Heading into this matchup, the Pittsburgh Maulers were searching for their first win of the USFL season. It has been a rough go for Ray Horton in his head coaching debut, losing two games in a row while posting only six offensive points.
That all changed on Sunday, as the Maulers took it to the Philadelphia Stars. Let’s take a look at what happened, and break down the key factors that led to Pittsburgh’s first USFL victory.
Philadelphia got off to a red hot start. Case Cookus swiftly marched the team down the field, and found Corey Coleman in the end zone on a dime. After this first drive, it seemed like the Stars would take complete control – but they didn’t.
Pittsburgh, in typical fashion, was flat to begin the game. However, they would chip away – and slowly but surely find a way to grab momentum. QB Troy Williams saw the start, and for good reason. While he hasn’t quite found his rhythm as a passer yet, his mobility was crucial to the win today.
Chris Blewitt is a gem. The brand new kicker was sensational for Pittsburgh, being used very often. During the entire first half, the Maulers could not find success in the red zone, so they settled for quite a few field goals.
50 yards, no problem for Chris Blewitt! Blewitt adds on 3️⃣ more
Heading into halftime, the Pittsburgh Maulers led 12-10.
Not surprisingly, the Maulers played excellent defense. They’ve been fantastic through two weeks, and put on a show to get past Philadelphia. Boogie Roberts, Reuben Foster, and plenty of others made impact plays to give Pittsburgh an advantage.
Come for the fumble recovery, stay for the dancing 😂🕺
Then, Troy Williams finally made something happen offensively. He dropped a perfect pass in the bucket to Bailey Gaither, and the Maulers took a commanding 21-10 lead. This score was the first offensive touchdown of the entire USFL season for Pittsburgh.
However, they couldn’t quite find their footing. It was strange to see this unit so out of sync. After pulling within one score, Cookus was decked – which resulted in an errant pass to Foster for an interception.
Pittsburgh’s defense sealed the deal, stifling Cookus and the Stars every time they attempted to surge. The Pittsburgh Maulers came away with a big-time win, 21-13 over the Philadelphia Stars.
Impact Players & Stats
QB Troy Williams: While Williams only threw for 95 yards, he added 65 on the ground – averaging 9.3YPC. When he got out of the pocket, Philadelphia could not contain him. Moving forward, Pittsburgh has to continue to utilize his dual threat capabilities.
LB Reuben Foster: Foster continues to make his case as DPOY. He was spectacular, racking up all sorts of numbers on the stat-line: 11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD. His efforts were vital to the victory, providing the team with momentum on multiple occasions.
K Chris Blewitt: What an outing for Chris Blewitt in his USFL debut. He was 5/5 on field goal attempts, allowing Pittsburgh to capitalize on the solid field position they had for most of the afternoon. If Blewitt continues to kick at this level, the Maulers’ special teams are in great shape.
WR Corey Coleman: The sole bright spot of Philadelphia’s offense was Coleman, who posted 86 yards and a TD. His development in Bart Andrus’ system has been impressive, and it’s fair to expect plenty more out of him moving forward.
LB Adam Rodriguez: Despite the loss, Rodriguez put on a show. He finished the game with 8 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks, and 1 PD. Adam was a key piece of the Stars’ defense in 2022, and so far has been playing at an even higher level in 2023.
This game was a slugfest. Pittsburgh posted only 202 yards of total offense, while Philadelphia wasn’t much better with 235. However, it was the rushing attack of Pittsburgh that ultimately pushed them to victory.
The Stars had only 18 yards on the ground, compared to Pittsburgh’s 135. An emphasis has to be put on Philadelphia’s ability to run the football moving forward. While Case Cookus didn’t play his best game by any means, he had absolutely zero help from Matt Colburn or Dexter Williams.
Granted, the offensive line play has been quite poor for Philadelphia this season. Cookus has been pressured on almost every drop back, while Colburn hasn’t found his footing. This is largely due to the OL struggles.
Pittsburgh exposed the Stars inability to stop the run. In week two, Reggie Corbin ran all over Philadelphia’s defense. This time around, it was Troy Williams and Madre London who paved the way for Pittsburghs’ offense to score in double digits this weekend.
The USFL North Division has now taken an interesting twist. Pittsburgh moves up to third place, with this win over the Stars.
Ray Horton has to be proud of his team, as they played their hearts out on Sunday. It was a heartwarming moment for Ray, who won his first game as a head coach – while his son Jarren coached an excellent game as the DC.
"Like he said it's a dream. It really is a dream."
Philadelphia has to get out of the gutter one way or another. Right now, this unit looks like a shell of its former Championship self. Bart Andrus has the pieces – now, they simply need the right game plan to be successful.
What were your thoughts on this game between the Pittsburgh Maulers and Philadelphia Stars? Which USFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!