Another weekend of USFL football is in the books, and this week’s matchups did not disappoint. In Week 5, we saw some of the best football this league’s given us all season, and with some of the teams still only beginning to figure things out, we should be in for an exciting back half of the regular season.
1. Birmingham Stallions (Last Week: 1)
The Stallions still remain undefeated after winning their matchup against the Philadelphia Stars in Week 5.
Alex McGough got the start at quarterback and proved effective in the option run game. However, he could not get going through the air. J’Mar Smith came in during the 2nd quarter and instantly brought life to the passing game and offense as a whole. McGough ended the day completing only 4/11 passes (36.4% comp) for 50 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, also running 4 times for 14 yards. Smith finished the game completing 17/22 passes (77.3% comp) for 203 yards and 1 touchdown, also running once for 2 yards and a touchdown.
It was Birmingham’s first game with newly signed running back Bo Scarbrough. However, CJ Marable still took most of the touches and led the team on the ground. Marable ended the game with 23 carries for 114 yards and 1 touchdown, also bringing in 2 receptions for 17 yards. Being eased into the offense, Scarbrough took 7 carries for 25 yards on the day. The team’s leading receiver was Marlon Williams, who totaled 5 receptions for 74 yards and 1 touchdown.
It was a somewhat slow start for the Stallions’ defense, but they really stepped things up in the 2nd half of the game. The team totaled 3 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 5 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries, with highlight players including defensive backs Jojo Tillery and Brian Allen, along with linebackers DeMarquis Gates and Lorenzo Burns.
The Stallions are the best team in the USFL with J’Mar Smith under center, and the addition of running back Bo Scarbrough only adds another dimension to this high-powered offense.
2. New Jersey Generals (Last Week: 4)
After a big win over the New Orleans Breakers, the Generals take over the 2nd spot in the rankings.
For the first time all season, Mike Riley played only 1 quarterback all game, De’Andre Johnson. Johnson finished the game completing 14/21 passes (66.7% comp) for 213 yards and 1 interception, also running 10 times for 39 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Running backs Darius Victor and Trey Williams led the rushing attack for New Jersey. Victor took 17 carries for 95 yards and 1 touchdown, catching 1 pass for 12 yards on the day, while Williams totaled 13 carries for 44 yards, also catching 3 passes for 12 yards. The team’s leading receiver was KaVontae Turpin, who totaled 5 receptions for 106 yards and 2 carries for 10 yards.
The Generals’ defense stepped up big against the Breakers despite not sacking quarterback Kyle Sloter once. They racked up 4 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and 10 pass deflections. Highlight players on the Generals’ defense include linebackers D’Juan Hines and Chris Orr, defensive tackle Toby Johnson, and safety Shalom Luani.
The Generals beat their most challenging opponent of the season so far, and quarterback De’Andre Johnson seems to be settling in as a passer in Mike Riley’s offense. With a 2 game lead on the North Division, New Jersey is already looking like a favorite to make the playoffs.
3. New Orleans Breakers (Last Week: 2)
The Breakers fall to the 3rd spot after a tough loss to the New Jersey Generals.
The turnover problems continued for quarterback Kyle Sloter, who ended the game completing 15/36 passes (41.7% comp) for 155 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, also running twice for 12 yards, and losing 1 fumble.
Linebacker Jerod Fernandez actually led the team in rushing yards after taking a fake punt for 43 yards, but running back Jordan Ellis continued to lead the team in carries, totaling 12 carries for 42 yards on the day. The team’s leading receiver was none other than Jonathan Adams, who ended the game with 4 receptions for 60 yards and 1 touchdown.
Defensively, this may have been the worst week of the season for New Orleans, who didn’t sack Generals quarterback De’Andre Johnson once all game despite getting defensive end Davin Bellamy back from an injury. The team totaled 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 3 pass deflections on the day.
Kyle Sloter’s turnover problems are becoming a real issue for this Breakers offense. While they were able to pull off a few wins earlier in the season despite Sloter’s turnovers, they’ll need to get things cleaned up if they want to make the playoffs in the highly competitive South Divison.
4. Tampa Bay Bandits (Last Week: 3)
After pulling off a win against the Michigan Panthers that was a bit too close for comfort, the Bandits fall to the 4th spot in the rankings.
Jordan Ta’amu played a good game, both passing and running the football, completing 15/24 passes (62.5% comp) for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns, also running 9 times for 27 yards.
Leading the ground attack for the Bandits was Juwan Washington, who’d take 14 carries for 48 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day. Meanwhile, the air attack would be led by John Franklin III, who ended the game with 5 receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. Scoring the team’s other touchdown through the air was wide receiver Derrick Dillon, who totaled 2 receptions for 52 yards and 1 touchdown on the day.
The defense made some big plays but allowed the Panthers to stay in the game throughout, totaling 3 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 5 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery on the day. Top players on the Bandits’ defense include linebackers Christian Sam, Greg Reaves, and Travis Feeney, along with cornerback Rannell Hall.
Tampa Bay might’ve come away with the win, but had it not been for a Panthers fumble late in the 4th quarter, they might have taken the loss instead. With the Breakers’ recent loss, the 2nd playoff spot in the South Division is wide open, but if the Bandits want to lock it up, they have to keep cleaning things up.
