USFL Week 1: Gamblers hold off rally, earn win over Panthers

USFL Week 1: Gamblers hold off rally, earn win over Panthers

Apr 17

Week 1 of the inaugural United States Football League season is in full swing with three huge matchups Sunday.

Kicking things off, the Houston Gamblers used an opportunistic defense to jump to an early lead and then held off a furious charge to escape with a 17-12 victory over the Michigan Panthers.

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Here are the top moments:

Houston Gamblers 17 Michigan Panthers 12

Breaking the ice

The hometown man Nick Vogel opened scoring for the Gamblers, who took a 3-0 lead on the strength of his right leg midway through the first quarter.

He. Will. Go!

The first touchdown of the day came courtesy of the Houston defense. 

Defensive captain Reggie Northrup scooped up the loose pigskin following a forced fumble near the goal line, and took it 90 yards the other way to build on the Gambler's advantage. 

Kevin Sumlin capitalized on the score by opting to go for two. His move proved successful, putting Houston up 11-0.

Ball-hunters

Houston's had one mission in mind during the first half: Poke the ball loose. The Gamblers did so for the second time in two quarters with this textbook tackle.

Defense to offense

The Gamblers have their first offensive TD! After the fumble recovery, Clayton Thorson showed tremendous moxie in the pocket, hanging tough under pressure to find Isaiah Zuber in the back of the end zone. Thorson's pass was an absolute thing of beauty.

That score put Houston up 17-0.

Panthers get on the board

Jeff Fisher's halftime speech to his team stuck with the group, and the Panthers started their comeback attempt on the right foot with a quick TD strike on their first drive of the second half. 

No. 1 overall pick Shea Patterson floated in a pretty pass to Lance Lenoir to cap off a 10-play, 74-yard drive. A failed two-point conversion attempt left the score at 17-6.

Clawing back into it

The Panthers are slimming the margin! This time, it was the ground game that propelled Michigan into the end zone, namely Stevie Scott III. The Panthers would fail to convert on the ensuing two-point conversion and trailed 17-12 after the TD.

Picked! 

Momentum shifted all the way in Michigan's direction after a nifty diving pick from former Baylor DB Jameson Houston.

The Panthers took over at the opponents' 43-yard line following the takeaway.

The Panthers were unable to make good on the INT though, and Houston forced a pair of pivotal stops as the clock wound down to stave off their opponent and collect its first-ever win. 

"We came out hot, on fire," Houston linebacker Reggie Northrup said. "We executed that first half. Second half, it got a little rocky. We had to get back, get our mindset right. … a win is a win."

Check out Houston's top plays:

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