Philadelphia Stars Take Control Of North With Win Over Pittsburgh

Philadelphia Stars Take Control Of North With Win Over Pittsburgh

Week seven of the USFL continued late Saturday night, with a pivotal North matchup between the Pittsburgh Maulers and Philadelphia Stars.

Heading into this game, Philadelphia led the Division with a 3-3 record, winning two straight. Despite not scoring an offensive touchdown throughout those games, some heroics from their defense – and Luis Aguilar – have pushed them to victory in consecutive weeks.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has been in a bit of a rut. They got shut out by Memphis a week ago, and sit at 2-4 in a precarious spot in the North Division.

When these two teams played a few weeks ago, it was the Pittsburgh Maulers who came away with the 21-13 victory, led by Troy Williams and Chris Blewitt.

Let’s take a look at what happened, as things got out of hand as the hours went by.

First Quarter

To start the game, the Philadelphia Stars received the football. It was a seamless drive for the team, who ran an uptempo offense that worked to perfection. Terry Wright was clutch, setting the team up in excellent field position with a great return. Then, Matt Colburn and Case Cookus got to work.

After getting into the red zone, Colburn ran it in from a few yards out – for their first offensive touchdown in three weeks.

Pittsburgh’s first possession wouldn’t get off to a great start, but they managed to find a way. On fourth down, Williams just slid far enough to find Matt Seybert on the outside, which led to a conversion.

A large run from Madre London set the team up in the red zone. Then, Bailey Gaither took an end around right into the end zone, tying the game up at 7 a piece.

Once again, Terry Wright had an outstanding return, taking it inside Pittsburgh’s 40 yard line. However, Case Cookus missed on a couple of throws to the end zone, which resulted in Philadelphia settling for a field goal. Luis Aguilar knocked through the 30 yard kick, and they went in front 10-7.

The Pittsburgh Maulers would have a quick response of their own. Joshua Simmons returned the kickoff 88 yards to the house, putting the team in front 14-10.

Heading into the next period, it was a four point ball game.

Second Quarter

Philadelphia pushed the ball down the field, but still had to settle for a field goal. Luis Aguilar just barely squeezed in a 45 yard kick, which cut the lead to 14-13.

For the second time in the first half alone, Ray Horton would roll the dice and go for it on fourth and short. It paid off again, as Troy Williams scrambled for the first down. The joy would be short lived, though. A pass through the hands of Mason Stokke went right to Stanford Samuels, who made a ridiculous interception for the Stars.

Self-inflicted wounds have typically hurt Philadelphia throughout the USFL season. A botched field goal snap led to Pittsburgh taking over with excellent field position, as Kyahva Tezino recovered.

This time, the Maulers would capitalize. Troy Williams would keep the drive alive on multiple occasions, using his legs which is a common occurrence. Then, he dropped a dime to Isiah Hennie, who made a spectacular catch in the back of the end zone. Just like that, Pittsburgh led 21-13.

Philadelphia put together an excellent drive down the stretch of the half, to pull it within one. Case Cookus made several outstanding plays, eventually finding Samuel Akem for a score as the seconds wound down.

However, Pittsburgh would have another opportunity to score due to the brilliance of Joshua Simmons. He touched the ball on the kickoff after establishing himself out of bounds, which put the ball at the 50. This allowed Chris Blewitt to kick a 49 yard field goal, and knock it through.

Heading into halftime, the Pittsburgh Maulers led 24-20 over the Philadelphia Stars.

Third Quarter

It was quite the start to the second half for the Stars. Samuel Akem forced a fumble on the opening kickoff, and Amani Dennis recovered.

Pittsburgh’s defense would step up and make a big-time play. Cookus was decked in the pocket, which caused him to overthrow Diondre Overton – and Arnold Tarpley picked it off.

Pittsburgh would finally stall out, though, having to punt for the first time in this affair. However, a sack from Nasir Player would force Philadelphia to send it right back.

The defenses were clearly playing with a higher intensity in this quarter, with the Maulers punting it again. On third and long, Case Cookus could not find Coleman, and it resulted in another punt.

Chris Blewitt could not knock through a 54 yard field goal for the Maulers, which proved to be a tough miss. The very next play, Case Cookus found Corey Coleman who was wide open down the sidelines – taking it 56 yards to the house.

