Birmingham Stallions Beat Michigan Panthers En Route To UFL Championship

Stallions Beat Panthers En Route To UFL Championship

The UFL playoffs are officially in action. Today, the Birmingham Stallions hosted the Michigan Panthers in the USFL Conference Championship, in what was bound to be an exciting affair.

Heading into this game, Michigan and Birmingham had just faced off last week. The Stallions came away with a 20-19 win, as Jake Bates missed a would-be game winner for the Panthers.

With a 9-1 record, the Birmingham Stallions were rolling heading into the postseason. As one of the most dominant franchises spring football has ever seen, they were looking to establish their presence as the UFL’s best. However, the Michigan Panthers had a successful season in their own regard, led by UFL Coach Of The Year Mike Nolan to a 7-3 record.

Let’s take a look at what went down in Protective Stadium today: It was a good one.

First Quarter

The Michigan Panthers received the football first, and got off to a red hot start. Danny Etling threw a dart to Siaosi Mariner, who broke away for a touchdown to open up the scoring.

It wasn’t a great opening quarter for Adrian Martinez and the Stallions. On 4th and 1 Skip Holtz opted to go for it, but Ricky Person was shut down by LB Noah Dawkins.

The Stallions defense would force a three and out, though, and Michigan settled for a 53 yard field goal, courtesy of Jake Bates.

Birmingham couldn’t get out of their own way. Penalties amassed early on, which led to a punt on 4th and 27. Michigan couldn’t capitalize entirely, but kicked another field goal to make it 12-0.

With one period of action down, Michigan had Birmingham off balance, and held a 12-0 lead.

Second Quarter

To begin the second quarter, Birmingham was able to string together a series. A big gain to Jace Sternberger put them in scoring position, and Chris Blewitt hit a short field goal.

Michigan responded with a field goal of their own, making it 15-3. Then, Noah Dawkins forced a fumble on Martinez, and Michigan took control of the football, with the recovery from Ron’Dell Carter.

What ended up costing Michigan the game was this stretch in the second quarter. Once again, they could not find a way to get in the end zone, kicking another field goal. Still, with an 18-3 lead, things were looking good.

Jake Bates would make a mistake on the kickoff, sending it out of bounds. This gave Birmingham the football at the 50, and on the next play, Martinez hit Jordan Thomas for a 50 yard touchdown. Just like that, it was 18-9.

It was all downhill for Michigan’s offense from here. Bates missed a 51 yard field goal, which gave Birmingham the opportunity to get three back on their end before the half.

Blewitt hit a 43 yard field goal, and the Michigan Panthers led 18-12 at halftime.

Third Quarter

To open up the third quarter, Deon Cain had a massive return to put Birmingham in scoring position. However, Martinez was picked off by Adonis Alexander, and Michigan took over.

The turnovers in this quarter were unbelievable. Michigan gave the ball right back, as Dondrea Tillman forced a fumble on Etling, and it was recovered by Damon Lloyd.

Just two plays later, Martinez fumbled, forced by Walter Palmore. Mika Tafua jumped on it for the Panthers, and it was back to Panthers in possession.

The two teams traded punts, which then led to even more turnovers. Etling overthrew a pass intended for Devin Gray, and Ike Brown snagged the pick.

The chaos continued. Matt Corral entered the game for Birmingham, in an effort to try and spark the offense. His second pass was tipped and intercepted by Javin White – continuing the trend of ridiculous turnovers in this period.

Then, Birmingham would catch the break – literally – that they needed. Daniel Isom came up with an interception, taking it to the house to tie up the game.

With just fifteen minutes left to play, it was tied up at 18 – and Birmingham had the football in their hands once again after a Panthers punt.

Fourth Quarter

The fourth quarter opened up with some fireworks. Matt Corral dropped a dime deep to Gary Jennings, which led to a touchdown to the speedster, Amari Rodgers. Birmingham held a 24-18 lead, and all of the momentum in the world.

While Michigan put together a decent drive, they shot themselves in the foot again. Jake Bates slipped on the field goal attempt, which resulted in a block by Birmingham.

