Pittsburgh Maulers Punch Postseason Ticket Over New Jersey

Pittsburgh Maulers Punch Postseason Ticket Over New Jersey

The Pittsburgh Maulers (4-6) played their hub-mates in Canton on Saturday when they faced off against the New Jersey Generals (3-7) and thoroughly dominated them from the very first snap. The final score: 26-6. The USFL has seen some very competitive games as of late, but Pittsburgh was in firm control for most of the outing today.

Ray Horton and the Pittsburgh Maulers have officially punched their ticket to the North Division playoffs while they await their opponent, the winner of the Philadelphia Stars versus the Michigan Panthers on Sunday night. They can still clinch the division title with a Panthers win tomorrow, as well. It’s a great turnaround from last season for Pittsburgh and they look dangerous heading into the postseason. As for the New Jersey Generals, their season is over and a huge disappointment when you look at last season’s division title.

Scoring Summary

The Generals received the opening kickoff and had a solid 8 play, 56-yard drive that resulted in a 27-yard field goal by kicker Nick Sciba. The Maulers defense was able to hold up in the red zone following a big catch by wide receiver Warren Newman and kept New Jersey out of the end zone. It made the score 3-0 just five minutes into the game.

The Maulers answered right back on their first drive. Following the kickoff going out of bounds, and with excellent field position, Pittsburgh drove 50 yards in seven plays. Their possession only took a little over four minutes off the clock. Quarterback Troy Williams found wide receiver Isiah Hennie for an 11-yard touchdown pass that he held on to despite a big hit. The extra point was missed by kicker Chris Blewitt and the score was 6-3 Maulers. It would remain that way heading into the second quarter.

Following a high snap and bobble on a Maulers field goal attempt, the Generals were set up with excellent field position but moved the ball a measly eight yards. The Pittsburgh defense held strong again and only allowed a field goal. It was Sciba for the second time, and he was good from 35 yards out. It knotted up the score at 6-6 with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. It was the final New Jersey score of the game.

A short squib kick by New Jersey gave great field position to the Maulers again on the ensuing drive and they capitalized with a 52-yard field goal by Blewitt. The Generals took a knee when they got the ball back and going into the half it was 9-6, Pittsburgh. They would also receive the ball to start the second half.

The first score of the second half went to the Maulers defense. Generals quarterback De’Andre Johnson was stripped while trying to throw by defensive end Nasir Player and safety Eli Walker scooped it up and took it all the way for a touchdown. It made the score 16-6 in the third quarter and put Pittsburgh firmly in control of the game. This was the second takeaway of the game by the Maulers defense, a Johnson interception and fumble.

On their next offensive possession after the defensive touchdown, the Maulers expanded their lead. They drove inside the 10-yard line of the Generals but had to settle for a field goal. It was Blewitt again, this time from 22 yards out and made the score 19-6 with 13 minutes remaining in the game. New Jersey needed to find an offensive groove soon if they had any hope of coming back.

The Maulers saw to it that the Generals would not make a comeback. Their defense shut down the NJ offense yet again and Pittsburgh scored on their very next drive. Running back Madre London punched it in from four yards out. It was a five play, 37-yard drive that took about three minutes off the clock, following a bad punt by the Generals punter Brock Miller. It made the score 26-6 and was the final nail in the coffin for New Jersey.

A Look At The Numbers

Pittsburgh Maulers quarterback Troy Williams had another solid outing on Saturday. He never has the most eye-popping stats, but he is often efficient. He was 17/25 (68%) for 154 yards passing and one touchdown. He also added 40 yards on the ground on six carries and had a passer rating of 97.8. He didn’t turn the ball over and was excellent on third down. When you have the best defense in the league, that’s all your coach will ask of you.

Running back Garrett Groshek contributed 53 yards rushing on 12 carries to lead the team. Fellow running back Madre London had 16 yards but scored the team’s final touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The standout pass catcher was wide receiver Isiah Hennie who caught six balls for 48 yards and the opening series touchdown. No other receiver eclipsed the 30-yard mark for Pittsburgh, but they didn’t need a ton of offense the way their defense dominated.

