Case Cookus cooks, Stars edge Panthers after missed FG

Case Cookus cooks, Stars edge Panthers after missed FG

May 7, 2022

By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports Writer

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For Michigan Panthers head coach Jeff Fisher, the decision to have kicker Michael Carrizosa attempt a 21-yard field goal to win the game was a simple one.

"Your kicker has to make that kick," Fisher said. "That’s not even a PAT."

Unfortunately for Fisher’s Panthers, Carrizosa’s attempt bounced off the left upright and wide left, allowing the Philadelphia Stars to survive with a 26-25 victory over Michigan in a Friday night contest at Protective Stadium that spilled into early Saturday morning.

Philadelphia head coach Bart Andrus said he considered letting the Panthers score a touchdown so his offense could get the ball back but decided to against it.

"The kid hit the upright," Andrus said. "We had two of those last week; I don’t know if the ball has magnets in it or what (laughs). John Madden called them ‘doinks.’ And we’ve had our share of ‘doinks’ this year. I feel bad for the kid, but that’s the way it happens." 

With the victory, the Stars improved to 2-2 overall, while the Panthers dropped to 1-3.

Fisher ran running back Reggie Corbin five straight times to get Carrizosa into chip-shot territory at the 3-yard line. The Stars had just taken the one-point lead on a field goal of their own, a 21-yarder by Matt Mengel, who finished 4-for-5 on field goals for the evening.

Mengal’s field goal was set up by a punt that Joe Walker fumbled, and Philadelphia’s Bradley Sylve recovered at Michigan’s 13-yard line with a 7:29 to play

In his first start since playing in college at Northern Arizona three years ago, Case Cookus made the most of it. Playing in place of an injured Bryan Scott, Cookus finished 22-for-30 for 190 yards, with two touchdown passes and an interception.

"I’m always ready," Cookus. "Something can always happen. You can’t be the guy that comes in and is not ready to roll. Even last week, I had this bad taste in my mouth, not being able to pull it out for the team." 

The game included four lead changes, six turnovers and 34 points off those turnovers. There were only two punts the entire game. 

While Cookus shined, Panthers quarterback Shea Patterson had an uneven performance. The University of Michigan product finished 9-for-17 for just 67 yards, with a touchdown pass and three interceptions.

Although he struggled to get much going through the air, Patterson did run for 79 yards and a score. 

"He completely flipped the field and kept us in the game with his legs," Fisher said. "He made some key throws. The touchdown pass was a good throw, so we’ll just keep trying to improve each day." 

Cookus led the Stars on a 14-play, 55-yard scoring drive to start the game, capped by a Mengel 21-yard field goal that gave Philadelphia 3-0 lead. Cookus finished 6-for-8 on the drive for 27 yards, completing passes to five different receivers. 

The Panthers had held opponents scoreless for six straight quarters before Philadelphia’s score. 

On their first possession of the game, the Panthers also moved the football. However, Patterson made an ill-advised throw, booting out to his right and throwing across his body. Philadelphia’s Channing Stribling intercepted the underthrown ball intended for Lance Lenoir Jr. in the end zone.

On Philadelphia’s second possession, Cookus delivered a 39-yard strike to Devin Gray over the safety for the score, pushing Philadelphia’s advantage to 10-0. 

The Panthers then scored 17 straight points to take the lead. 

Corbin returned a kick 45 yards. That big play set up a 22-yard field goal by Carrizosa, cutting Philadelphia’s lead to 10-3 — the first points via kick for Michigan this season. 

The Panthers kept the momentum, with defensive back Sean Williams forcing a Paul Terry fumble recovered by defensive lineman Cavon Walker. Patterson converted the turnover into points on a nifty, 9-yard scramble for a score.

However, Carrizosa missed the extra point wide left, leaving the Panthers down 10-9 with 5:27 left in the first half. 

Cookus then made his first big mistake of the night with 2:44 left, a route miscommunication with Jordan Suell that led to Williams picking off the errant throw at Michigan’s 12-yard line. 

It didn’t take long for Michigan to make Philadelphia pay, with Corbin shaking loose on a zone run for a USFL-record 88-yard score, giving the Panthers a 17-10 lead after Stevie Scott got the two-point conversion on an inside run.

With the run, Corbin went over 100 yards for a second straight week. 

The Stars evened the score at 17-all at the end of the first half when Cookus found Diondre Overton for a 41-yard TD down the middle of the field.

Corbin’s record run 

Michigan running back Corbin had another strong day, finishing with 152 yards on 12 rushes, including the league-best 88-yard run for a score in the first half.

The University of Illinois product went over 100 yards rushing for a second straight week, helping the Panthers total 251 yards on the ground.

Cookus throws his body around

With only one healthy quarterback, Cookus might consider taking some sliding lessons.

Cookus ground out 35 rushing yards, taking some hits to move the chains in critical moments of the game.

The QB isn’t known for his running ability, but said he will take advantage of open space if defenses give him an opportunity to run.

"At the time I was doing it, I was helping fire up the team by getting some first downs," Cookus said. "I wasn’t doing it in the first half. I try and pick and choose." 

Injury update

Bryan Scott traveled back to his hometown of Los Angeles to have his personal doctor handle a procedure to remove floating bodies in his injured knee.

Andrus said the QB is expected to be out three weeks, and he will not another quarterback to the roster. Instead, the Stars will go with receiver Maurice Alexander Jr. as the backup quarterback. Alexander played quarterback at Florida International University.

Fisher said he’s hopeful that Paxton Lynch can practice next week. The QB watched the game from the sidelines with a boot on his left foot. 

Philadelphia cornerback Mazzi Wilkins left the game with an ankle injury in the first half but was cleared to return in the second half. Stribling left the game in the second half and did not return due to a leg injury. Cody Brown suffered a right leg injury late in the fourth quarter. 

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @eric_d_williams.