Michigan Panthers Dominate Defenders On Road In DC

Michigan Panthers Dominate Defenders On Road In DC

Week seven of the UFL continued today. The DC Defenders hosted the Michigan Panthers in what was a must win game for DC – hoping to stay alive in the XFL Conference.

Heading into this one, the Michigan Panthers were on a roll, having won two in a row. With a 4-2 record, they comfortably sit above the rest of the USFL Conference, as Houston and Memphis were 1-5 after week six.

Meanwhile, the DC Defenders are in a dogfight. The 5-1 St. Louis Battlehawks seem a bit out of reach, but they came away with a massive win at home against the San Antonio Brahmas this past weekend, 18-12. With a 3-3 record, the Defenders were looking to get back above .500.

Let’s take a look at what went down at Audi Field today, as it was the first time these two franchises have ever clashed.

First Quarter

Michigan received the football to begin this game. While Gavin Holmes muffed the kick which put them in terrible field position, Matt Colburn put the team on his back. He ripped off a few big runs, which put them in the red zone.

Brian Lewerke was filling in for an injured Danny Etling, and looked poised on this first possession. He took off for a touchdown scramble of his own, and a successful one point attempt made it 7-0 early.

The DC Defenders did not have the same success. After a big run from Keke Coutee, the team got pushed back due to a penalty. The wet conditions on the field proved to be an issue, as Matt McCrane missed from 43 yards out.

Marcel Bellefeuille, Michigan’s offensive coordinator, clearly wanted to run right at DC during this game. This was evident yet again, with Colburn – and Wes Hills – making an impact on this next drive. Hills ended up running it in from a couple yards out, and the Panthers took a 13-0 lead.

When DC needs a spark, it feels like Ty Scott is their go to guy. He caught a slant on a pass from Jordan Ta’amu, and escaped Keith Gipson Jr. – taking it 70 yards to the house. Just like that, it was 13-6.

With one quarter behind us, it was a high scoring affair with 19 points on the board already. We would have another bit of excitement at the end of the period. Michigan had to punt – but Chris Rowland muffed it – which led to a recovery for DaShaun White.

Second Quarter

Michigan shot themselves in the foot on their drive, being put in a 4th and 27 situation. Luckily, Jake Bates is on this football team, and knocked through a 51 yard field goal despite the conditions.

The Panthers defense continued to step up. Javin White, who’s filling in as a starter for an injured Frank Ginda, made a nice play on a football, which eventually resulted in another Defenders punt.

While the Panthers put together a solid drive into DC territory, a fourth down attempt would not go as planned. Wes Hills slipped in the backfield, and the Defenders got the stop they desperately needed.

DC couldn’t get out of their own way. A couple of miscues from Ta’amu led to a sack from Ron’dell Carter, and Michigan got the football back.

As time wound down in the half, Michigan was able to get more points on the board. It was an impressive group effort for the Panthers, who rolled into halftime with a 19-6 lead, with Jake Bates hitting a short field goal to end the half.

Third Quarter

The DC Defenders still couldn’t find a way to generate some positive momentum. After a decent march, they went for it on 4th and 1, and Javin White made his way into the backfield to stop Darius Hagans from converting.

Michigan continued to run the football at a high level. After getting into the red zone, Davin Bellamy did make an excellent stop on Bryce Perkins, and the Panthers settled for a 40 yard field goal from Jake Bates.

Jordan Ta’amu struggled today with finding a way to escape the pressure. On third down, Breeland Speaks absolutely pancaked Ta’amu, which led to another DC punt.

Things continued to get worse for the Defenders. After forcing a punt from Michigan, Deondre Francois had to come in the game since Ta’amu was banged up. A couple of plays into his first possession, he got hurt.

With fifteen minutes left to play, the Michigan Panthers held a comfortable 22-6 lead.

Fourth Quarter

Jalan McClendon looked relatively decent on his first drive, all things considered. He helped the team get into field goal range – but then missed on a crosser route that could have resulted in a touchdown. Instead, DC kicked a short field goal with Matt McCrane.

The Defenders defense played better football in the second half. They got another stop, giving their offense another chance to make something happen.

Disappointingly, their offense couldn’t find a groove. With the quarterback injuries – and a hamstring injury to Kelvin Harmon that took him out of the game, the Defenders couldn’t find any life. On 4th and 15, McClendon scrambled and was stopped short, turning the ball over on downs.

The game came to a close, with the Michigan Panthers coming away with a 22-9 win on the road over the DC Defenders.

Standout Playmakers

RB Matt Colburn II: Matt played the best game of his UFL career today, and it came at a perfect time for Michigan. With the quarterback issues, they needed someone to step up on the ground, and this time it was Matt’s turn. He rushed for 137 yards on just 16 carries.

WR Samson Nacua: Nacua has emerged as someone who can make some plays for this Michigan offense. He caught six passes today for 45 yards.

LB Javin White: Stepping up in the absence of Frank Ginda was Javin White, who made an impact with three tackles, a TFL, and a PBU.

DE Kenny Willekes: One of the underrated defenders on this team, Willekes made an impact in the second half with a big sack, and a TFL.

DC Defenders

WR Ty Scott: Scott was one of the few bright spots on this offense today, with two catches for 87 yards. His touchdown in the first quarter gave DC some life when they needed it.

DE Davin Bellamy: Bellamy did his thing no surprise, with five tackles, a sack, and two TFL’s today. His presence on the defensive line has been key for Gregg Williams’ defense all year long.

Key Statistics

Across the board, the Michigan Panthers controlled the tempo of this game. They were able to determine the outcome of this game, simply because they executed on both sides of the football.

Some statistics that Michigan dominated today:

  • First Downs: Michigan, 18; DC, 9
  • Total Yards: Michigan, 332; DC, 235
  • Time Of Possession: Michigan, 34:42; DC, 25:05
  • Rushing Yards: Michigan, 187; DC, 58

Final Thoughts

For the DC Defenders, they were unable to find a way to stop Matt Colburn and Wes Hills. Marcel Bellefeuille called another excellent game, which allowed for the Panthers to take an early lead – never giving it up.

At 5-2, the Michigan Panthers are very close to locking in a postseason berth. They’ve consistently gotten better from week to week, despite all the injuries they have faced.

Meanwhile, the DC Defenders are at a point where they need to figure things out quickly. They’re back under .500 at 3-4, and risk missing out on the playoffs if they can’t win out.

Week eight will see Michigan face off at home against Memphis. Meanwhile, the Defenders will travel to take on the St. Louis Battlehawks.

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