Today marks the midpoint of the USFL season, featuring an exciting game between the Pittsburgh Maulers and the Memphis Showboats. Both teams aim to achieve a balanced record and build on their impressive week 5 victories.
The showdown will be held at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, granting the Showboats the advantage of playing on their home turf. However, home field advantage hasn’t yielded significant benefits for the hub teams thus far.
The game began with the Memphis Showboats receiving the kickoff and launching an aggressive start. A powerful return by Derrick Dillon positioned them at their own 40-yard line, setting the stage for their opening drive.
Despite benefiting from favorable field position, the Memphis Showboats faced the possibility of a quick three-and-out. However, on a crucial 4th down with only two yards remaining, Cole Kelley stepped up and personally ensured the conversion, effectively extending the drive.
The following set of downs proved to be more challenging to convert. On a 3rd and 10 situation, Kelley unfortunately dropped the ball, leading to the appearance of Kessman for a 46-yard field goal attempt. Kessman, who has demonstrated consistency throughout the season, maintained his solid performance by successfully splitting the uprights, granting the Showboats an early 3-point lead.
Troy Williams took charge of his first drive as the quarterback for the Maulers, aiming to mount a response. However, despite Henne securing the ball, their efforts fell short of advancing the chains.
Memphis may have scored on their first drive, but it wasn’t going to be as easy going forward. The Maulers defense came up big, including a huge sack from Boogie Roberts. Ultimately the Showboats were forced to give it back to Pittsburgh.
Bailey Gaither came up big for Pittsburgh, converting on 3rd down and moving them across midfield. They were quickly put into another 3rd down postion, but this time they came up a yard short. To make matters worse, the Maulers picked up an unsportsman like conduct call pushing them back 15 more.
The quarter would end with Memphis deep in their own territory on second down.
Juwan Washington started things out hot for the Showboats, coming in with a huge 31-yard run.
This may have been one of the more impressive Showboats drive of the season. They kept the drive alive converting on 4th and short to move them passed midfield. From there Kelley connected with Vinny Papale who was able to break a couple tackles, tip toe the sideline and find the endzone.
The extra point gave them a confortable 10-0 lead over the Maulers, but there was still a lot of time left in the matchup.
Pittsburgh failed to respond on offense, quickly punting it back to Memphis.
Derrick Dillon continued to shine today. Kelley connected with Dillion for a solid catch plus a good amount of yardage after. This combined with a horsecollar call put the Showboats in scoring position again near Pittsburgh’s 36. They couldn’t get into the endzone, but Alex Kessman came out and knocked it throuygh the uprights from 48-yards out.
Troy Williams and the Maulers offense came back on the field, and it looked like they were finally finding their rhythm. Unfortunately, when everything seemed to be going well, Williams was picked off by Quinton Meeks to give the Showboats the ball with a little over 2-minutes left in the half.
They call him Showtime Meeks for a reason! That's an INT for @ShowtimeQM 😤
The Showboats took possession and made sure to use as much time as possible as to prevent the Maulers from getting the ball again this half. After a failed thrid down conversion they were forced to punt with 1-minute left on the clock.
Similarly, the Maulers did the same when it came to running out the clock. They may have regretted that decision as they secured a first down with only 11-seconds left. They moved the ball again on the next play, moving them into field goal position with 4-seconds left on the clock. A bad call moved them back, forcing them to take one more shot to get them back into scoring position.
Good play management got them out of bounds with 1-second ont he clock to bring Chris Blewitt out for the 59-yard field goal attempt. It came up short, and much to the Maulers dismay Derrick Dillon was there for the return. And what a return it was, he ran it all the way back for a Showboats touchdown to end the half. Derrick Dillon also put his name in the history books, as this 109-yard return was a new USFL record.
Pittsburgh would get the ball to start the second half, and they had built up quite the hole to dig out of. Whens tuck at 4th and short they decided to go for it, only to be stuffed by the Showboats defense. Memphis now had the ball at the 50, with a solid 19 point lead early in the half.
It was a fairly quiet quarter until around the 10:25 mark when Matt Seybert had a solid run to move the Maulers passed midfield near the 40. Pittsburgh could not get into the endzone, but opted to bring out Chris Blewitt to attempt another long field goal.
51-yards is well within his range, but he was unable to get this one where it needed to go; keeping them scoreless.
NO GOOD: Chriss Blewitt wide on the 51-yard field goal attempt
With James Morgan now in for Pittsburgh, he threw a pick early on their next drive to give up possession of the ball. Memphis regained possession of the ball and found themselves in the red zone, presenting an excellent opportunity for them to extend their lead. After three shots, they ultimately opted to bring out Kessman for the field goal.
James Morgan would come back out for the Maulers to start the fourth quarter, giving him a chance to redeem himself from the previous drive.
He was looking much more comfortable on this drive. He even got phisical, dropping a should to break a tackle before being surrounded by defenders. Even then he was able to push the pile forward to secure more yards for the Maulers. The offense stalled out and were in a position to go for it on fourth down. But, another Pittsburgh penalty had them opt to punt it again.
At this point in the game both teams seems be ready to close this out. Both teams traded drives and time continued to run down.
Pinned them down! Another great punt from @earl_punts 👏
Near the 2-minute warning the Maulers were on the move. They knew they probablky couldn’t win the game, but they didn’t want to get shutout. There has only been one other shutout since the USFL returned and that was when the Panthers beat Pittsburgh 24-0 last season.
As things were going, Morgan took a big sack on thrid down putting them at 4th and 19. They wanted to go for it to get some points, but Morgan was picked off. This allowed the Showboats to run out the clock to end the game.
With a victory in the game, Memphis has reached a .500 record for the first time this season, standing at 3-3. Pittsburgh’s loss has created an opening in the North division, leaving the door open for other teams to capitalize on this opportunity in this weekends matchups.
Notably, Coach Haley’s decision to make Cole Kelley the starting quarterback is proving to be wise, as the team appears to be finding their rhythm with plenty of season remaining to secure a spot in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Maulers will need to regroup and reassess their strategies to maintain competitiveness in the North division.
What are your thoughts on the opening USFL matchup this weekend? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.