With just fifteen minutes left to play, it was a 27-24 lead for the Stars.

Fourth Quarter

Pittsburgh had to punt again, as their offense looked like a shell of its first half self. Meanwhile, Cookus continued to put the team on his back, making things happen. Devin Gray ripped off a massive gain through the air, which put the team in the red zone. Colburn burst past the pylon, and the Stars took a 34-24 lead.

The unfortunate errors continued to pile up for Pittsburgh. After a decent march into Philadelphia territory, a 58 yard field goal from Chris Blewitt was called back due to a delay of game penalty. Because of this, the Maulers had to punt again.

Exciting USFL Finish

The USFL after dark consistently proves to be wild. Philadelphia had to punt, and Isiah Hennie returned it all the way to the one yard line.

Pittsburgh took advantage right away, as Garrett Groshek powered his way into the endzone on an end around. With two minutes to play, it was a 34-31 ball game.

Since the team had no timeouts left, they decided to go for the 4th and 12 conversion. It failed, as Adam Rodriguez sacked Troy Williams.

Set up by the excellent field position, Philadelphia settled for a field goal, and Luis Aguilar made it a 37-31 ball game with a minute left to play.

Jordan Scott made the play of the game for the Stars. As the clock came down to its final seconds, Scott took down Williams to finish things off.

The Philadelphia Stars would hold on to win, 37-31 over the Pittsburgh Maulers.

Standout Playmakers

RB Matt Colburn II: It was an excellent outing today for Colburn, who has consistently gotten better through each and every week. Matt ran for 82 yards and two scores, averaging 4.1YPC. The juice he provided to Philadelphia’s offense was vital tonight.

QB Case Cookus: Case just played arguably his best – and most important – game of the USFL season. He posted 235 yards and two touchdowns, generating big-time plays for the Stars, especially in the second half. His production was invaluable to Bart Andrus today.

WR Corey Coleman: The former first round NFL pick proved his worth to the team today, with four catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.

LB Gabriel Sewell: Week in and week out, Sewell is doing it all for the Stars defensive front. He led the team with nine tackles tonight, flying around the field as usual.

DE Carson Taylor: The former NAU product was sensational for Philadelphia’s defense, with four tackles, two TFL, and a clutch sack late in the fourth quarter. Taylor has been an underrated linemen through seven weeks, but made his mark tonight.

LB Kyahva Tezino: When is Tezino not making a play for the Pittsburgh Maulers? While the defense mightily struggled tonight, Kyahva had 14 tackles and a TFL. Pure dominance from one of the USFL’s top linebackers.

Post-Game Comments

We asked Philadelphia Stars RB Matt Colburn about the improved productivity the team has seen over the past two weeks, and how the offensive line has played a role in that specifically:

Q: “Matt, the last couple weeks you’ve seen an uptick in production in the run game; what have you seen on the field, and how has the improvement on the offensive line impacted the success on the ground?”

A: “Beginning the season, we started off a little rough in terms of the run game, but we’ve been working hard every week. Focused on our assignments, our technique, the little things that you need to have success in the run game. We’re getting into a bit of a groove right now, because we just have the utmost trust between the offensive line, the running backs – everything’s just firing on all cylinders. We’re in a really good rhythm, and it ultimately came down to trusting each other while we’re in there.”

Final Thoughts

With tonight’s clutch victory, the Philadelphia Stars now improve to 4-3 on the season, winning three straight. Once again, this team has turned things around midway through the year, just as they did in 2022. The leadership of Bart Andrus is proving to be exactly what the Stars need time and time again.

As for Ray Horton and the Pittsburgh Maulers, a 2-5 record is far from ideal. However, with the parity in the USFL North, they are still in the thick of things when it comes to the playoff hunt. This team desperately needs to find a way to play complete football. The offense showed up, but the defense did not, which ultimately cost them the game.

Week seven of the USFL continues tomorrow, as the Memphis Showboats host the Houston Gamblers at 2:30pm ET on USA Network.

What are your thoughts on this USFL matchup between the Pittsburgh Maulers and Philadelphia Stars? Which USFL players impressed the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!