USFL Week 9: Gamblers hand Stallions first loss of the season
Week 9 of the USFL season continued Saturday with the Gamblers defeating the Stallions in a thriller. Here are the top plays.
Week 9 of the USFL season continued Saturday with the Houston Gamblers handing the Birmingham Stallions their first loss of the inaugural season, 17-15.
It is the Gamblers' first win since Week 1 and just their second win of the season, as they improve to 2-7. On the other side, the Stallions, who have already clinched the top spot in the South Division, drop to 8-1.
Earlier Saturday, the New Jersey Generals clinched the North Division with a 25-23 win over the Michigan Panthers.
Here are the top plays.
Houston Gamblers 17, Birmingham Stallions 15
Not so fast!
The Gamblers went three-and-out on their opening possession, thanks to clutch back-to-back tackles from Stallions linebacker DeMarquis Gates that stopped Houston in its tracks early.
Birmingham capped off an 18-play, 89-yard drive that took most of the remainder of the first quarter — 10 minutes and seven seconds, to be exact — with a field goal to take a 3-0 lead headed into the second frame.
Need for speed
Houston bounced back on its second drive of the game, starting with a monster 58-yard kickoff return from Gamblers wide receiver JoJo Ward.
Then, Gamblers QB Kenji Bahar escaped pressure to pull off an incredible 18-yard throw to tight end Julian Allen that put Houston deep in the red zone. The big gain led to a quick field goal to knot things up, 3-3.
Back and forth
The Stallions answered with a field goal of their own on their following drive to take a 6-3 lead, but the Gamblers returned the favor with their second field goal of the day to keep things even once again, 6-6.
Meanwhile, things got heated as halftime neared.
Gamblers take the lead
Houston made it a 9-6 game just before the half, thanks to a 50-yarder from Nick Vogel — his third field goal of the day. Just like that, the Gamblers had the edge over the undefeated Stallions.
Houston LB Donald Payne became the first USFL player to reach 100 total tackles this season.
Houston gains momentum
The Gamblers opened the second half with a huge stop, holding the Stallions to just one yard and forcing them to go three-and-out.
Returning the favor
The Stallions' defense got in on the action, too, stopping the Gamblers from getting anything going on their first drive of the second half.
Houston kept clicking on all cylinders. First, the Gamblers came away with a safety after Stallions QB J'Mar Smith drew an intentional grounding penalty from the end zone.
Birmingham takes over
The Stallions bounced back on their ensuing drive, taking a 12-11 lead on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Smith to WR Adrian Hardy. It was nearly intercepted, but Smith's risky play paid off this time.
The two-point conversion was unsuccessful, however, and it remained a one-point game as the third quarter came to a close.
The Gamblers opened up the final frame with a score of their own, as Bahar found wideout Isaiah Zuber at the goal-line to take a 17-12 edge.
Closing the gap
The Stallions added a short field goal early in the fourth quarter to keep things close, 17-15. Birmingham got the ball back shortly after — after Houston went three-and-out on the following drive — but the Stallions weren't able to capitalize on the possession and came up short on a crucial third down.
Birmingham's perfect season ends
The Stallions got the ball back with 1:44 to spare, but Smith was picked off near midfield by Gamblers cornerback Micah Abernathy, which sealed the win for Houston.