USFL Week 8: Case Cookus and the Stars Go to Canton

USFL – Week 8 within the USFL is over, and we nonetheless have a contest! Three of the 4 playoff spots have been crammed, with the Philadelphia Stars becoming a member of the Birmingham Stallions and New Jersey Generals within the postseason. However the outcomes swung the USFL’s approach on Sunday, organising practically a play-in recreation subsequent week and conserving intrigue alive.

It was a bizarre week of video games, and never simply because the motion moved to the cavernous Legion Subject attributable to a Garth Brooks live performance. We had two ugly, ugly video games, with each the Stallions-Breakers and Bandits-Gamblers contests being exhausting to observe at factors. The opposite two video games have been blowouts, with the Generals dealing with the Maulers with out an excessive amount of fuss, after which the Stars blowing the Panthers out of the water in the most effective offensive efficiency of the season so far.

That is an attention-grabbing break up, as a result of the Generals and Stars are your two playoff groups from the North, whereas the Stallions, Breakers, and Bandits are vying for the South crown. Whereas the South has been the higher division all 12 months lengthy, you possibly can make a powerful argument that the 2 North groups are hotter as we wind the season down. We cannot see any extra interdivisional play for the remainder of the common season, however it’s one thing to keep watch over as we creep ever nearer to naming our first champion.

Listed below are the up to date SRS/EVOA (Estimated DVOA) rankings!

The Bandits have climbed again into the highest 5, now lastly forward of the three groups they’ve crushed, which is sweet. The rankings nonetheless have them clearly worse than the opposite 4 groups nonetheless alive for playoff berths, however no less than they don’t seem to be in seventh place anymore. Nevertheless, that is simply because the Panthers and Gamblers dropped; the Bandits’ slender victory truly lowered their EVOA. They should beat the Breakers subsequent week to maintain their playoff hopes alive, however that was a 34-3 blowout once they met again in Week 2. Colour the superior statistics unimpressed.

We even have new leaders in each offensive and defensive SRS. The Breakers take over from the Generals defensively even in a loss. Holding the Stallions to 10 factors is spectacular once they had been averaging 26.9 factors per recreation coming in, with two purple zone stops enjoying an enormous position within the final result of the sport. The Stallions struggles additionally knock them out of first on offense, with the Stars roaring into first place. The Stars lead the league with 222 factors scored; additionally they have the first-, second-, and third-highest level totals in a recreation this 12 months. It ought to be famous, nonetheless, that they are averaging 34.4 factors per recreation towards groups not in playoff place, however simply 16.7 towards the Breakers, Generals, and Stallions. Two of these video games have been earlier than the Reign of Cookus began, nonetheless, so we’ll must see what the long run holds.

On to this week’s outcomes!

New Jersey Generals 29, Pittsburgh Maulers 18

The Maulers have been formally eradicated from playoff rivalry with the Generals’ win on Friday evening—a destiny which was only a matter of time you probably have watched any Maulers video games this season. The Generals bullied them up and down the sector, leaping out to a 23-7 halftime lead behind Darius Victor’s large thighs. The Maulers got here again somewhat in the long run towards the Generals’ delicate forestall protection, however this was an absolute butt-kicking of the worst workforce within the league.

With De’Andre Johnson nonetheless on the mend, Luis Perez stays the Generals quarterback. That does take away from the effectiveness of their dashing assault and makes them maybe rather less attention-grabbing to observe, however it would not actually make them that a lot worse. Perez was 18-for-24 for 220 yards and a landing because the Generals simply did no matter they needed towards the Maulers all day lengthy. However this was Victor’s present as he closes in on the USFL dashing triple crown—he has a skinny lead in dashing yards over Jordan Ellis of the Breakers, is three dashing touchdowns over the Stars’ Matt Colburn, and sits in third behind the Panthers’ Reggie Corbin in yards per carry. If the Generals do go on to win the USFL Bowl, it’s going to behind Corbin and the remainder of the dashing assault.

As for the Maulers, Kirby Wilson stays the worst coach within the league. It seems beginning the fourth quarterback in eight video games was not the trick to revitalize Wilson’s remedial play calling, and shuffling between Roland Rivers and Vad Lee shouldn’t be serving to both of them prepare to truly play within the video games. The Maulers are working out the string at this level, however they no less than did have a few notable highlights to take dwelling from this one. Ramiz Ahmed set the brand new USFL file with a 61-yard subject objective within the third quarter; he has the leg, it has simply been his consistency that has stored him out of the NFL. Later within the fourth, with the Maulers down massive, they turned the primary workforce to ever convert the fourth-and-12 “various kickoff,” the substitute for the onside kick. In order that’s historic, no less than, even when the Maulers did not do something after changing. Historical past is historical past, although!

Birmingham Stallions 10, New Orleans Breakers 9

The Stallions stay undefeated and clinch the USFL South title after successful a recreation that had some bowling shoe tendencies at occasions. Ugly wins are nonetheless wins, although, and the Stallions retain their title as greatest workforce within the league till additional discover.

