By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports Writer
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — While some USFL teams are looking for one consistent playmaker at the quarterback spot, New Jersey Generals head coach Mike Riley continues to use two quarterbacks with good success.
De’Andre Johnson got his first start of the year after leading the Generals to a comeback win last week, But Luis Perez also played on Saturday, and the two combined to complete 20 of 24 passes for 200 passing yards and a touchdown in a methodical, 21-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Maulers. The Generals never trailed in the contest.
Making his first start this season, Johnson finished 9-for-10 passing for 98 yards and a score, while Perez came off the bench to complete 11 of 14 passes for 102 yards.
"I’ve never done it," Riley said about his two-quarterback system. "I’ve always played one quarterback the whole way, 40 years of that or whatever. So, I’m really proud of the way these two guys have handled it. They both prepare really well and work very hard at their craft. I love working with them, and my goal is for both of them to be ready to play and contribute."
Johnson said he’s not concerned about the accolades at the end of the day, just that his team figures out a way to win.
"We trust that it’s going to work," Johnson said. "And obviously so far, it’s been working. We’ve just got to keep building. It’s nothing personal or trying to accomplish certain things. Our main goal is to get the ‘W’ and get to the championship."
The Generals improved to 3-1 with their third consecutive victory, while the Maulers remain winless at 0-4.
"Football and game day is all about the players," Pittsburgh head coach Kirby Wilson said. "It always has been, always will be. And we’re just going to have to play hard until the playmakers make their plays. We didn’t have enough of them today."
New Jersey totaled 113 yards on the ground last week but struggled to consistently move the ball against Pittsburgh's stout run defense.
So, instead, the General relied on Johnson and Perez. Their main receiving target was Alonzo Moore, who finished with three receptions for 104 yards.
Johnson found Moore wide open on a 62-yard corner route for the first score of the game, and Johnson’s first touchdown pass this season. On the Generals' next drive, Johnson took a shot to his right thigh on a quarterback run and had to leave the game for further evaluation. He returned on New Jersey’s next drive.
The Generals led by as many as 11 points, but three missed Nick Rose field goals kept the game close, and the Maulers had a chance to tie the game on their final drive with 2:30 left. But Pittsburgh’s drive stalled at New Jersey’s 37-yard line.
"We left a lot of points out there," Riley said. "We had some untimely events happen — a snap over our head in the red zone and a holding penalty when we were inside our 10-yard line. We just left a lot of points out there on the field, but I thought our quarterbacks balanced it out pretty well."
For Pittsburgh, Kyle Lauletta got his first start this season, finishing 15-for-32 for 169 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Tre Walker time
With Bailey Gaither (10 catches for 159 yards, one TD on the season) out for a second straight week due to illness, Walker nicely filled the void as the main pass-catcher for the Maulers.
Walker was targeted a game-high 17 times, finishing with nine receptions for 110 yards, including a nimble, one-handed grab on his team’s final drive of the game.
Wilson said his team needs more offensive players like Walker to step up and make plays.
"He’s an extremely confident competitor," Wilson said about Walker. "He thinks he can win at everything, and it doesn’t matter who’s guarding him. He just feels like he’s the one that’s going to make plays."
New Jersey linebacker Chris Orr said his team’s defense became more aware of where Walker was on the field as the game wore on.
"We let him get a little too much today," Orr said. "Hopefully, he enjoyed it, but enjoyed his loss a little more."
Riley and Wilson met on the field for the first time as head coaches.
Riley coached Wilson when he served as defensive backs coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Wilson was a defensive back for the Canadian Football League team.
The two hugged and shared a couple private moments chatting before the game.
"I’m honored to have coached him," Riley said. "He’s a great person. It was really fun being on the field with him today."
Pittsburgh tight end Hunter Thedford got drilled while going up high to catch a seam ball from Lauletta on the opening drive of the game. Thedford was attended to by trainers for several minutes and appeared to suffer a chest injury. Thedford went into the injury tent for further evaluation but returned to the game.
New Jersey offensive lineman Mike Brown suffered a right leg injury in the first quarter and limped off the field.
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.