Pittsburgh Maulers Roll Past Michigan Panthers For Second Win

Pittsburgh Maulers Roll Past Michigan Panthers For Second Win

Week five of the USFL kicked off this afternoon, with the Michigan Panthers hosting the Pittsburgh Maulers. This was an important North Division matchup, with both teams fighting for leverage.

Heading into this affair, the Michigan Panthers were in a slump. They had dropped two straight – at home – looking completely different than the team we saw the first two weeks in the USFL.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh has been improving with each week – but didn’t execute in clutch situations against Birmingham, ultimately falling to a 1-3 record.

Let’s take a look at what happened, as Pittsburgh made a big-time statement on the road.

First Quarter

As the game got underway, the Michigan Panthers grabbed momentum early. The defense forced a quick punt, and Ish Hyman took it back 73 yards, setting them up with excellent field position.

Josh Love capitalized swiftly, tossing a dime to Cole Hikutini in the end zone to put the team in front 7-0.

That would be about all she wrote for Michigan’s offense, though, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Mike Nolan’s defense dominated the early portion of this game, as Frank Ginda set up the squad nicely after picking off Troy Williams.

However, Michigan would have to punt, which turned out to be a trend throughout the outing. Pittsburgh would then grab a firm hold of this game – never relenting. Mason Stokke ran the ball in from a few yards out, to tie things up at 7 a piece.

Right before the end of the period, Vaughn Taylor recovered a fumble, and the Maulers cruised into the next quarter with possession.

Second Quarter

The Pittsburgh Maulers were clearly on a mission. After the early turnover, this offense cleaned up quickly. Troy Williams was spectacular, and put the team in front with a dime to Isiah Hennie in the back of the end zone.

Michigan had a chance to score, getting inside the 30 yard line. However, Josh Love’s turnover struggles would continue this week, as he threw a pick right to Mark Gilbert in the end zone.

Not surprisingly, the Michigan Panthers defense would step up. Breeland Speaks had himself a phenomenal day, picking up a sack on Williams which would end this drive.

Heading into halftime, the Pittsburgh Maulers held a 14-7 lead.

Third Quarter

After a slow start to the second half, Bailey Gaither would blow everyone away with a ridiculous one-handed catch down the sidelines.

Pittsburgh would pile on a few more points, as Chris Blewitt knocked through a short kick to take a 17-7 lead.

With just fifteen minutes left to play, the Maulers were on top, 17-7.

Fourth Quarter

Turnovers were a staple of the final period. To begin the quarter, Joe Walker fumbled the football – and it was recovered by Dale Warren for Pittsburgh.

A few minutes later, Breeland Speaks would come up big for Michigan once again. Williams lost the football as he slid to the ground, and Speaks recovered for the Panthers.

On queue, a red zone turnover cost Michigan again. Knocking on the door – with a chance to finally pull within one score, Carson Strong made a brutal mistake. On 3rd down, he tossed it right to Arnold Tarpley – who had a massive return to give Pittsburgh great field position.

Troy Williams would put the game on ice, slipping right past defenders on a 13 yard scamper to the end zone.

With a 23-7 lead, the Pittsburgh Maulers effectively shut the door on this one. For the second time at Ford Field, Ray Horton’s group would come away with a win, absolutely dominating from start to finish.

Pittsburgh Maulers Playmakers

QB Troy Williams: What a performance from Troy, who put the team on his back for the third straight week. He’s been sensational, growing in confidence with each and every game. Williams finished the game with 184 yards and two touchdowns on 15/19 passing. Additionally, he rushed for 59 yards and a score on just ten carries.

WR Bailey Gaither: Gaither has been a consistent playmaker for Ray Horton in the USFL this season, and that was no different today. On top of his highlight reel snag, Bailey racked up 89 yards on just four grabs. He continues to show up week in and week out.

LB Kyahva Tezino: When is Tezino *not* making a big play? His presence on the defensive side of the football has been invaluable, especially with Reuben Foster out with an injury. Tezino finished with seven tackles today, which doesn’t do full justice to the impact he had on every drive.

DL Chris Okoye: Pittsburgh’s entire defensive line was stellar today, but Okoye stood out above the rest. He racked up four tackles, 4 TFL, and a sack. Simply unstoppable.

Michigan Panthers Standouts

DE Breeland Speaks: The sole bright spot today for Michigan was Breeland Speaks, who had a monster performance. Six tackles, 2.5 sacks, a TFL – and, a clutch fumble recovery that gave his team a glimmer of hope down the stretch. Speaks absolutely should be in the DPOY conversation in the USFL.

Post-Game Comments

Opening Statement from Pittsburgh Maulers HC Ray Horton:

When asked about Bailey Gaither’s one-handed catch, QB Troy Williams attributed that to the confidence he has in his players, team, and scheme. Listen:

Michigan Panthers HC Mike Nolan on Breeland Speaks impact:

Coach Nolan addressed the offensive issues, and will certainly be re-evaluating things moving forward. He admits that the self-inflicted wounds are what’s killing the team – especially red zone turnovers.

On the bright side, Nolan knows that it’s a ten game season, and has plenty of confidence in his squad’s ability to turn things around in the second half of the year.

Final Thoughts

How about those Pittsburgh Maulers? This team is playing with heart, energy, and one mind under the leadership of Ray Horton. Since making the switch to Troy Williams as the full-time starter, this offense has been on fire.

Meanwhile, Jarren Horton’s defense is playing like the best unit in the USFL. Boogie Roberts, Kyahva Tezino, Vaughn Taylor, Olive Sagapolu, Eli Walker, etc. – there’s so much talent on this roster. Pittsburgh now jumps to the second seed in the North, with a 2-3 record. This is the first time they have ever been in the playoff picture in the modern USFL.

The Michigan Panthers have quite a bit to figure out. They’ve lost three straight at home, letting down their fans with each and every outing. In addition, the offense has somehow looked worse with every week. Something needs to change, quickly.

Week five of the USFL continues tomorrow, with the Philadelphia Stars taking on the New Jersey Generals at 12pm ET on NBC.

What are your takeaways from this matchup between the Michigan Panthers and Pittsburgh Maulers? Which USFL players made an impact? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!