Safety Eli Walker scored as much as the Generals offense did all day when he picked up a fumble forced by defensive end Nasir Player and took it all the way for a touchdown. He added in three tackles and Player had that strip sack which changed the complexion of the game. Safety Arnold Tarpley III had a fantastic interception on De’Andre Johnson that stopped a drive that looked to be promising. His teammate Mark Gilbert also had a pick on a deep ball, and he had sticky coverage all day, dominating anyone New Jersey threw at him. As usual, Kyahva Tezino was the leading tackler with seven, but it was a group effort by an incredible defense.

They continued to take the ball away as they have done so all year and only gave up six points in three red zone possessions by NJ. It was difficult for their guys to accumulate stats when they were able to get the Generals off the field quick and had three takeaways.

New Jersey Generals

For quarterback De’Andre Johnson and the New Jersey Generals offense, it was a day to forget. Johnson was 12/27 (44%) for 137 yards passing and two interceptions. He had a passer rating of 29.4 and also fumbled. In all, he had three turnovers and yet, his stat line still looks better than his performance. Garbage time yardage in the final possession helped improve the box score but this was the worst outing he’s had all year.

He did lead the team in rushing with 68 yards on 12 carries but that too was helped out when the game was out of reach. Running back Darius Victor only saw nine rushes for 48 yards and added another 25 yards receiving. On 11 total touches, he had 73 yards. It has been a theme all year, he did not get the ball nearly enough. Running back Kingston Davis was the leading receiver with three catches for 42 yards, all of which came on that final drive I keep mentioning. Overall, it was a very rough day at the office for this team and they have a lot of work to do this offseason adding weapons.

The defense played a solid game, only giving up 19 points. Still, they did not have a dominant game when they could’ve used it with their offense struggling. Linebacker D’Juan Hines led the team in tackles with 11 and linebacker Chris Orr added nine of his own. Cornerback Meiko Dotson had a forced fumble which safety Dravon Askew-Henry recovered. That then led to the drive that the Pittsburgh Maulers scored a defensive touchdown on. Outside linebacker Kolin Hill had two sacks, and defensive linemen Toby Johnson and Hercules Mata’afa shared one. This unit was put in tough spots all day and although they did what they could, it was not nearly enough.

The box score does not truly tell the whole story as I have mentioned, due to garbage time statistics. It was obvious when watching, the Pittsburgh Maulers absolutely dominated from the first snap to the final whistle. The Maulers won time of possession by nearly nine minutes and did still win the yardage battle by 11 yards. They scored two touchdowns in three red zone possession and 17 points total, while the Generals came away with just two field goals in their three tries.

Pittsburgh also won the turnover battle three to one and extended their league best turnover differential to +8. If you take out New Jersey’s final drive when the game was all but decided, the Maulers outgained the Generals 257-170. That’s a better indication of just how well this team played, specifically on defense. It is a well-earned and deserved playoff berth for the Pittsburgh Maulers.

Looking Ahead

As stated earlier, the New Jersey Generals season is over. They finish the year 3-7 following a 9-1 season in 2022 that came with a division title. This team never looked to be in rhythm all year and despite showing flashes, they weren’t able to get their footing. Penalties, untimely turnovers, and undisciplined mistakes were the catalyst to a very disappointing season that was well below expectations.

Head coach Mike Riley and his staff will have to go back to the drawing board this offseason and try to find explosive playmakers and good receivers on the outside. They need to bring back keys to their offense like running back Darius Victor and quarterback De’Andre Johnson. They’ll also need to keep their strong defensive core together going into 2024. Their 2023 season has officially ended but their opponents will play at least one more week next Saturday in Canton.

The Pittsburgh Maulers have never been the most aesthetically pleasing team, but their defense is unbelievable. They once again dominated against the Generals and even outscored the New Jersey offense on their own. They have a real shot at making a championship run with the way they’re playing currently. Troy Williams has been a stabilizing force at quarterback for this offense and despite not setting the league on fire, he is keeping them on track and doing just enough to support the defense.

If their offense can kick it into a higher gear, they have a real shot to do damage in the postseason. With the best defense and special teams in the USFL, they look poised to make noise starting next weekend.

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