DC Defenders Save Season With Win Over San Antonio Brahmas

DC Defenders Save Season With Win Over San Antonio Brahmas

The San Antonio Brahmas visited the DC Defenders this week at Audi Field to complete the second half of their season series in the XFL conference. This was the first series to be completed in the XFL conference this year.

The Brahmas won game one of the series in week one to open the season, 27-12 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Chase Garbers was the starting quarterback then for San Antonio, and was an important piece to the Brahams strong start this season. He has since sustained a season-ending wrist injury, placing him on injured reserve and elevating Quinten Dormady to QB1 for OC AJ Smith’s offense.

First Quarter

The Defenders set the tone early, after a bone-crushing hit on the opening kickoff. Then, following it up with an Anthoula Kelly interception on QB Quinten Dormady’s first pass for San Antonio.

Unfortunately for DC, they were unable to turn the turnover into points after kicker Matthew McCrane missed the 56 yard field goal just wide. A rare miss from McCrane, only his second of the season.

The missed field goal gave the Brahmas a slice of momentum that led them into the red zone. San Antonio drove the ball inside the five, but was stopped on fourth down by DC’s stout defensive linemen, Niles Scott and Derick Roberson, to give the Defenders possession.

Second Quarter

The Brahmas added the game’s first points following an ugly turnover by DC, on a pass behind the line of scrimmage to running back ZaQuandre White. Brahmas kicker Ryan Santoso converted the 43 yard field goal, his longest so far this season. One thing the Defenders could not afford to do this week was shoot themselves in the foot. Backbreaking turnovers that turn into points is a prime example of that.

The Defenders had three running backs active this week against San Antonio (Harris, Hagans, and White). This was the first time all season three were active on game day. With that, the three-headed performance against the Brahams was the best performance by the running backs all year for DC. Darius Hagans led the way with 13 rushes for 63 yards (4.8 YPC), while Cam’Ron Harris trailed him with nine rushes for 39 yards, and a touchdown.

Harris’ touchdown came on the DC Defenders most impressive drive of the season, when Harris capped off a 99 yard drive with a two yard rushing touchdown to give DC the 6-3 lead over San Antonio.

The Brahmas were unable to respond to DC’s late first half touchdown, keeping the score 6-3 heading into halftime.

Halftime Thoughts

 

Third Quarter

Matthew McCrane began his revenge tour on his missed field goal from earlier, this time with a 54 yard conversion to extend DC’s lead, 9-3 over San Antonio.

The most impressive player in the second half for San Antonio was undoubtedly, running back John Lovett. Lovett ripped off a handful of 10+ yard runs, especially in situations where it seemed the Brahmas had no answer for DC’s pass defense. John Lovett’s 139 rushing yards vs. DC were the most by any player so far this season in the UFL. Following this week, Lovett also has taken over the league-lead in rushing yards, with 348 yards on 74 attempts (4.7 YPC).

Lovett even added this two yard receiving touchdown to even the score with DC, 9-9 heading into the fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter

Matthew McCrane’s busy afternoon continued down the stretch, this time converting his longest field goal of the day from 58 yards out. McCrane finished the day 2/3 (54 and 58). His final field goal pushed DC back on top, 12-9.

The Brahams swiftly marched down the field on the ensuing drive and added a field goal themselves, courtesy of Santoso from 40 yards away to tie the game at 12-12 with seven minutes remaining.

This game was a battle of field position throughout, meaning special teams became a crucial factor especially heading into crunch time. Chris Rowland made that apparent with a huge kickoff return, bringing DC to midfield after it initially appeared he returned it to the house for six points.

With excellent starting field position, the Defenders offense was aware that a field goal would not be enough on the upcoming drive. Ta’amu quickly found his most targeted receiver this season, Kelvin Harmon, for a 26 yard gain to jumpstart the drive. Harmon became the first DC Defenders receiver with 100+ yards in a game this season, with eight receptions for 101 yards this week. Harmon had 40 of his 101 yards on this scoring drive, which he personally finished off by pinpointing a pass from Ta’amu in the center of the end zone to extend DC’s lead over San Antonio, 18-12.

The Defenders defense was outstanding against a high-powered Brahmas offense, only giving up 12 points and 267 total yards. They were able to hold off the Brahmas playmakers in their final effort to tie the game, giving DC the win over San Antonio 18-12.

The Defenders and Brahmas split the season series, 1-1.

Final Thoughts

Wrote about this last week in my game preview and midseason evaluation, but Kelvin Harmon has solidified himself as a premier starting receiver for DC. It was unclear prior to the season who would be replacing the production of Lucky Jackson and Chris Blair. Through six weeks, DC has found their 2024 version of Jackson and Blair with Harmon and Ty Scott. The next step for OC Fred Kaiss’ offensive staff will be to establish a solid game plan for Harmon and Scott to consistently be on the field together, which they did a good job with this week.

With the win, DC is back to .500 at 3-3 and only a game back from second place in the XFL conference. The Defenders host the Michigan Panthers (4-2) next week at Audi Field.

For San Antonio, they fall to 4-2 this season and remain in second place in the XFL conference. The Brahmas continue their road trip next week back in Texas, visiting the Houston Roughnecks (1-5) at Rice Stadium.

What are your thoughts on this game between the DC Defenders and San Antonio Brahmas? Which UFL players impressed? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!