USFL Week 2: What to expect in Michigan Panthers vs. Philadelphia Stars
Top quarterbacks Case Cookus and Josh Love meet up when the Stars take on the Panthers.
By Eric Williams
FOX Sports Writer
Two of the top quarterbacks in the USFL after the first week’s slate of games face off when the Philadelphia Stars host the Michigan Panthers in the nightcap of a doubleheader held at Thomas Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Michigan signal caller Josh Love earned offensive the offensive player of the week for his effort in a win over the Houston Gamblers, completing 18 of 20 passes for 215 yards and three scores.
Stars quarterback Case Cookus was efficient in his first start as well, finishing 20-of-29 for 212 passing yards and three scores in a road win over the Memphis Showboats.
Here’s a breakdown of Sunday’s matchup.
Michigan Panthers: What will QB Love do for an encore?
Love completed his first seven passes of the game on his way to a USFL-record 90% completion percentage. The San Jose State product completed passes to eight different players and had five passing plays of 20 or more yards.
"We have some talented guys that have some juice," Love said. "A lot of guys in the slot are really capable of running option routes, making good decisions and getting open. We ran a lot of those. Guys got open, we just made quick decisions and hit ‘em."
The director of Michigan’s offense will receive another challenge in a Philadelphia defense led by last year’s USFL interception leader in cornerback Channing Stribling.
The Michigan product got his first interception of the young season last week, as the Stars held the Memphis Showboats to 198 passing yards.
The Panthers will have to be a little more buttoned up after making a few mistakes on offense and special teams last week.
"The nice thing about this game is we’re going to learn from it, because we made some mistakes, but we get to go home with a victory," Michigan head coach Mike Nolan said. "But what’s sour is when you lose, and you’re trying to learn from those all the time. You want to get a win under your belt.
"So, if you’re good enough to make some mistakes and still win, you feel pretty good about your football team."
Philadelphia Stars: What’s the plan to contain Breeland Speaks?
One of the stars defensively last week for the Panthers was edge rusher Speaks.
A second-round selection by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2018 draft, the 27-year-old pass rusher finished with seven combined tackles and a league-leading three sacks in Michigan’s win over Houston.
Speaks bounced around to six different teams during his four years in the NFL but appears to have found a home with the Panthers.
The Stars will be tasked with figuring out a way to slow down Speaks. Philadelphia had trouble at times protecting Cookus last week, allowing five sacks by the Showboats.
"We have the ability to handle just about anything," Philadelphia head coach Bart Andrus. "And believe me, these guys will tell you that we work against pressures every day in practice, including the last one of the week. I feel good where we are at, in terms of the personnel that we have. We just have to do it better, that’s all."
More on the USFL from FOX Sports:
- USFL 2023: How to watch, team previews, best players
- The full week-by-week 2023 USFL schedule
- USFL Week 1 power rankings
- Takeaways from the Breakers win over the Maulers
- Takeaways from the Panthers win over the Gamblers
- Takeaways from the Stallions win over the Generals
- Takeaways from the Stars win over the Showboats