Birmingham Stallions Top Panthers to Clinch #1 Seed in the USFL

Birmingham Stallions Top Panthers to Clinch #1 Seed in the USFL

Kicking off the final week of the UFL regular season is a preview of next week’s USFL conference championship matchup. The Michigan Panthers are traveling to Protective Stadium to take on the Birmingham Stallions in hopes to claim the the #1 seed in the conference. It’s important to note that if Michigan does win the game will still be played at Protective Stadium next week due to conflict at Ford Field. That being said, pride is on the line.

First Quarter

Danny Etling and the Michigan Panthers would start the game with possession and a chance to take an early lead. Marcus Simms and Matthew Colburn are out today for Michigan, and Bryce Perkins will be taking over at QB for the second half. Eitling took a quick three and out, but it wasn’t without effort. On third down Eitling found a gap and ran it up the middle coming up just short.

The Birmingham Stallions offense now took the field for the first time this afternoon. With Adrian Martinez in at QB, he was able to make some quick progress. After moving the chains once, he connected with Jace Sternberger for a huige 53-yard reception that brought the team right to the goal line.

The next play saw CJ Marable run it in for the Stallions first touchdown of the day. Coach Holtz opted for two, and Jordan Thomas delivered for his team. Birmingham now held an early 8-0 lead over the Panthers. During the commercial break Dean Blandino reviewed the conversion and rolled it back as Thomas only had one foot in-bounds. The score now stood at 6-0 in the Stallions favor.

The Panthers got lucky, but they’d need to produce some more yards out of their offense to keep pace. The drive started out a bit better for Etling, connecting with Hikutini for a first down on the first play.

Although they couldn’t get into the endzone, Jake Bates came out for a 39-yard field goal attempt. He missed from this same distance last week, but this week was no challenge. The Panthers now cut the lead in half, 6-3 with the Stallions on top.

CJ Marable continued to excel for the Stallions, he came up with a huge 19-yard run on 3rd-down to move them past mid-field and to keep the drive alive. The next play did not go as well, the Panther defense came up with a big sack pushing them back 13. Martinez took another big sack on the next play putting Birmingham at 3rd and 29.

It was too tall of a task and the Stallions were forced to punt it away.

Etling and the Panthers continued their momentum, after a few attempts they found themselves at mid-field.

It didn’t stop there either, Etling connected with Devin Gray to move them near the 30. After taking a holding call which pushed michigan back 10, they let time run out in the first quarter.

Second Quarter

Etling started the second quarter hot with a big 23-yard run straight to endzone to grab the Panthers first touchdown of the day.

Nolan opted for 1, and Taua was able to move the ball and covert to give Michigan a 10-6 lead.

The Stallions came back on the field and it looked like they may stall out again. CJ Marable came up big, moving the chains on third and short to keep the drive moving. But, that didn’t stop the Panthers defense from playing as strong as they have all day. Martinez took another big sack, now putting the team in a 3rd & 16 situation. The could not convert and once again had to punt it away.

The Stallions defense came out strong. It looked as if they may stop the Panthers and force them to punt for the first time today. But, things didn’t go to plan. On 3rd & 8 Etling found a receiver to move the chains.

For a moment it seemed like the Stallions had forced a turnover, but they received a holding call giving Michigan the ball back and five extra yards.

The Panthers were out there to win and were not letting off the gas. Etling threw a bomb to Siaosi Mariner resulting in a 46-yard touchdown. They couldn’t get the 1-point conversion, but not they held a 16-6 lead over Birmingham.

Birmingham still couldn’t find their footing on offense, kicking it back to Michigan. The Stallions defense came out with a bit of urgency this time around. Birmingham shut down the Panthers forcing the punt for the first time this afternoon. The Stallions regained possession with 2-minutes left in the half.

Things went as they have all afternoon. The Panthers defense came up big collecting their 4th sack of the day.

They also forced a punt with 27-seconds left in the second quarter. A Michigan penalty forced a re-kick, giving them only 6-seconds to go. They ultimately let the clock run out and went into the half with a 10-point lead.

