Both times these teams played this season, Houston had the edge. Their offensive attack was too much for Arlington to handle, in both week two and week ten.
However, Bob Stoops will look to shift the momentum today. The Arlington Renegades have been stagnant as an offense, but saw some improvements when Luis Perez took over. Meanwhile, the Houston Roughnecks cruised through the South, going 6-0 in divisional games.
Tonight was the first XFL playoff game in over 20 years. Let’s take a look at what happened, as fans were treated to an unexpected result.
It was an excellent start for the Arlington Renegades. Luis Perez and De’Veon Smith got to work, as Smith carried the team down the field. Perez was phenomenal, making plays with his legs to keep the drive alive. Then, he avoided the pressure – and found JaVonta Payton in the endzone to put them up 6-0.
What an excellent start for Luis Perez and the @XFLRenegades. Luis was 4/5 for 28 yards on their opening drive, finding Ja'Vante Payton for the score.
Houston wouldn’t get off on the same foot. After a decent march down the field, Wade Phillips decided to go for it on 4th and 3. They failed, and Arlington took over. The Roughnecks defense held strong, forcing a punt from Arlington.
The Houston Roughnecks couldn’t get into a rhythm. Donald Payne made his return to the Renegades defense, and made an immediate impact, shutting down their drive. With one quarter of play in the books, it was a 6-0 ball game.
Luis Perez did not want to go home today. He came out firing, finding Payton again on a deep ball with no one in coverage. Payton waltzed into the endzone, and then did the same on the two point conversion. Just like that, the Renegades led 14-0.
LUIS. MF. PEREZ. The spring football legend is firing on all cylinders today, finding JaVonta Payton again for another big-time @XFLRenegades score.
Cole McDonald came into the game to replace Silvers, which sparked their offense. Houston swiftly marched down the field with McDonald at the helm, using his legs and his arm. Jeremy Cox capped off the drive with a one yard score, and Houston pulled within six.
🚨 Touchdown Houston !
Avec Cole McDonald aux commandes sur ce drive Houston a enfin trouvé un bon rythme de jeu et arrive à atteindre la end zone avec Jeremy Cox à la course pour terminer le drive. #XFL#XFL2023pic.twitter.com/HqzYIGlAQk
Playoff Perez was in full effect for Arlington. It was a seamless drive for the Renegades, with Luis dropping a dime to Brandon Arconado in the back of the end zone. Arconado made an incredible catch, and Arlington went up 20-8.
Houston’s offense continued to stall out, and they punted. Arlington put together an excellent drive, pushing the ball down the field with ease. Perez was absolutely slinging it, and put the team in a spot to score again. Taylor Russolino knocked through a short kick, extending the lead.
Heading into halftime, the Arlington Renegades led 23-8.
– Luis Perez is playing his best football of the year. Talk about perfect timing for the @XFLRenegades. – Houston's offense is not sticking to what they do best, which is up-tempo – Donald Payne returning from IR has been clutch for Arlington's defense
The Houston Roughnecks just could not get out of their own heads. A penalty negated a big third down gain, which led to the team punting once again. Arlington couldn’t capitalize, as Houston’s defense made an important stop.
Arlington’s defensive unit continued to hold strong. McDonald moved the ball a bit better than Silvers, but still could not find a way to get the job done – and Houston punted yet again. The momentum shifted, though, with Tyler Vaughns fumbling the punt – and it was recovered by the Roughnecks.
Luis Perez continued to make plays. On 3rd and 16, he found a way to complete a pass to Caleb Vander-Esch, to move the chains. However, a holding penalty ultimately killed the drive, and Houston got the ball back.
With fifteen minutes left to play, it was still a twelve point affair.
Arlington would be held to a field goal, which meant that Houston had one last crack at it. With less than two minutes to play, the score was 26-11.
With such little time left, the Houston Roughnecks couldn’t make much of anything happen. The Arlington Renegades shocked the entire league, defeating Houston 26-11 to move on to the XFL Championship game.
RB De’Veon Smith – Smith has been a beast in the red-zone this season, with seven touchdowns. However, his rushing wasn’t up to par compared to his 2020 campaign, averaging just over 3YPC in the regular season. Tonight, he was spectacular – finishing with 94 yards, averaging 4 YPC. His hustle was a key piece to the win.
WR JaVonta Payton – Payton hopped onto the scene out of nowhere, being picked up earlier in the year from Orlando. JaVonta had a monster first half, posting 108 yards and two scores. Without his efforts, Arlington wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as an offense.
QB Luis Perez – What a performance from the spring football legend. Perez played his best football of the season tonight, when his team needed it most. Arlington is headed to the XFL Championship, and it’s because of this man right here.
This was quite the performance from the Arlington Renegades. Almost everyone counted them out, but they made it happen. In the league of opportunity, it made sense to see Arlington take advantage of the chance they had tonight.
Luis Perez has been a leader for this team all season since being traded, and stepped up in a major way for the Arlington Renegades tonight. This team is ready to raise hell in the Championship.
This is a disappointing ending to the Houston Roughnecks season. Cole McDonald and Brandon Silvers simply did not play at a high level, which ultimately led to the collapse. After a 7-3 record in the regular season, Houston choked in the postseason.
What are your thoughts on this game between the Houston Roughnecks and Arlington Renegades? Which XFL players made the most impact? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!