Houston Gamblers Explode In Win Over Philadelphia Stars

Houston Gamblers Explode In Win Over Philadelphia Stars

Week four of the USFL kicked off this afternoon, with a matchup between the Philadelphia Stars and Houston Gamblers. Heading into this game, both teams held a 1-2 record.

It’s been a different story for these two squads in the USFL this season. Philadelphia had dropped two in a row, struggling to find a way to get their offense into much of a rhythm at all. Case Cookus has not looked as sharp as he usually does, which is surprising.

Meanwhile, Houston snagged their first win last weekend, as Kenji Bahar led his squad past Memphis in thrilling fashion.

Let’s take a look at what happened at Ford Field, as it was a lopsided affair from start to finish.

First Quarter

The Philadelphia Stars received the opening kickoff, but it was Houston’s defense who set the tone. They forced an immediate punt, which allowed their offensive unit to get right to work.

Mark Thompson made his mark early, and didn’t relent. He took off to the end zone, tip-toeing down the sidelines for the score. Just like that, Houston led 7-0.

Philadelphia struggled mightily to begin this game, but would catch a break. Kenji Bahar mishandled a handoff, and Joey Alfieri pounced on it for the Stars.

Second Quarter

This led to a touchdown for Philadelphia. Case Cookus led the team down the field, and Matt Colburn finished the drive off with a five yard scamper.

Speaking of running backs, it was the Mark Thompson show at Ford Field. Philadelphia has struggled to stop the run, as we saw Reggie Corbin dominate their defense two weeks ago. It was the same story today, as a healthy Thompson made them pay time and time again.

While the Stars sputtered and sank, Houston took advantage of the opportunities presented to them. Kenji Bahar looked very comfortable in the pocket, making the right reads and decisions. He found Anthony Ratliff-Williams wide open in the back of the end zone, and Houston took a 20-7 lead.

As if things couldn’t have gone any worse for Philadelphia, they let up another big play right before the half.

With a minute to go, Keke Chism caught a shallow crosser, and then evaded tacklers all the way to the house.

Heading into halftime, the Houston Gamblers led 27-7.

Second Half

Absolutely nothing would change in the second half, which was unfortunate for the Philadelphia Stars. This team looked like a shell of its former self, playing with zero energy, heart, or chemistry. The Gamblers defense continued to make big-time plays, as Elijah Jones snagged an “Odell Beckham-esque” interception.

Not surprisingly, Mark Thompson would capitalize quickly. He took the rock to the endzone for the third time today, putting the Gamblers in front 34-7.

In the third quarter, Kenji Bahar exited with an injury – and would not return to the game. Terry Wilson was serviceable in his place, and scored in one of the most wild ways imaginable. He fumbled the ball, and it careened into the endzone – being secured by Houston. Just like that, the Gamblers held a 41-7 lead.

The Philadelphia Stars would chip away a bit, but it wasn’t near enough. As the clock ticked down towards zero, it would be the Houston Gamblers who came away with the dominant win, 41-16.

Fittingly, the game would essentially end with another interception from Elijah Jones, this time on a two-point conversion. He nearly returned it to the house, but would come up just short. Regardless, the Houston Gamblers put on an absolute clinic, both offensively and defensively for the win.

Standout USFL Playmakers

RB Mark Thompson: That offensive player of the week award might just be going to this man right here. Mark Thompson has been absolutely sensational since returning to the lineup. He finished today’s game with 134 yards on just 13 carries, averaging 10.3 YPC. On top of that, he scored three times. His twitter handle says it all: In Mark We Trust.

QB Kenji Bahar: This was, by far, the best game Kenji Bahar has played this season. He didn’t get to finish things out due to injury – but, Bahar’s calm and collected aura was pivotal to Houston’s dominant victory. Bahar threw for 231 yards and two scores, with a final QBR of 139. If Kenji continues to play at this level, they are absolutely a playoff contender.

WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams: Ratliff-Williams has been a solid receiver for Houston all season long, and continues to be a staple piece of Curtis Johnson’s offense. He racked up 55 yards and a touchdown in today’s win.

CB Elijah Jones: Jones was everywhere today, with a few tackles and a highlight reel interception. The energy he brought to the secondary was infectious.

S Manny Bunch: It was another spectacular outing for Manny Bunch, who has leveled up his game in 2023. Bunch finished the game with seven tackles, one sack, one PD, and a TFL.

LB Joel Dublanko: Despite the loss, Dublanko played quite well in his USFL debut. He racked up seven tackles, and half a sack in today’s action. Expect plenty more out of him in the weeks to come.

Final Thoughts

How about those Houston Gamblers? This squad looks entirely different than they did the first couple of weeks. The defense, in particular, has been astounding, finding their groove today. The Philadelphia Stars couldn’t move the football at all, posting under 50 yards of offense in the first half.

Kenji Bahar and Mark Thompson have this group running like a well oiled machine. Curtis Johnson has done an impressive job so far in his head coaching debut, as the team now sits at 2-2 through four weeks.

Meanwhile, Bart Andrus has a lot to sort through moving forward. His own words right after the game were “That was awful…“. This Stars team has now lost three in a row, looking absolutely nothing like the Championship team we saw just several months ago. With the USFL season being only ten weeks long, something needs to change quickly in Philadelphia.

Week four of the USFL continues tonight, as the Michigan Panthers host the Memphis Showboats at 7:30pm ET on NBC.

What are your thoughts on this game between the Philadelphia Stars and Houston Gamblers? Which USFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!