Third Quarter

MArtinez and the Stallions had possession to start the second half and they’d hope to adjust while things were within reach. The one thing with Birmingham is that they never give up. This drive brought them into the redzone again and they were out for points. On the next play CJ Marable went 20-yards for the touchdown.

Adrian Martinez took in the 1-point conversion himself to close the gap. They now trailed the Panthers by only three, 16-13.

Bryce Perkins was now in for the Panthers at QB. This was the plan since the beginning of the game, and you can expect that they’ll still go out and play for the win. When Michigan was stuck at 3rd and long Perkins came up with a big run, unfortunately he came up a yard short. The Panthers opted to punt it away rather than rist the field advantage if they couldn’t convert.

Michigan’s defense held their end of the bargain and prevented the Stallions from scoring. After the punt the Panthers were past mid-field and looking to regain the lead.

During the Panthers next drive Bryce Perkins took a big hit which ultimately took him out of the game. Etling came back in, giving him a shot to pick up where he left off in the first half. Devin Gray continued to impress securing another first down for the team.

They found themselves in the redzone at 1st & goal from the 4. Michigan was in prime scoring position, but two costly penalties pushed them back 10-yards to the 14.

Fourth Quarter

Etling connected with Siaosi Mariner for a touchdown, but another penalty took it away and put the Panthers at 3rd and goal from the 24. At the end of the drive Michigan brought Jake Bates out for a 44-yard attempt. He’s been solid all season and this was no different. Michigan now held a 19-13 lead over the Stallions.

It could be the case the the Birmingham Stallions figured out what works against the Panthers and opted to not give it away. Regardless, this drive was much of what we saw in the first half. The offense stalled out and kicked it back to Michigan.

Etling and company game back on the field and they seemed to go out of their way to use as much time as possible. They couldn’t get into the endzone, it was right on the edge of field goal range so the team opted to punt it away.

Birmingham now had the ball at 7:04 left to tie it up or take the lead.

Martinez and company still couldn’t find their footing. In fact he almost threw a pick on 3rd and short, which forced them to punt it away again.

The Panthers struggled to get anything moving on this drive. This opens the door for potentially one last drive for Birmingham to come back and tie or take the lead.

The offense looked like it was going to have a quick three and out, but CJ Marable converted to keep the drive going. This lead the team to the 2-minute warning, keep the hope of a comeback alive.

Marable has been the go to guy for Birmingham today, and they kept feeding it to him. He was able to move the chains once more, moving them to the 37 with 1:47 left. The Stallions were getting close to field goal range, but they’d need a touchdown to close this out.

Michigan’s defense turned it up and forced a 4th and 7 situation for Birmingham. They opted to go for it, and converted it on a low throw to Kevin Austin.

Only 15-yards and 1:16 stood between the Birmingham Stallions and a tie. A costly Michigan penalty pushed them 5-yards closer.

Martinez ultimately connected with Jace Sternberger to tie it up with 59-seconds left. CJ Marable was able to secure the extra-point giving the Birmingham Stallions a20-19 lead with 54-seconds left in the game.

The Panthers just needed a field goal to close it out, and turns out they have one of the best kickers in the league. Taco came up with a huge sack for Birmingham, forcing Michigan to waste one of their timeouts. With 32-seconds left Michigan had one last shot on 4th and 4. Devin Gray was able to pull in the pass to move the chains. Additionally, the Stallions drew a roughing the passer call to move them even closer.

With 3-seconds to go Jake Bates came out and went wide givin the Stallions the win.

The Birmingham Stallions rebounded from their loss and officially clinched the #1 seed in the USFL conference. Next week they’ll be back at Protective Stadium in a rematch against the Michigan Panthers. They may have come out of this one with a win, but you know the team will be looking for every opportunity to get the edge next weekend. The last two seasons Birmingham always seems to find a way to win in the postseason, so it’s not going to be easy for either team to make it to the UFL Championship.

Who do you think will win next week in the USFL Conference Championship? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.

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