Birmingham Stallions Hold Off Michigan Panthers On Road

Birmingham Stallions Hold Off Michigan Panthers On Road

Sunday’s slate of UFL action kicked off at Ford Field. The Michigan Panthers hosted the Birmingham Stallions, in what was a battle between two undefeated teams.

Heading into this affair, the Panthers were riding the high of Jake Bates. His 64 yard game winner pushed them past St. Louis a week ago, after it seemed like they had blown a late lead.

For the Stallions, they took care of business against the XFL Champs, ultimately taking down the Renegades 27-14.

With two excellent defenses going at it, this game was clearly controlled by that side of the football.

First Quarter

Michigan received the football first, but couldn’t get anything going offensively. Their inability to run the football, like we saw on this opening possession, turned out to be a trend that continued for the rest of the outing. Jordan Thompson made a couple of big plays for John Chavis’ defense early on, looking just like the Thompson we saw a year ago.

After a couple of three and outs from both sides, the Birmingham Stallions struck first. Former Maulers kicker Chris Blewitt knocked through a 34 yard field goal, and the Stallions went on top 3-0.

The pressure just kept being applied from Birmingham. Michigan’s offensive line had zero answers for their pass rush, and Taco Charlton got home to E.J. Perry.

Second Quarter

The Michigan Panthers have struggled mightily in red zone situations. This continued today. After getting deep into Birmingham territory, Perry threw an errant pass, which was picked off by safety AJ Thomas.

Birmingham mixed things up between QB’s Matt Corral and Adrian Martinez, which was expected given how Skip Holtz likes to use both his signal callers. Martinez took over in the second quarter, and his legs proved to be quite valuable as they couldn’t pass against this Panthers secondary.

Michigan’s defense held strong in the red zone, though, and Chris Blewitt gave the Stallions a 6-0 lead. Danny Etling came into the game for the Panthers, but proceeded to fumble the ball, which was recovered by Kenny Robinson. Birmingham took the ball back once again. This led to another field goal off the leg of Blewitt.

The Panthers finally discovered some life, though. E.J. Perry connected with Marcus Simms, who burned Mark Gilbert for a 76 yard touchdown. The one point attempt was successful, and the Panthers pulled it within two points.

Birmingham would respond. After the teams traded possessions through punts, the Stallions smoothly marched down the field, led by Matt Corral. Ricky Person Jr. would run it in from a couple of yards out, and a successful two point conversion to Kevin Austin made it a ten point game.

Jake Bates figured that one 60+ yard field goal simply wasn’t enough for him. As we went into the half, Bates crushed a 62 yard kick, making it a 17-10 ball game.

Third Quarter

As the second half got underway, Birmingham received the football. Their biggest issue today was finishing off drives. While they got deep into Panthers territory again, they settled for another field goal. It was the same story for Michigan, and it remained a seven point affair.

Jake Bates has been the most impressive Panthers player so far. His second field goal of the day was from 53 yards out, and he made it look easy.

Most of the third quarter was controlled by both defenses, and we went into the final fifteen minutes with a 20-13 ball game.

Fourth Quarter

As the fourth period progressed, the Birmingham Stallions put together a drive. They pushed the ball deep into Michigan territory. However, DB Keith Gipson Jr. came up clutch for Michigan, intercepting Matt Corral on a scramble drill.

Michigan still could not capitalize. They punted the ball away, and put the pressure on their defense to get another stop. That’s exactly what Collin Bauer’s unit did, and Michigan had another shot at it.

After putting themselves in a position to tie things up, Birmingham’s defense did their thing once again. On fourth down, E.J. Perry was brought down by Taco Charlton, effectively ending the game.

The Birmingham Stallions came away with a hard fought win on the road, taking down the Michigan Panthers 20-13.

Standout Playmakers

RB C.J. Marable: While the offense as a whole was relatively rough for Birmingham, C.J. Marable had a solid day. He posted 54 rushing yards and broke off a couple of big gains at important moments for the team.

DB Lorenzo Burns: Burns continues to show up week in and week out. As a three year veteran in Birmingham’s defense, he’s continually produced at a high level. Once again, Burns was lockdown today, and led the team with seven tackles.

DL Jordan Thompson: Thompson burst out of the gate, setting the tone early for the defensive line. He set an example for the rest of the group, finishing with three tackles, a sack, and a TFL.

DE Taco Charlton: Charlton was a menace all afternoon long, with three TFL’s and the game-saving pressure on Perry.

Michigan Panthers

WR Marcus Simms: Simms bloomed late for Michigan last year, but has been playing quite well so far in 2024. He’s been utilized in the right way – as a deep threat. He now has scores of 72 and 76 yards in his last three games with this Panthers team.

LB Frank Ginda: Frank the Tank was on a mission today, and once again posted an impressive stat-line against the STallions. After totaling 18 tackles against Birmingham last year, he led Michigan with 14 tackles today – and passed 200 career tackles with the Panthers.

S Corrion Ballard: The secondary as a whole played quite well for Michigan today. Corrion Ballard did an excellent job in coverage, and compiled nine tackles.

DE Breeland Speaks: Speaks continues to be a force on the defensive line. He finished the day with four tackles, and led the Panthers with two TFL.

Post-Game Comments

Speaking with Coach Holtz after the game, he was not pleased at all with the offense’s execution in scoring position:

“I think offensively, we moved the ball, but our red zone offense was pitiful. It was not what we’ve become accustomed to, or what we expect. We had some mistakes down there that we have to get cleaned up. But, it’s a lot easier to correct those mistakes after a win than after a loss.”

Holtz also went on to describe how he wants to continue to use both quarterbacks moving forward:

“We have two quarterbacks who are playing really well right now. They protected the ball today, and did a nice job to move the chains. Didn’t put the ball in danger. I know Corral had the one interception in the red zone on the scramble, probably wishes he had that one on a string. But we have two really good quarterbacks, and they both came here to get film, so that’s something we’re trying to build around.”

Panthers HC Mike Nolan:

“Both of the quarterbacks for the Stallions performed well. They kicked our heels by running. Both defenses did a good job as well, that’s probably our strength as well as Jake. We did a good job of keeping them out of the end zone.”

Final Thoughts

This was by no means a perfect win for Birmingham. This team still has a lot of growing to do, and one has to wonder if the two-QB system that Skip Holtz is implementing is hurting that potential. Both Corral and Martinez couldn’t find a rhythm passing the football. They can’t continue to count on their defense to bail them out like they did today.

Regardless, Birmingham is 2-0. Holtz has this team on track to make another deep run, which is no surprise. The back to back champs have a lot of football left to play, but have knocked off two tough opponents so far.

Last year, the Michigan Panthers had offensive line issues all year long. A week ago, they played very well against St. Louis. Today, it was a rough go. Birmingham’s defensive front was too much for Michigan to handle. Wes Hills and Nate McCrary combined for just 13 yards on nine carries. With that lack of production, E.J. Perry had too much pressure on his shoulders to perform, which ultimately cost them the game.

Take a look at what Birmingham’s defense produced:

With this type of dominance, it’s not surprising to see that Michigan only put up 13 points. Marcel Bellefeuille’s offense has not gotten off to an ideal start in the UFL, and fans will have to hope that it will straighten itself out sooner than later.

Did you watch this game between the Michigan Panthers and Birmingham Stallions? Which UFL players impressed you today? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!