The 1-1 New Jersey Generals head to Detroit in week three to face the 2-0 Michigan Panthers in their home opener. In arguably the game of the week, it’ll be a battle for first place in the North Division of the USFL. Both teams are coming off two-score wins in week two, with the Generals defeating the Pittsburgh Maulers 20-3 and the Panthers handling the Philadelphia Stars 24-10. It’s also a clash of the two leading rushers of the league in Darius Victor for New Jersey and Reggie Corbin for Michigan. We should expect a tightly contested game of two playoff hopeful squads.
Generals Offense vs. Panthers Defense
The Generals had a bounce-back win against the Maulers in week two where they doubled their point total from week one. Despite a better day scoring, the offense still didn’t look as good as they did last season, but it was a step up. They improved in the red zone from week one and also ran the ball well again, going over the century mark for the second straight week. They lead the league in rushing yards so it’s clear what their plan of attack is. Still, Mike Riley continues to play both quarterbacks De’Andre Johnson and Dakota Prukop. We should expect the same this week, but with an added boost to the offense as running back Trey Williams returns after a two-week absence to start the year. His presence should help take some pressure off the Generals signal callers. New Jersey will have a tough task ahead though going up against a Michigan defense that has eight takeaways through two weeks. Priority number one for the quarterbacks should be not giving the ball away and let the run game set up play-action.
Darius Victor (@yungvitov) scores his first TD of the year down by the goal line following the takeaway by the defense. The @USFLGenerals pulling away in the 4th quarter, scoring on back-to-back offensive plays. 20-3 with less than 10 mins remaining.#USFLpic.twitter.com/j78ko8ZtjM
The Panthers are giving up only 71.5 yards per game on the ground, so this is a strength-on-strength matchup in the Motor City. With the passing offense still trying to find their footing, it’s clear the Generals will try to pound the rock and win with the duo of Darius Victor and Trey Williams, much like 2022. Mike Riley will need to find a balance with this offense to have any hope of securing a victory in a hostile environment. Defensive Player of the Week Frank Ginda and co. are going to rush the passer and stop the run which has been a recipe for success. Despite this, the Generals run game is the best the Panthers have faced this year. Their main goal should be trying to force the Generals offense into third-and-longs and make them drop back and throw the ball. If New Jersey can’t establish the run and protect the ball, they have no chance to outdo the stingy 11.5 points per game the Panthers are giving up. This is a top-two defense in the USFL and stars like Breeland Speaks and the aforementioned Ginda will look to cause disruption in the trenches all afternoon.
The Panthers offense is humming through the air and on the ground. They’re averaging 26.5 points per game and are third in the league in total yards. Josh Love has been one of the league’s top quarterbacks through two weeks and has kept this offense on track consistently. After setting the USFL completion percentage record in week one, he still led this offense to 24 points in Canton despite bad weather conditions in week two. Playing in a dome at home should help him clean up some mistakes and continue to shine. If he has time, he’ll be able to find wide receivers Joe Walker and Trey Quinn for big plays down the field. Love also has All-USFL running back Reggie Corbin behind him to help maintain balance for Michigan. Corbin is tied with Darius Victor of the Generals with 160 rushing yards through two weeks and continues to be a big-play threat. In week two he ran for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns and sealed the game for Michigan. Balance is the name of the game for this team, but they’ll have a tough matchup against a terrific run defense in New Jersey, giving up 78.5 yards per game on the ground.
The Generals need to start by stopping Reggie Corbin and his running mate Stevie Scott out of the backfield. Their best chance in slowing the Panthers offensive firepower is similar to what Michigan wants to do on defense, make them one-dimensional. The defense was outstanding in week two and created three turnovers against Pittsburgh, putting the game away late in the second half. The secondary is still questionable and will have to step up if their front seven is able to stifle the Panthers run game. If they’re able to create multiple turnovers again and set up the offense with good field position, they can take over this game just like last week.
This game is going to tell a lot about how the race for the North is going to play out throughout the remainder of the season. It’s a question of whether the Generals have regressed or will find their rhythm and get back to last season’s form, as well as if the Panthers are for real. It’s a battle of two outstanding running backs against terrific run defenses that want to create turnovers. Whoever is able to capitalize on a mistake and create a chunk play may be the victor in this one. Regardless, it should be an exciting game that will likely be won in the fourth quarter.
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