The Stallions would ultimately put the nails in the coffin. Birmingham put together a long drive, taking up quite a bit of clock – and scored a touchdown. Corral threw a flat to Ricky Person Jr., who waltzed into the end zone. A successful PAT to Jordan Thomas made it 31-18.

With one last attempt at making something happen, Etling heaved up a prayer, which was picked off once again by Ike Brown. This effectively sealed the deal for Birmingham, with just a couple of minutes left.

The Birmingham Stallions would come away with a 31-18 win at home, advancing to the UFL Championship in St. Louis.

Standout Playmakers

QB Matt Corral: Matt Corral has been on the bench almost all year, but came out and led the Stallions to the Championship game. He completed 9 of his 11 pass attempts, throwing for 120 yards and two touchdowns after that first interception. Talk about staying ready.

RB C.J. Marable: Marable had a big day that was much appreciated for an offense that had a hard time finding a rhythm. He ran for 77 yards on just eight carries, averaging 9.6 YPC.

TE Jordan Thomas: Thomas erupted today with a couple of big plays. First, his touchdown in the second quarter set off a 28-0 run for Birmingham. Also, his PAT at the end was the icing on the cake, putting salt in the wound to Michigan.

DE Jonathan Garvin: Garvin, who’s been relatively quiet as of late, was massive today. He had five tackles, a sack, a TFL, and a PBU. His presence on the line made Etling’s life miserable all day long.

DB Ike Brown: Ike, the former Breaker, proved why Birmingham picked him up this offseason. He had two interceptions and two PBU’s, locking down the secondary – especially in the second half.

DB Daniel Isom: Isom stuffed the stat sheet today. Aside from his pick six, he had three tackles, a sack, a TFL, and a PBU. He was tremendous, and his interception he took to the house was the catalyst for the second half dominance from Birmingham.

Michigan Panthers

WR Siaosi Mariner: Mariner may have earned himself an NFL contract with the way he played down the stretch of this UFL season. He had 60 yards and a touchdown today, leading Michigan’s WR core.

LB Noah Dawkins: Dawkins had himself a day, with eight tackles and a forced fumble. He made plenty of plays for Michigan all year long, and should earn some NFL interest in the offseason.

LB Javin White: Javin White put his name on the map this year. After Frank Ginda went down, White stepped up in a huge way, and was tremendous for Michigan with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, two TFL’s, an interception, and a PBU.

Post-Game Comments

Birmingham Stallions HC Skip Holtz spoke on what went into this win:

“What a game. We said it last week, as exciting as it was last week, it led to another great matchup. Two great teams competed it out, and neither team wanted to lose. I want to give a lot of credit to Coach Nolan and his team, it was a hard fought game. They have a really good football team. They compete really hard. We were privileged to compete against them. For our players, their resolve, determination is absolutely special. We have a lot of talent on this team. I want to take a minute to commend this team and their attitudes. They refuse to lose.”

Panthers HC Mike Nolan spoke on the team’s struggles in the second half, and Birmingham’s defense stepping up:

“You know, I really think we just weren’t executing like we were in the first half. I don’t know if they made adjustments necessarily, but we went from hitting on all cylinders to not moving the ball at all.”

Final Thoughts

Corey Chamblin needs some serious credit for this win. His defense played an incredible game, holding Michigan to field goals, punts, or turnovers after that first touchdown. Michigan was just 2/12 in third down situations, and were shut out in the second half.

The Michigan Panthers had a successful season, but ultimately came up short in the end. Danny Etling’s lack of accuracy in the second half proved to be the hump that this team couldn’t quite get over.

Now, the Birmingham Stallions will be able to compete for a third championship, against either San Antonio or St. Louis.

The postseason continues tomorrow. The St. Louis Battlehawks host the San Antonio Brahmas at 7pm ET on FOX, to determine the champion of the XFL Conference.

What are your thoughts on this matchup from today between the Birmingham Stallions and Michigan Panthers? Which UFL players impressed in the game? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

 

Fubo