Memphis Showboats Roll Past Houston Roughnecks In UFL Opener

Memphis Showboats Roll Past Houston Roughnecks In Opener

Opening weekend in the UFL wrapped up this afternoon. The Houston Roughnecks hosted the Memphis Showboats, in a battle of two USFL teams that have seen major rebrands over the past several months.

For the Houston Roughnecks, they are technically the “Gamblers” from the USFL, just under the Roughnecks branding. Head Coach Curtis Johnson is back in action in Houston, and is leading a team that should boast a fearsome defense.

Meanwhile, Memphis was taken over by former Breakers HC John DeFilippo. In the process, we saw quite a bit of roster turnover for the Showboats – in a good way.

With plenty of unknowns for both of these organizations coming into this game, the anticipation was in the air, as we didn’t know what to fully expect.

First Quarter

The Showboats got the football first, which meant we got to see Case Cookus suit up for John DeFilippo right off the bat. They quickly got to work, marching swiftly down the field. Cookus had a couple of solid connections with WR’s Daewood Davis and Jonathan Adams to get into scoring position.

However, All-USFL DT Toby Johnson stepped up in the red zone. His back to back plays ended up forcing a field goal for Memphis, and they took a 3-0 lead on the leg of Matt Coghlin.

It was not a smooth start for Houston on offense. On their second play from scrimmage, a screen pass to Isiah Hennie was blown up by Kyree Woods, and he fumbled. Christian McFarland picked it up, and took it to the house to put Memphis up 9-0.

Houston saw Jarrett Guarantano come out as the starter, but their offense couldn’t find much of a rhythm early. Heading to the next period, it was a nine point lead for Memphis.

Second Quarter

Case Cookus was rolling in this affair. On a key third down, he took a huge hit yet dropped a dime to TE Sage Surratt, to keep the drive moving.

On queue, he continued to show up on third downs. After taking a sack from Ronheen Bingham, Cookus dropped an absolute dime in the back of the endzone to Vinny Papale. Vinny did the rest, with some toe drag swag to secure a 15-0 lead for Memphis.

Memphis’ defense continued to apply pressure on Guarantano. He had very little time to throw, and while he was able to use his legs to extend some plays, the Showboats snuffed out receivers time and time again.

Despite that, the Roughnecks were able to get into field goal range for new kicker JJ Molson. He blasted a 55 yarder through the uprights, and the game was 15-3.

For Memphis, their offense did not slow down. Cookus was on a heater in this first half, making ridiculous throws under intense pressure.

With under 20 seconds to play, Matt Coghlin attempted a 56 yard field goal, but was just wide right. Memphis went into halftime with a 15-3 lead.

Third Quarter

It wasn’t an ideal start to the half for Houston. Memphis forced a punt, and it was deflected by Tyshun Render, setting Memphis up with great field position.

That said, the Roughnecks defense stepped up and made a big play. Reuben Foster made an unbelievable play on the ball, picking off Case Cookus.

Reid Sinnett came into the game for Guarantano, but things didn’t improve much. Houston went three and out, punting it away once again. Their defense stood strong, forcing a punt on Memphis, after they had driven down the field a ways. With one quarter left, the Showboats held their 12 point lead.

Fourth Quarter

The Roughnecks put together a pretty solid drive, which stretched from the end of the third and into the fourth. A false start forced them into a field goal attempt, and Molson knocked it through from 45 yards out.

With the football back in Case Cookus’ hands, he continued to make plays. A solid kickoff return from Trey Williams set them up nicely, and Memphis pushed the ball down the field. However a couple of misses from Cookus, and a drop from Lee Morris, made Memphis settle for a field goal. Coghlin hit from 51 yards out, and the Showboats went up 18-6.

Things got a bit out of hand down the stretch. Houston marched down into Memphis territory, but Greg Reaves forced a fumble on Guarantano, and Dillon Faatamau recovered for Memphis.

However, on the very next play, Reuben Foster knocked the ball out of Darius Victor’s hands, and the Roughnecks took it right back.

With the ideal field position, Houston took advantage. Jarrett Guarantano rushed it in himself from a couple of yards out, and the Roughnecks had their first touchdown. They attempted a three point conversion and it was no good, so it made things a 18-12 affair.

DB Corn Elder made a couple of excellent plays for the Roughnecks defensively. With Memphis marching down the field, he made an open field tackle on Cookus, before batting away a pass on third down. Matt Coghlin missed a 55 yard field goal attempt – but an offsides gave the Showboats a fresh set of downs.

Regardless, Houston’s defense made things happen. Memphis had to punt, giving the Roughnecks one final chance. Unfortunately, Isiah Hennie muffed the punt, and it was recovered by Jordan Ferguson recovered for the Showboats.

Memphis ended up with a huge win on the road, taking down the Houston Roughnecks 18-12.

Standout Playmakers

QB Case Cookus: Cookus looked poised in his first start for the Showboats. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but he did what needed to get done in order for Memphis to get a win. Case threw for 204 yards and a touchdown, and impressed while under pressure.

WR Daewood Davis: Davis came up clutch for the Showboats throughout the afternoon, leading the team with seven catches for 43 yards. He’s a dynamic playmaker who should see more growth throughout the season.

DB Kyree Woods: Woods, the highest graded PFF safety from a year ago, made an impact today. He was excellent in coverage, and forced an early fumble which gave Memphis momentum. Woods finished the day with 3 tackles.

LB Greg Reaves: Reaves was sensational, totaling three tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble. Greg was a key piece to this Showboats defense in 2023, and it appears that he’ll continue to do so in 2024.

*The entire defensive front deserves some credit here, as they bullied Houston’s offensive line all afternoon long.

Houston Roughnecks

QB Jarrett Guarantano: All things considered, Guarantano handled himself pretty well in his first start. Houston’s offensive line was atrocious today, yet Jarrett hung in there throughout it all. If they can protect him better moving forward, he could see some better stat lines.

LB Reuben Foster: Foster was all over the place today for Houston. He racked up six tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. Without his efforts, the Roughnecks would’ve lost by at least two scores. He did get hurt towards the end of the game – hopefully it isn’t anything serious.

Key Factors

Ultimately, the Memphis Showboats controlled the time of possession, which won them the game. Memphis held the ball for almost 40 minutes, as Houston’s offense struggled to find a way to stay on the field.

Penalties were rough across the board, but especially for the Roughnecks. They were penalized 12 times for 90 yards, which put themselves in a hole on a couple of drives that looked promising.

Offensively, Memphis and Houston need work. The Roughnecks averaged only 4.7 yards a play, which looks pretty good compared to the Showboats’ 3.7 yards. Houston couldn’t find a way to get out of tough third down situations, converting three of their eight attempts.

This game was a battle of two stout defenses, and Memphis just proved to be the team with a slightly better offensive performance.

Final Thoughts

I’m not entirely sure that John DeFilippo will be too pleased with this win – but, a win is a win. They went on the road into Houston and got a key victory against a division opponent.

Case Cookus needs his offensive line to help him out. Terry Poole got beat a couple of times and was called for a holding penalty that negated a solid gain. Jarron Jones also had an uncharacteristic off day, as he struggled throughout the outing. If the Showboats can square away their O-Line issues, this team will be capable of beating anyone in the UFL. They make their home debut next week, facing off against the red hot San Antonio Brahmas.

The Houston Roughnecks looked like a team that was clearly missing their OPOY. Mark Thompson was inactive, which led to just 43 total rushing yards. The team travels to DC next week, and will need a much better offensive showing if they want to beat the Defenders.

Did you watch this matchup between the Houston Roughnecks and Memphis Showboats? Which UFL players impressed you today? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!