Case Cookus' valiant rally for Stars cut short by injury

Case Cookus' valiant rally for Stars cut short by injury

Jul 4, 2022

By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports Writer

An afterthought when the season started, Case Cookus emerged as one of the top players in the USFL.

And he appeared to be in a position to add to that legacy in Sunday night's championship game, helping the Philadelphia Stars come from behind to take a 23-20 lead over the Birmingham Stallions midway through the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, his impressive showing was cut short when he suffered a broken leg, preventing the Northern Arizona product from finishing what he had started. 

Cookus suffered the injury while being sacked by defensive lineman Dondrea Tillman. His right ankle bent awkwardly during the play, and he had to be carted off the field. He completed 17 of 29 passes for 222 yards and three scores. Cookus did not have any interceptions, but he was sacked four times. 

Stanford product K.J. Costello replaced Cookus in the starting lineup. He did not fare well, finishing 5 of 9 for 45 yards, with a touchdown pass and two interceptions. As a result, the Stallions held on for a 33-30 victory.

"He was really disappointed," Stars head coach Bart Andrus said when asked about his conversation with Cookus after the game. "He would have liked to have finished the game. He’s one of those guys who it wasn’t about him; it’s about him being able to help his team. That was the biggest concern for him because it held him back from being able to perform for his team in their time of need. That was the biggest thing on his mind."

Cookus also had another concern. He’s getting married on July 14.

"Once he realized the thing was broke, then it turned to, ‘Oh, I’m getting married in two weeks," Andrus said. "And I understand that. He wants to be there for his fiancée."

The Stars were the highest-scoring team during the regular season, but the Stallions kept Philadelphia from creating explosive plays by bringing pressure in the face of Cookus.

The Stars had 40, 20-plus yard plays during the regular season, but just three against the Stars.

"Case is a great quarterback," Birmingham head coach Skip Holtz said "We tried to put some pressure on him, but he’s got such great feet that he got out of the pocket on the first touchdown. If he starts running around, he buys time and if you play coverage, it’s hard to get to him with three or four (rushers).

"He can run around, and coverage can only hold up for so long. He can do it with his feet. He can do it with his arm, and he does it with his mind. I think he’s a great quarterback."

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 at @eric_d_williams.