This matchup will prove to be pivotal in the North Division. Right now, the Philadelphia Stars lead the North with a 3-3 record, winning two straight. After dropping to fourth in the division, Bart Andrus has the team back on track.
When your own teammate prevents you from making a game ending INT
The Pittsburgh Maulers are coming off a rough shutout loss at the hands of the Memphis Showboats. They now sit at 2-4 – but, they already beat Philadelphia once this season. If they can sweep the series, that puts them in a position to make a playoff push down the stretch.
Let’s take a look at the key factors heading into this game, and what we can expect across the board.
When these two teams faced off in week three, it was a dominant effort from the Pittsburgh Maulers. While the final score was 21-13, throughout the entirety of the game, Pittsburgh was in control.
Troy Williams saw his first start in that outing, helping lead the team to a road win. Chris Blewitt was the “man of the hour”, knocking through five field goals to keep the Maulers in front.
This game was a slug-fest. Both teams barely compiled over 200 yards on the day, as the defenses were relentless from start to finish. LB Reuben Foster had a field day for Pittsburgh, leading the way with 11 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 PD, and an interception.
It will be intriguing to see how the quarterbacks perform this weekend. Both Troy Williams and Case Cookus have had some excellent moments in the USFL, while also struggling to perform consistently throughout the season.
Cookus, in particular, has struggled to protect the football. He’s thrown seven interceptions through six weeks, making some questionable decisions. With the offense unable to find their groove, Case has tried to do a bit too much at times.
Meanwhile, Troy Williams has provided a spark to Pittsburgh’s offense. It’s no surprise that they picked up their first win of the season, when Troy finally got the green light.
Troy Williams has been improving with each and every week.
However, he hasn’t been able to fully settle into the offense with Ray Horton quite yet. Last week was an example of just that, as Memphis seemed to have his number all day long. Philadelphia hasn’t always been able to slow down mobile quarterbacks, so Williams will have to look to use his legs often, as he did a few weeks ago.
There is no shortage of talent for either team in the USFL. To start with, the Philadelphia Stars feature some of the league’s premier playmakers on the offensive side of the football.
Matt Colburn and Dexter Williams are an incredible backfield. While it hasn’t been an ideal start to the season, last week proved that the duo can do damage, when the offensive line provides them with the proper protection and blocking.
Corey Coleman, Diondre Overton, and Devin Gray have been consistent for Case Cookus all year long. With the team missing Jordan Suell and Chris Rowland down the stretch, they’re going to need more production from their trio of wide receivers. Coleman, the former NFL first rounder, is proving his worth to the team – constantly making something happen for the Stars.
On the other hand, Pittsburgh will have to hope their wide outs can get into a groove on Saturday. Tre Walker and Bailey Gaither are remarkably talented, but were held in check last week. Isiah Hennie was sensational, recording eight catches for 103 yards.
If Pittsburgh can’t run the football, they’re in trouble. Against Memphis, the team combined for just 56 yards on the ground, averaging 3.3 YPC. The team needs to see more production from Madre London and Garrett Groshek moving forward.
Defenses On Top
Something we can certainly expect in Saturday’s matchup, is for both defenses to be playing at a high level. Pittsburgh’s defense has been their rock and foundation all season long. Across the board, the amount of high-level defenders they have is simply ridiculous. Jarren Horton has built arguably the best defense in the entire USFL, as they show up week in and week out.
Up front, it’s tough to slow down the attack of Boogie Roberts, Olive Sagapolu, Kyahva Tezino, Reuben Foster, etc. – but, if a team attempts to pass – Arnold Tarpley, Mark Gilbert, Bryce Torneden, and plenty of others are lurking in the secondary. If Philadelphia plays like they did in week three, it’s going to be tough for them to score against this unit.
With that being said, the Philadelphia Stars might have the hottest defense in the league, at least looking at the past two weeks. After giving up 41 points to the Houston Gamblers in week four, this group has rediscovered their swagger.
Amani Dennis is someone who has to be highlighted. He’s been one of the elite corners in the USFL this season, and a top performer for the Stars. His pick six against the Breakers willed the team to victory in week six.
Meanwhile, the defensive line has finally been able to generate pressure. New Orleans has one of the top offenses in the league, but Philadelphia effectively shut down McLeod Bethel-Thompson, and Wes Hills, which is an impressive feat.
The Stars defense has to find a way to contain Troy Williams. In week three, Williams consistently found a way to escape the pocket, stretching plays out with his legs. However, the team adjusted in week five, playing better defense against De’Andre Johnson. Considering Pittsburgh’s ground game is practically non existent outside of Troy, the Stars will be in excellent shape if they can simply keep him in the pocket.
Philadelphia Stars | Bart Andrus: It hasn’t been a perfect season by any means for Bart Andrus. However, his team has won two in a row, shockingly jumping from fourth to first in the North Division. Andrus has to find a way to get his offense in a rhythm, as they haven’t scored a touchdown in two straight weeks.
Pittsburgh Maulers | Ray Horton: For the first time, the Pittsburgh Maulers were shut out. Ray Horton has impressed in his head coaching debut, but looked out of sorts against Memphis a week ago. This weekend will be a true test for Horton, as his team faces a crucial turning point in the season.
If these trends continue in the same direction, the Philadelphia Stars do feel like the slight favorites in this one. Their offense has been stuck in a rut – yet – they’ve still found a way to win two straight. If this is the game where Cookus and the Stars wake up…it could get ugly.
That being said, Pittsburgh has already beat this team once. If they can replicate what they did right in week three, the season sweep is in their hands.
What are your thoughts on this upcoming USFL matchup between the Philadelphia Stars and Pittsburgh Maulers? Which USFL players will perform well? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!