By Greg Auman
FOX Sports Writer
The USFL had 13 quarterbacks attempt passes in its opening weekend, and nine of them are between 25 and 27 years old, but the outlier is 34-year-old McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who threw for a league-best 303 yards in his New Orleans Breakers debut after spending the last six years in the Canadian Football League.
"We struggled a little bit offensively early, and a veteran guy like himself has been there, done that, so it wasn't hard for him to get refocused and get our guys going in the second half," Breakers coach John DeFilippo said Thursday. "I think he was like 18-for-20 in the second half, something ridiculous. It was really, really good. A guy like him that's played a lot of football, there was zero panic in his voice, and it's great to have a guy like that."
Bethel-Thompson won a pair of Grey Cups and had two 4,000-yard passing seasons with the Toronto Argonauts, including a league-high 4,731 yards on the way to a title in 2022. He wanted more time with his family in returning to the United States and is hopeful a solid showing with the Breakers can get him another look in an NFL training camp this fall. He had nine stints with five NFL teams from 2011-16 but never got to play in a regular-season game. Last week's opener saw Bethel-Thompson throw the winning touchdown to running back Anthony Jones with 1:13 left, after leaping through the air to convert a key third down on the final drive.
New Orleans' opener was a strong one defensively, with 15 points allowed, including a punt-return touchdown, and DeFilippo said he wouldn't have taken the Breakers' job if he didn't have Jon Tenuta back as defensive coordinator. "I thought we'd have a really good defense, but I didn't know we'd have that good a defense," DeFilippo said. "I thought we played lights-out defensively."
On Saturday in Birmingham, the Breakers (1-0) will try to continue a solid start against the Houston Gamblers (0-1), who committed four turnovers in the second half of last week's opening loss to Michigan. The only player in the league with two rushing touchdowns is former Oklahoma and Utah running back T.J. Pledger, who had two scores in last week's loss. He rushed 14 times for 41 yards, which ranks him seventh in the league in rushing.
USeFuL notes ...
The Breakers not only got a 5-for-5 showing on field goals from kicker Matt Coghlin in last week's opening win, but he stepped in and handled punts after Matt White injured his ankle early in the game, earning the league's Special Teams Player of the Week honors ... New Orleans not only gets its first two games in his home base in Birmingham, but will play there next week as a road team against the hometown Stallions. ... Houston's leading receiver in last week's opener was tight end Josh Pederson, 25, who is the son of Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson. Pederson, who had two catches for 23 yards, has spent time with the NFL's 49ers, Saints and Chiefs but has yet to play in a regular-season NFL game.
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