BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Birmingham Stallions went 11-1 last season on the way to a USFL championship and didn't win any games by more than 16 points, which makes it all the more impressive the way they dominated the Memphis Showboats in a 42-2 win on Saturday night.
"People just keep stepping up," coach Skip Holtz said after a surprisingly easy win. "I love the culture. I love the leadership. This team's a lot of fun to coach ... Overall, there were a lot of really good things in this game to build on, for sure."
Birmingham (2-0) had entered the game with uncertainty, having lost a starting quarterback, running back and receiver to serious injuries in last week's game, leaving them shorthanded. Quarterback Alex McGough led the way Saturday, throwing for four touchdowns and 302 yards without a turnover, while Zaquandre White rushed for 75 yards and two scores.
"I heard all week about what we didn't have, what we lost," coach Skip Holtz said. "Let's talk about what we do have. We have a quarterback who has played a lot of football, that has a lot of talent, was the first pick of this football team. We've got a young running back I think the world of, but nobody's seen him yet because he's been sitting in third place. We've got talent on this team. Everybody's been working. It was just how they'd performed under the lights, and I was impressed with what I saw tonight."
The 42 points is the second-most scored in a USFL game since the league returned last year — the Philadelphia Stars had 46 in a win last season — and the margin of victory is the largest. In 40 games last season, the most lopsided game was by 31 points, and the losing end of that was the Tampa Bay Bandits, who moved to Memphis and became the Showboats.
"That was not acceptable in any way, shape or form, by me, the coaching staff or the players," coach Todd Haley said. "When you take an ass-kicking like that, you've got to take a long shower and get rid of it and move forward. They're not canceling the season. We have to play another game this week and we have to figure out a way to get ourselves in a position to win a game."
McGough's first pass was a 47-yard throw to tight end Jace Sternberger, and the two would connect five times for 126 yards and a touchdown. That score put Birmingham up 21-0 just before halftime. The Stallions did not let up, and McGough credited his teammates for making it easy for him.
'You know what they're capable of. They're capable of doing great things," said the former Seattle Seahawks draft pick, who came in last week when starter J'Mar Smith sustained an injury in the second quarter. "I'm just trying to get the ball in their hands as fast as I can, just follow my reads. (The line) was amazing. All the sacks were my fault, the safety was my fault. They played great."
McGough's only real blemish on the night came late in the third quarter, when he was sacked in the end zone by Memphis, resulting in a safety and spoiling what could have been just the second USFL shutout in as many seasons. Birmingham outgained Memphis by a 463-183 margin and had a 27-10 edge on first downs, holding the Showboats to one conversion in 11 third-down attempts.
"We just kept talking about every doing their job," Holtz said. "Nobody has to be Hercules. We don't have to leap tall buildings. When the tide rises, all boats rise, and we've got a couple of guys out, so everybody has to pick up a little bit of the weight."
Birmingham will have a tougher challenge next week when they host another 2-0 team in the New Orleans Breakers, who pulled out a 38-31 victory over the Houston Gamblers earlier Saturday. In a battle of two offenses that combined for 80 points this weekend, the Stallions' defense will have a chance to be the difference against New Orleans.
"I think the whole league is more talented, top to bottom, and I definitely feel our team is more talented this year than we were a year ago," Holtz said. "We've got 80 percent of our starters back, but the depth is so much different."
Memphis (0-2) is on the other end, scrambling to stay in contention and returning home next week to face the Gamblers, who are also 0-2 and coming off the loss to New Orleans.
"In this format, with 10 games, your margin of error is already small," Haley said. "Ours just got smaller tonight. That's the way it is."
Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.
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