5. Philadelphia Stars (Last Week: 6)
The Stars take over the 5th spot after a tough loss to the Birmingham Stallions.
Philly started the game pretty strong but lost some steam as halftime approached, and couldn’t get anything going throughout the 2nd half. Quarterback Case Cookus ended the game completing 19/35 passes (54.3% comp) for 215 yards.
Running backs Paul Terry and Matt Colburn II led Philly’s rushing attack, with Terry taking only 2 carries for 52 yards and 1 touchdown, and catching 5 passes for 43 yards. Colburn rushed 7 times for only 10 yards and 1 touchdown, and grabbed 1 pass for 4 yards. Chris Rowland was also one of Cookus’s top targets and hauled in 4 receptions for 39 yards on the day.
The defense played well and challenged Birmingham’s offense despite the loss. They totaled 4 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 3 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery.
The Stars fight hard every week but just can’t seem to close out games. They’ll have another tough matchup in Week 6 when they take on the Tampa Bay Bandits.
6. Michigan Panthers (Last Week: 7)
The Panthers take over the 6th spot after a loss to the Tampa Bay Bandits.
Quarterback Shea Patterson played his best game of the season, and coach Jeff Fisher got significantly more creative with the playcalling, but sadly, it wasn’t enough to come away with a win in Week 5. Patterson ended the game completing 23/37 passes (62.2% comp) for 304 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, also running 8 times for 46 yards.
Running back Reggie Corbin led the team in carries but struggled, taking 12 rushes for only 28 yards on the day, also hauling in 1 catch for 14 yards. Unfortunately, Corbin and his cohort, Cameron Scarlett, would each lose a fumble. Leading the Panthers’ air attack was wide receiver Lance Lenoir Jr, who totaled 6 receptions for 86 yards. However, the Panthers’ receiving touchdowns came from La’Michael Pettway and Ryan O’Malley.
Defensively, the Panthers played a decent game, but couldn’t get the job done when it mattered most. The team totaled 1 sack, 6 tackles for loss, and 4 pass deflections, with highlight players including cornerbacks Tino Ellis and Jameson Houston, safety Orion Stewart, and linebacker Frank Ginda.
The Panthers looked like a significantly better team in Week 5, with quarterback Shea Patterson playing like he’s a new man. However, they’ll have to figure out how to close out games if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
7. Pittsburgh Maulers (Last Week: 8)
The Maulers take over the 7th spot in the rankings after getting their first win of the season over the Gamblers.
Quarterback Kyle Lauletta got the start but was taken out of the game relatively early and replaced with the newly signed Vad Lee. Lauletta completed only 5/9 passes (55.6% comp) for 51 yards before being replaced by Lee, who completed 19/32 passes (59.4% comp) for 170 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception, also running 5 times for 20 yards.
Running backs Garrett Groshek and Madre London would split carries for Pittsburgh. Groshek took 7 carries for 23 yards, catching 3 passes for 3 yards, with London totaling 11 carries for 22 yards, and 1 reception for 13 yards. Leading the Maulers’ air attack were receivers Bailey Gaither and Tre Walker, with Gaither totaling 8 receptions for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Walker hauled in 10 receptions for 92 yards.
The Maulers’ defense struggled against the Gamblers’ rushing attack but played well enough to come away with the win. They totaled 1 sack, 5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 pass deflections, and 1 fumble recovery, with highlight players on Pittsburgh’s defense being cornerbacks Shakur Brown and Kieth Gipson Jr, linebacker E.J. Ejiya, and safety Bryce Torneden.
With their newly signed quarterback Vad Lee still figuring things out, but also adding the biggest spark to this offense we’ve seen all season, who knows where the ceiling is for the Maulers now. That being said, Kirby Wilson’s still getting a handle on play-calling, and they’re still at the bottom of the North Division with a long and difficult fight for a playoff spot ahead of them.
8. Houston Gamblers (Last Week: 5)
The Gamblers fall to the bottom of the rankings after a tough loss to the Pittsburgh Maulers.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson played a good game, but a fumble lost late in the 4th gave the Maulers the opportunity they needed to turn things around and get the 1-point victory. Thorson ended the day completing 11/24 passes (45.8% comp) for 165 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, also taking 5 carries for 23 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Leading the Gamblers rushing attack was none other than Mark Thompson, who ended the day with 17 carries for 80 yards. Additionally, his backup, Dalyn Dawkins, took 7 carries for 24 yards on the day. Leading Houston’s air attack was wide receiver Isaiah Zuber, who ended the game with 3 receptions for 72 yards and 1 touchdown.
Houston played a decent game defensively, but couldn’t keep Vad Lee and the Maulers’ offense out of the endzone when the game was on the line. They totaled 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 8 pass deflections. Top players on the Gamblers’ defense include linebackers Donald Payne and Reggie Northrup, along with cornerbacks Will Likely and Jamar Summers.
The bottom 3 teams in the rankings all have one win and only 5 games left to really put things together in an attempt to slip into the playoffs.