Michigan Panthers Strong Second Half Pushes Them Past New Jersey

Michigan Panthers Strong Second Half Pushes Them Past New Jersey

In the second meeting this year for these USFL teams, the Michigan Panthers might’ve saved their season. On Sunday night in Canton, the Panthers defeated the New Jersey Generals by a score of 25-22.

After taking a lead heading into halftime they never trailed again and were able to put themselves in prime position to make the playoffs in the North Division with this win. The Panthers head into week eight in second place in the division at 3-4 while the Generals are tied for third at 2-5 and no longer control their own destiny. They’ll need to win games and get some help from others.

Scoring Summary

The Generals kicked off the scoring on their opening drive when they went six plays for 22 yards but stalled out following two runs for 30 yards by running back Darius Victor. Kicker Nick Sciba remained perfect and nailed a 46-yard field goal to make it 3-0. It was the only score of the first quarter and the Generals only points of the half.

After six straight punts, three by each team, the Panthers finally got something going on a very good 11 play, 70-yard drive. Quarterback Josh Love looked crisp on the drive and found wide receivers Joe Walker and Trey Quinn multiple times. This would be a foreshadowing of what was to come later. After a failed QB sneak on 3rd & 2, Panthers kicker Cole Murphy nailed a 27-yard field goal to knot it up at 3-3.

Following another punt by the Generals on the ensuing possession, the Panthers got the ball back before half and went on a 13 play, 53-yard drive that was capped off with a 50-yard field goal by Cole Murphy as time expired in the quarter. This was a huge point in the game because it allowed Michigan to double-up before the half and was the second of three straight scores by the Michigan offense.

Second Half

To start the second half, the Panthers had another beautiful drive but this one was of the quicker variety. It took just five plays to march 79-yards in under three minutes and was finished off by wide receiver Trey Quinn when he took a short drag route 22-yards into the endzone. The extra point was no good, so it remained a one-score game at 12-3 early in the third quarter. At this point, the Panthers offense was firing on all cylinders.

On their first possession of the third quarter, the New Jersey Generals went with quarterback De’Andre Johnson who they stuck with until he left with an injury in the fourth quarter. He helped engineer a quick drive as well. It was five plays for 49-yards and ended on a great 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Alonzo Moore from DJ. This brought the score to 12-10 and it would remain that way until the fourth quarter.

In a fourth quarter that featured four touchdowns, the Michigan Panthers would strike first. They went 10 plays for 66-yards in just over six minutes and extended their lead to 19-10. Josh Love found tight end Cole Hikutini for a 23-yard touchdown down the seam on a terrific throw. It was Love’s second touchdown pass of the night and he wasn’t done yet.

The Generals were able to answer with a touchdown drive of their own. This possession started with De’Andre Johnson in at QB and was finished off with Kyle Lauletta in relief following an injury sustained by Johnson. It was a scary moment for sure as he left on the cart, but we received good updates on his condition. Of course, our prayers continue to be with DJ. Lauletta was able to find wide receiver Alonzo Moore again on a nine-yard touchdown pass for Moore’s second touchdown of the game. The three-point conversion was no good, so the score stood at 19-16.

The Michigan Panthers answered back immediately in just two plays. Josh Love found Joe Walker on a seven-yard pass that Walker took an extra 60+ yards for a long 68-yard touchdown pass. It was Love’s third of the night and was the exclamation point on a great night for Walker. Kicker Cole Murphy missed another extra point, and it remained a one-score game at 25-16 with four and a half minutes left.

On their next possession the Generals answered back and right after the two-minute warning, quarterback Kyle Lauletta found running back Darius Victor for a five-yard touchdown pass. It was a six play, 65-yard drive but the three-point conversion was no good and New Jersey trailed by 3 at 25-22. That’s how the game would end following a failed 4th & 12 conversion by the Generals that allowed the Michigan Panthers to run out the clock and secure a huge victory.

A Look At The Numbers

Quarterback Josh Love played great for Michigan making the big plays when it mattered most and hanging in to make terrific throws even while getting hit and pressured. He was 16/29 (55%) for 264 yards passing, and three touchdowns. He had a QBR of 120.5 and it was arguably his best performance since his week one masterclass against Houston. He spread the ball around, but wide receivers Joe Walker and Trey Quinn were the stars.

Walker had five catches for 121 yards and his long touchdown. Trey Quinn caught three balls for 61 yards with a touchdown and also added in a 19-yard pass on a trick play. Running back Reggie Corbin led the way in the backfield looking like his All-USFL self from ‘22. On 20 carries he had 78 yards rushing, and also had 3 catches for 22 yards, giving him 100 yards total. This was the definition of an all-around team win for the Panthers offense. On the defensive side of the ball, no one stood out much, but safety Kai Nacua led the way with eight total tackles, seven of which were solo. Defensive tackle Levi Bell registered their lone sack of the night.

New Jersey Generals

On the flip side, Kyle Lauletta and De’Andre Johnson shared reps at quarterback. Lauletta went 9/16 (56%) for 112 yards passing with two touchdowns and a QBR of 117.7. Johnson was 9/14 (64%) for 89 yards passing with a touchdown and a QBR of 106. He also added nine yards on the ground.

Constantly trailing, the Generals strayed away from the run game which is rare. Running back Darius Victor led the way with 52 yards rushing on just eight carries. He also had four catches for 29 yards and a touchdown through the air. Overall, he had 12 touches for 81 total yards which is highly efficient. Wide receiver Alonzo Moore led the way for New Jersey with six catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns on eight targets.

On defense, defensive tackle Kenneth Randall got their only sack and linebackers Mike Bell Jr. and Willie Eubanks III both forced fumbles that the team was unable to recover. Bell Jr. also led the way with eight total tackles, six of them were solo. The Generals defensive line batted down five passes and they had seven total passes defensed but it still wasn’t enough.

Comparisons

Time of possession was relatively even but the Panthers ran 14 more plays and outgained the Generals 373-258. Despite being 1/3 in the red zone, big plays helped power the Panthers offense and all three of their touchdown passes were over 20 yards. The Panthers outgained the Generals on the ground 94-60 which we have rarely seen dating back to last season. Neither team turned the ball over and it was a relatively clean game throughout, aside from a few procedural penalties from New Jersey which have become a regularity for them unfortunately.

Looking Ahead

The Michigan Panthers needed this win badly to stop their losing streak and it couldn’t have come at a better time for them. It was a huge division game and can potentially get their offense back on track. They control their own destiny to make the North playoff game and will secure their spot if they win out. Josh Love looked very good, and Reggie Corbin returned to form which is very good news. They went against a great defense, and this should give them momentum heading into their week eight matchup with the New Orleans Breakers who have suddenly lost three straight games.

For the New Jersey Generals it is officially panic time. They’re now 2-5 and at best can finish the season at .500. That’s a huge drop off from last season’s 9-1 record. They don’t control their own destiny at this point and will need some help to squeeze into the playoffs. They’ll likely need to win their final three games against Memphis, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh to have a shot at making it into the playoffs. They’ve now lost four straight and with injuries piling up, it is looking bleak. As we know though, this league is extremely unpredictable, and anyone can get hot at any time. For New Jersey, that needs to happen immediately.

What are your thoughts on this USFL matchup between the Michigan Panthers and New Jersey Generals? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!