The defenses have been on full show for each groups, every selecting up three turnovers as nobody had a straightforward time discovering the tip zone. The Stallions misplaced a pair of fumbles, with J’Mar Smith and Osirus Mitchell each placing the ball on the bottom. Mitchell’s fumble actually damage as he was simply outdoors the objective line when he received leveled. The Breakers additionally picked Smith off early within the fourth quarter because the Stallions have been starting to place collectively their first stable drive for the reason that starting of the sport.

To not be outdone, the Stallions protection hurried and harassed Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter all recreation lengthy. Sloter turned the primary USFL quarterback to cross the 1,500-yard mark this season, however he additionally threw three interceptions, all of them in Birmingham territory. In a recreation with factors at an excessive premium, to place it properly, no less than two of Sloter’s picks have been backbreakers.

This recreation in the end got here right down to kicking struggles from each groups. Each Breakers kicker Taylor Bertolet and Stallions kicker Brandon Aubrey missed a pair of subject objectives—all of 45 yards or longer, to be honest, however makeable by reliable kickers. The distinction got here on the chip photographs. Bertolet missed an additional level on the Breakers’ third-quarter landing, holding New Orleans at only a two-point lead. The rating stayed there for the remainder of the sport. That signifies that whereas the Breakers turned again the Stallions within the purple zone with 1:48 left within the recreation, Birmingham was in a position to trot on Aubrey for a game-winning 29-yarder slightly than a game-tying one. And Aubrey was good. Simply. Barely.

Birmingham has now crushed the Breakers 10-9 and 22-13 of their two matchups; two very tight escapes for the undefeated Stallions. We are going to possible get to see Spherical 3 at a impartial web site in Canton in three weeks, and the Breakers have been shut sufficient that it might be very simple to see that one going the opposite approach, as soon as 1000’s of partisan followers are taken out of the combination. We’ll see, nonetheless! And first the Breakers have to carry off the Bandits…

Philadelphia Stars 46, Michigan Panthers 24

Case. Cookus.

We’ve been saying for weeks that Cookus has been doing an admirable job filling in for Bryan Scott, the injured QB1 who was the most effective passer within the league over the primary three weeks of the season. Nicely, Cookus is now not simply filling in. He has improved week after week as he has discovered the offense and gained chemistry along with his receivers, and he exploded for the most effective day for any USFL quarterback this season: 20-for-26 for 247 yards and 4 passing touchdowns, plus 118 dashing yards and one other landing on the bottom. The Panthers simply had no reply for Cookus on the day because the Stars rolled up probably the most factors in recreation for a USFL workforce this season. The win formally clinched the playoffs for the Stars, eliminating the Panthers within the course of.

The Panthers’ possibilities weren’t helped by accidents—star rusher Reggie Corbin and heart Sean Pollard have been knocked out of the sport within the first half and have been unable to return, whereas edge rusher Tre’ Williams was carted off the sector early within the third quarter. However actually, it did not matter—with the Stars rolling on offense like this, there was little the Panthers have been going to have the ability to do. Much more threateningly for the Generals within the playoffs, the Stars’ protection truly confirmed up a couple of times on this one. They picked Paxton Lynch off twice and compelled a Panthers fumble on the objective line to seal the deal. If the Stars offense retains this up and the protection provides them actually something, look out.

Tampa Bay Bandits 13, Houston Gamblers 3

It needed to come to an finish sooner or later—the Gamblers performed a traditional recreation of soccer. Nicely, principally; we’ll get to the weirdness within the second. However, in a principally painful slog on Sunday afternoon, the Gamblers misplaced their sixth straight recreation, with the Bandits conserving their playoff hopes alive.

The Bandits have now gained 4 video games, with all 4 being towards the three one-win groups on the backside of the league. Coach Todd Haley admitted after the sport that this one “wasn’t fairly in loads of totally different areas,” however there aren’t any fashion factors in the way you win a soccer recreation. Which is nice! As a result of Bandits quarterback Jordan Ta’amu was simply 12-for-21 for 98 yards and an interception, main rusher Juwan Washington was held to three.0 yards per carry, and the Bandits turned the ball over twice. They received some vital assist from their protection—Mike Scott had a pair of sacks, they usually prevented the Gamblers from ever reaching the purple zone—however the Bandits must play higher in the event that they need to stand an opportunity towards the Breakers in a must-win recreation subsequent week.

The Gamblers got here into this one battered and bruised. They have been with out beginning quarterback Clayton Thorson, beginning working again Mark Thompson, and beginning receiver Isaiah Zuber. While you’re right down to USFL backups at your high three fantasy positions, you are not going to have a very good time. So it was as much as the protection to maintain issues shut—Chris Odom racked up one other three sacks—and the particular groups to maintain issues loopy.

Bear in mind the “various kickoff” we talked about earlier? Nicely, that does not imply they took the precise onside kick out of the rulebook, and so the Gamblers truly tried, and succeeded, on a shock onside kick within the third quarter—a transfer which caught everybody off guard. That features the Bandits particular groups, in fact, but in addition the commentary sales space and Haley. Haley threw a problem flag, claiming that the kick hadn’t gone the prerequisite 10 yards. As you possibly can see, it went extra like 15, which is a bigger quantity than 10, mathematically talking. That is analytics for you.

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