In week one, New Orleans picked up an important win over Pittsburgh. After getting off to a rocky start, they put it all together in the second half. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw for over 300 yards, finding a rhythm down the stretch for John DeFilippo.
On the other hand, the Houston Gamblers suffered a tough defeat at the hands of the Panthers. Kenji Bahar turned the ball over three times in the final two quarters, which put the team in a hole too deep to climb out of.
Let’s take a look at what happened, as this one came down to the wire.
New Orleans received the opening kickoff, meaning we saw Bethel-Thompson first. A strange decision to not field the kickoff made the team start at their own two yard line. This resulted in a punt, which was shanked by Matt White – and Houston had excellent field position.
TJ Pledger is the only RB active today for the Gamblers.
Without Mark Thompson in the lineup again, T.J. Pledger would need to have a solid outing for Houston. The Gamblers got themselves into field goal range, but then Nick Vogel kicked it off the upright – and they came up empty.
New Orleans could not capitalize, going three and out again. It’s been intriguing to watch this offense through the first two weeks – despite having so much talent, they’ve started both games very flat.
Kenji Bahar got into a bit of a rhythm on their next drive, but the Gamblers ultimately stalled out midfield. With one quarter in the books, it was a 0-0 ball game.
New Orleans finally woke up in the second quarter. They relied a bit more on the rushing game, which was much needed. Wes Hills saw his first action, and made the most of it. After Sage Surratt set the team up in scoring position, Hills ran past defenders as he tumbled into the end zone for six.
TOUCHDOWN BREAKERS! Wes Hills with the 19-yard TD run! 🙌
A big return from Anthony Ratliff-Williams put Houston in excellent field position once again. The team couldn’t find a way to get in the end zone, but Nick Vogel knocked through a field goal attempt, and Houston got on the board.
He is SPEED! 💨 @ARatWill hit the gas on this return!
New Orleans continued to feed Sage Surratt, which was a smart idea. Sage is going to be playing a big role at the TE position with Sal Cannella no longer with the franchise, and he made an impact early. After getting in the red zone, the Breakers settled for a field goal, taking a 10-3 lead.
The Gamblers quickly responded. Bahar was sensational on their final drive of the half. He finished it off with an absolute dime to Justin Hall for 25 yards, and we were tied up at 10 a piece.
This is the Kenji Bahar we've been waiting to see in the #USFL this season.
Drops a dime to Justin Hall for the TD, and just like that we're tied up at half time. If @KBahar11 can consistently sling it as he did on that final drive, look out.pic.twitter.com/0GK33T2Ine
Heading into half time, it was a 10-10 ball game. While the New Orleans Breakers had control of momentum early on, it shifted towards the Houston Gamblers as we went into the half.
The positive trend continued for Houston in the third quarter. On 3rd and 18, the Gamblers managed to convert, keeping the drive alive. Then, Bahar threaded the needle on a pass to Anthony Ratliff-Williams, who managed to escape multiple defenders, taking it to the house.
New Orleans would respond quickly. McLeod Bethel-Thompson dropped a dime to Johnnie Dixon down the sidelines, setting up the team nicely. Wes Hills had a couple of big runs, including a touchdown that was then overruled. It didn’t matter, as Sage Surratt made a ridiculous catch in the back of the end zone – and we were tied at 17-17.
Sage Surratt is proving to be such an important piece of the @USFLBreakers offense.
With just fifteen minutes left to play, the New Orleans Breakers led 24-17.
Houston’s offense took a step backwards, as they were unable to move the football much at all. Their defense held strong, though, forcing New Orleans to punt.
This time, it was an excellent drive from the Gamblers. Kenji Bahar smoothly marched the team down the field, before T.J. Pledger ran it in from a couple of yards out. Just like that, we were tied up again at 24.
New Orleans’ offense was a well oiled machine after that first quarter. McLeod Bethel-Thompson was in clear control, as Houston’s defense really had zero answers for their two-headed offensive attack. Wes Hill was able to get his second touchdown of the day, and New Orleans took a 31-24 lead.
Running for the Hills! Wes Hills punches it in for his 2nd TD of the game to put us on top 31-24! 😤
The final few minutes of this game were absolutely fantastic. Houston’s offense was night and day compared to week one, as Kenji Bahar continued to sling the ball down the field with a purpose. He found Justin Hall on a dime, who then spun his way into the end zone – and we were tied again.
New Orleans had a three and out, unable to move the football. This set up the Gamblers with an opportunity to take the lead – but, Bahar tossed a deep ball straight to Jared Elder, and the Breakers took over.
The New Orleans Breakers would hold on to win, taking down the Houston Gamblers 38-31.
What a way to kick off week two of the USFL. Both teams went at it all game long, despite the slow start in the first quarter.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Sage Surratt, and Wes Hills carried the Breakers to this victory. They were sensational today, with each making big-time plays at crucial moments. Hills, in particular, was astounding in his USFL debut.
The Houston Gamblers shouldn’t be discouraged. While they couldn’t come away with a win, they put up 31 points – and looked like a completely different ball club compared to last week. Kenji Bahar simply needs to limit the turnovers. He has potential to be one of the USFL’s top QBs, but continues to shoot himself in the foot.
Curtis Johnson will look to build upon this performance. With the Stallions missing key players, and the uncertainty surrounding Memphis, the South is still wide open for Houston.
What are your thoughts on this game between the Houston Gamblers and New Orleans Breakers? Which USFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!