USFL Week 3 highlights: Gamblers edge Showboats in wild finish

USFL Week 3 highlights: Gamblers edge Showboats in wild finish

Apr 29

Week 3 of the 2023 USFL season is in full swing, and we've got you covered, with two games in action on  Saturday.

In the night game, the Houston Gamblers took down the Memphis Showboats in what was an eventful finish for their first win of the season.

Earlier in Birmingham, it was a battle of two undefeated teams, as the New Orleans Breakers (3-0) handed the Birmingham Stallions (2-1) their first loss of the season.

See the full list of regular-season week-by-week matchups here.

FINAL: Houston Gamblers 30, Memphis Showboats 26

Not happening

Memphis got the ball to midfield on the opening possession of the game but stalled and later punted, which was followed by Houston punting on its first possession. The Showboats then got the ball into Gamblers' territory on their next possession before being stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the 25-yard line.

First score

After forcing the turnover on downs, Houston put together the game's first scoring drive. 

Quarterback Kenji Bahar hit wide receiver Deontez Alexander for an 18-yard pickup on third-and-6. Six plays later, Nick Vogel connected on a 45-yard field goal, putting the Gamblers up 3-0.

Doesn't have to be pretty

The Showboats moved the ball once again on the ensuing possession, but they came away with points this time. 

Quarterback Cole Kelley picked up a first down with his legs, which got Memphis into the red zone. Four plays later, Brandon Wright connected on a 35-yard field goal.

Just get him the ball

Bahar got the ball to wide receiver Justin Hall on a screen play, and the latter put together one of the highlight reel scores of the season.

After hauling in the pass, Hall sliced and diced his way for a first down, evaded a series of tackles and ran around the Showboats defense for a 41-yard touchdown.

Going DEEP into the playbook

Vogel kicked the ball out of bounds after the score, giving Memphis the ball at the 50-yard line. On the first play of the possession, Kelley hit Osirus Mitchell for a 29-yard gain.

Later in the drive, the Showboats were faced with fourth-and-1 at the goal line and pulled out a trick play. With Kelley under center, Memphis snapped the ball through its quarterback to running back Alex Collins, who found tight end Jay Jay Wilson for the touchdown.


Showboats wide receiver Vinny Papale will miss the remainder of the game due to a chest injury.

Missed opportunity

Houston and Memphis each went three-and-out after the trick-play score. Then the Gamblers had at scoring chance before halftime, but Bahar was intercepted in the end zone by safety Lamont McPhatter II.

The game was tied at 10 at halftime.

Picked into points

Houston and Memphis went three-and-out to begin the second half, followed by Houston going three-and-out once again. Then Kelley was picked off by linebacker J.T. Tyler on the next possession. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play on Memphis tackle Jarron Jones gave Houston the ball on the Showboats' 13-yard line.

Five plays later, Mark Thompson ran in a 5-yard score.


Rashard Davis fumbled the ensuing kickoff for Memphis, giving Houston the ball at the Showboats' 38-yard line. Four plays later, Thompson ran in another score. This one went for 15 yards and saw the Houston running back bulldoze a pair of defenders in the process.

Vogel missed the extra point, though. Houston led 23-10.

Trying to come back

Davis ran the ensuing kickoff for Memphis out to the Houston 39-yard line. Kelley later moved the sticks on fourth-and-12 with a completion to wide receiver Ryan McDaniel, which led to a 26-yard field goal from Wright.

The Showboats then attempted the alternative kickoff, but Kelley's pass attempt was incomplete.

Another Showboats injury

Back in it

Houston and Memphis went three-and-out, followed by Houston going three-and-out again. Then the Showboats made it a one-score game.

Kelley hit wide receiver John Mitchell for a 34-yard pickup. Three plays later, Kelley hit running back Kerrith Whyte, who took off for a 30-yard touchdown, bringing Memphis to within three points.


Houston got the ball into field goal range on the next possession, but Vogel missed a 40-yard attempt. Kelley and the Showboats then went to work.

The Memphis quarterback kicked off the drive with a pair of completions to wide receiver Derrick Dillon and John Mitchell that combined for 42 yards.

Two plays later, Osirus Mitchell pulled off a remarkable, juggling touchdown grab to give the Showboats the lead.

Wright missed the extra point, though. Memphis led 26-23.


The Gamblers got past the 50-yard line on the next possession, and then Bahar found tight end Josh Pederson down the field for a 32-yard completion, putting the ball on the Showboats' 10-yard line. Two plays later, Bahar hit Hall near the sideline, and he stayed in bounds for the game-winning, 10-yard touchdown.

Pregame scene