USFL Week 1 highlights: New Orleans Breakers edge Pittsburgh Maulers late
Check out all the top plays and highlights from the New Orleans Breakers' dramatic victory over the Pittsburgh Maulers on Sunday.
Week 1 of the 2023 USFL season concluded on Sunday night with the New Orleans Breakers taking down the Pittsburgh Maulers in Birmingham.
Earlier Sunday, the Michigan Panthers took down the Houston Gamblers in Memphis, 29-13.
See the full regular-season week-by-week matchups here.
Here are the top plays!
FINAL: New Orleans Breakers 22, Pittsburgh Maulers 15
Optimum field position
Tre Walker caught the opening kickoff for Pittsburgh, and then lateraled the ball to Bailey Gaither, who ran the ball down to the New Orleans' 41-yard line.
Nathan Hierlihy later hit a 37-yard field goal.
Big play sets up score
McLeod Bethel-Thompson hit wide receiver Jonathan Adams for a 37-yard gain on the Breakers' opening possession, putting them at the 5-yard line.
With that said, New Orleans had to settle for a field goal after a third down sack from Boogie Roberts.
Matt Coghlin drilled a 51-yard field goal late in the first quarter, giving the Breakers a 6-3 lead.
Punting from the Breakers' 39-yard line, Maulers punter Matt Mengel — with some help from Gaither — pinned New Orleans at its own 1-yard line.
On first down, Pittsburgh linebacker Reuben Foster stripped running back Anthony Jones, and Kyahva Tezino recovered the loose ball in the end zone for the touchdown. The Maulers, though, failed to convert a two-point conversion. They led 9-6.
After a fumble, Kyahva Tezino recovers and scores a touchdown to give the Maulers a 9-6 lead.
Making it happen
Two plays after Bethel-Thompson hit Johnnie Dixon for a 27-yard pickup, the quarterback evaded a sack and took off for a 12-yard run. New Orleans got into the red zone but settled for its third field goal, evening up the score at nine apiece.
Chaotic first-half conclusion
Hierlihy missed a 42-yard field goal on the next possession, but New Orleans was called for running into the kicker, extending Pittsburgh's drive. Four downs later, Hierlihy's 34-yard field goal was blocked, ending the first half.
The Breakers got a lifeline on the opening possession of the second half after the Maulers were called for offside on fourth-and-4. Bethel-Thompson then strung together 12-, 23- and 11-yard completions, the third one going to Adams, but they were unable to get the ball into the end zone, settling for a field goal.
Bethel-Thompson and the Breakers moved the ball in the air once again on their next drive …
… but they settled for a fifth field goal. New Orleans led 15-9 at the end of the third quarter.
Goal line stand
Walker ran the ensuing kickoff out to the Pittsburgh 46-yard line. Five plays later, New Orleans was called for a personal foul on a late hit out of bounds on quarterback James Morgan, who proceeded to complete a 12-yard pass to Walker. Garrett Groshek then ran it to the 1-yard line.
Despite working their way to mere inches from the goal line, though, the Maulers were stopped on four consecutive plays, turning the ball over on downs.
New Orleans got the ball past midfield but was forced to punt. Pittsburgh's Isiah Hennie then ran the punt back 77 yards for a touchdown.
Hierlihy, though, missed the extra point, keeping the game tied at 15.
Pittsburgh kicked the ball out of the bounds, putting the ball on the 50-yard line. Three plays later, Bethel-Thompson took matters into his own legs, scrambling and leaping for the heroic first down on third-and-4 for the Breakers.
Later in the above-mentioned drive, Bethel-Thompson hooked up with tight end Sage Surratt on a 35-yard completion.
Three plays later, the Breakers scored their first touchdown.
On third-and-goal, Bethel-Thompson hit Jones for the goal-line score, putting New Orleans up for good.
More on the USFL:
- USFL 2023: How to watch, team previews, best players
- The full week-by-week 2023 USFL schedule
- Five potential USFL MVP candidates to keep an eye on ahead of 2023 season
- Michigan Panthers preview: Rising defense under Mike Nolan
- Pittsburgh Maulers preview: Fresh faces and a fresh start?
- Birmingham Stallions preview: Champs look to run it back
- New Jersey Generals preview: Building on a 9-1 season
- Memphis Showboats preview: QB Brady White to steer the ship
- Houston Gamblers preview: A focus on team speed
- Philadelphia Stars preview: Championship or bust
- New Orleans Breakers preview: Back to the postseason?