CANTON, Ohio — As much as the Memphis Showboats controlled Sunday's game, grinding out a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession, the New Jersey Generals had stuck around just enough to be dangerous and keep it a one-score game late.
Memphis got a little separation with four minutes left, as running back Kerrith Whyte, on his 23rd and final carry of the day, broke loose for a 46-yard gain, getting stopped at the 6 but setting up the last field goal in a hard-fought 25-16 win at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
"Unfortunately, I did get caught," joked Whyte, who finished with a season-high 102 yards. "That's not acceptable. We got points off it, so I'm happy about that."
Memphis (5-3) has enjoyed quite the turnaround this season, opening the year 0-3 and now winning five in a row to stay in playoff contention with two weeks left in the regular season. They're still a game behind Birmingham (6-2) and tied with at least Houston, but they're finding ways to win each week with turnovers and resiliency.
"We've got a chance to make some noise," Showboats coach Todd Haley said. "But right now, we're just climbing."
Memphis came in with the best turnover margin in the league, and turnovers set the tone for the game early. The Showboats lost a fumble on their opening drive, resulting in a 3-0 Generals lead, but Memphis forced turnovers on the next two drives. Just before halftime, they had run 39 plays to New Jersey's 11, leading 13-3 but wearing their opponent down, play by play.
"Every time I saw that time of possession, I'm going up and down the sideline, talking about how they're going to wear down on defense, and eventually they did," Haley said. "When you have the ball that long, it's usually a good thing."
New Jersey (2-6) is still mathematically alive despite matching the worst record in the league, and they hung around Sunday, led by backup quarterback Dakota Prokup, who came off the bench, rushed for a team-high 76 yards and threw for two second-half touchdowns.
"In our game, if you go three-and-out and the other team keeps the ball, they could literally finish the quarter," New Jersey coach Mike Riley said. "There are not many possessions, so you need to get points just about every time to feel good."
Memphis had 317 yards of offense but rarely found the end zone, with kicker Alex Kessman going 6-for-6 on field goals, all from 38 yards or shorter. They finished with 71 offensive plays, 27 more than New Jersey, and had the ball for nearly 41 minutes out of 60.
Prukop's second touchdown got the Generals within six points with four minutes left, and USFL teams can go for three points after a touchdown with a play from the 10-yard line, but the conversion failed, and Whyte's big run set up one more field goal for the final margin.
The Showboats now return home for their final two games, including a regular-season finale against the defending league champion Stallions which could have the Southern Division title on the line. The Generals are in a different boat, needing help and as many wins in the next two weeks as they've totaled all season to have any chance at sneaking into the postseason at 4-6.
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.