Bart Andrus’ Stars are ready to run it back. This team made it to the Championship last season, but fell just short as Case Cookus got injured. With a lot of key pieces back, this group is in a position to make major noise this season.
On the other hand, the Memphis Showboats are a new franchise – but, in all practicality, the same team as the 4-6 Tampa Bay Bandits. This time, Brady White will serve as the starting quarterback, looking to bring pro football back to a city that’s meant a lot to his career so far.
Let’s take a look at what happened, as it was an entertaining showdown from start to finish.
To begin the game, Memphis received the football. Derrick Dillon had an excellent return, setting up the team with solid field position. The Showboats marched down the field, aided by a couple of penalties. However, Brady White threw a pick to Channing Stribling – last year’s INT leader – and the Stars took over.
Bart Andrus had his Stars looking spiffy to open up this game. As expected, their offense – which features so much talent – was humming. On third and goal, Cookus swung it out to Colburn, who burst past Memphis’ defenders into the endzone.
The Showboats put together a decent drive, but could not capitalize. Alex Kessman just missed a 48 yard field goal attempt, so the score remained 14-7.
Memphis’ defense picked up the intensity, taking Cookus down for a couple of sacks. Penalties killed Philadelphia on this drive, alongside Case not being able to get the ball out of his hands. The Stars were finally going to punt – but, a horse collar tackle handed the team a first down.
Cole Kelley came into the game for Memphis, and looked decent. Alex Collins ripped off a nice run, to put the team in a scoring position. Alex Kessman knocked through a 28 yard kick, and it was a 20-10 ball game.
Chris Rowland had a phenomenal return for the Stars, giving them a chance to score before halftime. Luis Aguilar attempted a 50 yard field goal – but Memphis blocked it, leaving points off the board.
Memphis got exactly what they ordered for the second half. White threw a perfect pass to Ryan McDaniel, who made a fantastic catch in the endzone for the score. With several minutes left in the quarter, the Showboats only trailed by three.
Both offenses played impressive well today, especially considering it was week one. In previous spring football debuts, we’ve seen teams look relatively sloppy across the board. However, the Showboats and Stars were in sync nicely.
Case Cookus was back to Championship form, that’s for sure. He seamlessly marched the team down the field, before tossing a perfect pass to Devin Gray under duress, which put the Stars up 27-17.
With just fifteen minutes left to play, the Showboats trailed by 10 points.
Memphis had an answer. Brady White was fluid in the second half, finding his receivers in stride and keeping his head up, despite a couple of drops. A penalty set up first and goal at the one, but the Stars held strong. On third and goal, Alex Collins lowered the shoulder, and finally got in for Memphis. A missed PAT hurt, though, as the team still trailed by four.
Unfortunately for Memphis, they couldn’t get the job done offensively. White overthrew Derrick Dillon on what would have been a first down, and the team had to punt.
However, the Showboats made something happen. They forced a punt on Philadelphia, as Williams was stuffed on third down. White found Rashard Davis on a deep ball for 32 yards, which gave Memphis some hope with under a minute left to play.
On their last breath, Brady White couldn’t make it happen for the Memphis Showboats. He just had to chuck the ball in the dirt on 4th down, turning the ball over on downs.
The Philadelphia Stars held on to win the USFL opener, 27-23 over the Memphis Showboats.
It was a stellar USFL debut for the Philadelphia Stars. As expected, this team was in a rhythm from the get go, led by Case “The Chef” Cookus himself. Right out of the gate, the Stars were a well oiled machine.
Cookus has to get a ton of credit for this win, with an outstanding performance across the board. However, the talent around him made Philadelphia so successful. Chris Rowland, Matt Colburn, Corey Coleman, Devin Gray, etc. continued to step up and make big-time plays, led by Cookus at the helm.
Meanwhile, the Memphis Showboats didn’t play a bad game by any means. They put together some excellent drives, and looked solid throughout most of the game. Philadelphia is simply a tough team to beat. That being said, the team needs to avoid self-inflicted wounds if they want to win moving forward.
What are your thoughts on this game between the Memphis Showboats and Philadelphia Stars? Which USFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!