is becoming very competitive, and the team sits in third place. So far, Tampa’s season has been a mixed bag of sorts, with great highs and disappointing lows. However, now that the squad actually has some experience under their belt, things seem to be progressing in a generally positive direction.
Perhaps the best moment of the season for Tampa up to this point was their 27-26 victory over the Houston Gamblers in week three. The game was going in the direction of the Gamblers until the fourth quarter, when the Bandits scored 10 points and shutout the opposing offense for the rest of the way.
The win was sealed when kicker Tyler Rausa drilled a field goal with just seconds left on the clock. While it wasn’t the only USFL game that has come down to the wire (far from actually), the Bandits never gave up despite being down by nine at halftime.
The worst moment of the season for Tampa up to this point was by far their blowout loss to the New Orleans Breakers, a division rivalry that took place in week two. The Bandits only scored 3 measly points compared to the Breakers’ 34, which resulted in the largest point differential among any of the eight teams. It felt as if the game was over by the third quarter, as Tampa had momentum to put together a comeback attempt. Fortunately, they were able to move on and recover from the embarrassment, but anyone who follows the USFL certainly won’t forget about it.
In terms of the talent level and play style, both have been above average on most occasions. Having a veteran NFL coach in Todd Haley has brought a level of professionalism that most USFL teams are still trying to find. The defining part of the team’s identity has really been the diversity in contribution, or in other words, the equal distribution of playmaking across the roster.
While there are some players who certainly stand out (Jordan Ta’amu, Travis Feeney, etc.), there aren’t the same “stars” who dominate every week. Each member of the team has their own role, and depending on the matchup, some do better than others. Maybe that sounds like a summary that could be applicable to any football team, but all you have to do is look at the Bandits stat sheet to understand my point.
All in all, there’s a lot to like about what the Bandits have created. Sure, they might not be the best USFL team like many expected, but most of the pieces seem to be there. At 3-2, playoffs are still in the picture, but they can’t afford to lose any more of their divisional games.
The Stallions and Breakers are both challenging opponents, and have accounted for both of Tampa’s losses. The major storyline in the second half of the season will be whether or not they can rebound and change the standings, which would symbolize team growth and maturity. If not, there will be plenty of questions surrounding their future.