USFL 2022: Top 5 plays from inaugural season

USFL 2022: Top 5 plays from inaugural season

Jul 4, 2022

By RJ Young
FOX Sports USFL Writer

The inaugural season of the USFL was filled with thrilling moments, and Sunday's championship game in Canton, Ohio, was a delightful capper to the whole journey.

Now that the dust has settled on the Birmingham Stallions' 33-30 victory over the Philadelphia Stars in the title game, it's time to look back at the best plays from the 2022 campaign.

Here are my top five.

5. Vad Lee's game-winner

The Maulers were desperate for quarterback help when they called Vad Lee midseason. The signal-caller, who became a three-time All-American at James Madison after transferring from Georgia Tech, was ready to go.

Five days after joining the team, Lee led a dramatic comeback, hitting Bailey Gaither on a slant for a game-winning touchdown, which gave Pittsburgh its first victory of the season.

It would also be the Maulers' only win in a 1-9 season, but it was nonetheless a brilliant moment to remember.

4. J’Mar Smith’s Week 1 game-winner

We didn't know it at the time, but the Week 1 matchup between Birmingham and New Jersey would be a battle between two of the league's best teams. And it looked like the Generals would come out top in the season-opening matchup, leading 24-21 with four minutes to play. 

But that's when Smith, who had come off the bench early in the game in place of injured starter Alex McGough, went to work.

Smith guided the Stallions on a 10-play, 59-yard drive, notching the game-winner when he scrambled in from 2 yards out with 23 seconds left. 

3. Sloter-to-Adams wins it for Breakers

The New Orleans Breakers found themselves in a tough spot late in a Week 4 game against Houston

With the score tied 16-16, they faced a third-and-8, sitting on the fringes of field-goal range, when they were forced to use their last timeout.

That left them with few options — attempt a long field goal, attempt a quick play to get a little closer, or go for it all. They chose to go for it.

Breakers QB Kyle Sloter, a product of Northern Colorado, tossed it up to big receiver Jonathan Adams, who came down with a 29-yard game-winning touchdown.

2. Maurice Alexander’s punt return TD

The Stars and Generals were locked in a tough playoff battle in the North Division Championship in Canton, Ohio, when league MVP KaVontae Turpin dashed 78 yards for a punt-return touchdown. 

The jaunt gave the Generals a 14-10 lead, and while there was still more than 10 minutes left in the game, it had the feel of a potential back-breaker.

About six minutes later, now trailing 14-13, Stars QB Case Cookus was gathering himself for one final drive with a spot in the championship game on the line. 

But as he prepared on the sideline, he suddenly realized he wouldn't have to — Alexander was sprinting down the sideline for an 87-yard punt return touchdown of his own. 

It was the perfect answer to Turpin's dazzling play, and it was the biggest moment of the playoffs. At least until … 

1. Scooby Wright's 46-yard interception return in USFL Championship game

The Stallions had taken a 26-23 lead over the Stars late in the USFL Championship game. Yet even though there were only about three minutes left in the game, the lead felt tenuous — at least until Wright stepped in front of a KJ Costello pass and took it to the house for a 33-23 edge.

The play would prove crucial, as Philadelphia scored another touchdown to pull within 33-30 with 1:10 remaining. But the Stallions held on to take the crown. 

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young." Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young, and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.