Memphis Showboats Snag First USFL Win Over Michigan Panthers

Memphis Showboats Snag First USFL Win Over Michigan Panthers

Last night, the Memphis Showboats won their first game of the USFL season, against the Michigan Panthers. It was an impressive outing for Todd Haley’s group, as they seamlessly took down one of the North’s top teams.

Despite their 0-3 record heading into this game, Memphis has been making improvements with each and every week.

On the other hand, Michigan’s been in a slump, and that trend continued on Saturday night. Let’s take a look at what happened at Ford Field, as Panthers fans were let down once again.

First Half

It was a relatively slow start for both teams. After an excellent kickoff return, Memphis went three and out, settling for a long field goal. Alex Kessman made the most of his opportunities today, knocking through a 54 yarder to start the scoring.

Just several minutes later, Kessman would repeat a near identical kick, this time from 53 yards out. With one quarter in the books, the Memphis Showboats held a 6-0 lead.

The Michigan Panthers were out of sync for most of the game, struggling to find a way to move the football much at all. When they did, it was always between the 20’s – never putting themselves in an ideal position to score.

Josh Love hasn’t looked the same over the past couple of weeks, and Memphis got after him early and often in this one. Carson Strong saw some time in the first half as well, but neither quarterback had much success at all.

Turnovers also proved to be a problem. Josh Love threw a pick to Anthony Butler inside the 20 yard line, ending a promising drive.

Cole Kelley played his heart out for the Showboats today, making plenty of hustle plays. His QB sneak for a score in the first half put Memphis up 13-0, as they took a commanding lead.

Strong threw an interception right before the half, which erased a potential score. Heading into halftime, it was all Memphis, holding a 13-3 advantage over the Michigan Panthers.

Second Half

Michigan found a way to get back into the game. After the Showboats kicked another field goal, Josh Love and Reggie Corbin came alive, pushing the ball down the field with ease.

In the early fourth quarter, Love scrambled in the pocket, eventually finding Joe Walker for the score to make it 16-10.

The comeback would be short-lived, though. Cole Kelley had an answer, marching the team into the red zone again. For the second time, Kelley would run the ball in himself, to put Memphis in front 23-10.

Unfortunately, things went downhill for the Panthers quickly. Jeff McCulloch stripped Josh Love of the football, and scooped it up for the score himself.

With only a few minutes left in the game, that just about sealed the deal. Michigan was out of gas, surrendering on their home turf to the Memphis Showboats, 29-10.

Standout USFL Playmakers

K Alex Kessman: What a return to the USFL for Kessman. After missing week three due to some of his early season struggles, he put on a show, hitting all three field goal attempts – including two from 50+. Heck of a performance from someone who needed to prove himself.

QB Cole Kelley: It hasn’t been a perfect couple of games for Cole Kelley by any means – but, he’s done an excellent job when it comes to bringing this team together. He finished last night’s game with 178 total yards, and two touchdowns. His leadership has been clutch for Todd Haley.

LB T.J. Neal: Neal has stepped up for Memphis as of late. He posted eight tackles and a TFL against Michigan, doing quite a bit for that defensive unit.

WR Joe Walker: Despite the loss, Joe Walker balled out as he always does. Walker racked up 76 yards and a TD on just seven catches, consistently performing at a high level week in and week out.

DL Garrett Marino: Marino has seen a bigger role as of late, due to some injuries up front for Michigan. He was solid last night, posting a couple of tackles and a big-time sack.

Post-Game Comments

Opening Statement from Memphis Showboats HC Todd Haley:

We asked Haley about the adjustments they made defensively, as they played their best defensive game of the USFL season. His response:

Opening Statement from Michigan Panthers HC Mike Nolan:

We asked Nolan about the turnover issues, and what has to be done moving forward to remove those mental mistakes. His response:

Final Thoughts

The Memphis Showboats are finally figuring things out as a collective unit. The team was firing on all cylinders, especially from a defensive perspective.

Todd Haley is clearly pleased with his squad’s efforts, praising their determination and drive to win. It’s been a rough go for this team through the first few weeks, but they finally got the job done. Now, they will look to build upon this success moving forward, to put themselves back in playoff contention.

Meanwhile, Mike Nolan has a lot to sort through on his end. Their offense – and defense – is a shell of what it was the first two weeks. While injuries have been an issue, there’s no excuses for the poor offensive performances we’ve seen recently. Adjustments have to be made quickly, otherwise they risk losing their grip on a North Division playoff berth.

Week four of the USFL continues at 3pm ET today, with the New Jersey Generals hosting the New Orleans Breakers on NBC.

What are your thoughts on this matchup between the Michigan Panthers and Memphis Showboats? Which USFL players impressed? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!