Michigan Panthers Defeat Maulers to Secure First Overall Pick in 2023 USFL Draft

Michigan Panthers Defeat Maulers to Secure First Overall Pick in 2023 USFL Draft

Kicking off USFL Sunday is the Michigan Panthers and the Pittsburgh Maulers. Going into the final week of the season, both teams are sitting at 1-8; sharing the worst record in the league. Normally, whoever lost this game would receive the first over all pick in the draft.

The USFL is taking a slightly different approach. Over the week Daryl Johnston announced that the USFL has decided to tinker and award the first pick in the draft to the winner of this game. They’ll not only receive the first over all pick, but the first pick in each round of the 2023 USFL Draft.

1st Quarter

The Maulers would start the game with possession, and Vad Lee  came in to serve as QB to kick things off. Things didn’t exactly start how the team was hoping, after a quick three and out they punted it away.

Michigan’s offense now had their first time on the field, with Paxton Lynch coming in to run the show. The lone Pathers win came with Lynch starting, and against Pittsburgh, so they’ll look to repeat their earlier performance.

Lynch started out well, but stalled near mid-field. They ultimately were forced to punt it back to the Maulers, but special teams came in clutch to force a fumble to give the Panthers possession in the red-zone.

With the ball again, Coach Fisher opted to rely on Reggie Corbin to chisel away at the remaining yards. On 3rd and 3 the Panthers took a time out to assess their situation. They were in field goal range, but were looking to secure a touchdown. On the next play Lynch connected with Ishmael Hyman to edge in the end-zone for the first points of the afternoon.

Pittsburgh’s offense came back on the field, and this time around Coach Wilson was heavily relying on his running core in hopes to get things moving. This approach was working better, but they were still struggling in the air.

Once again the Michigan defense came out strong, forcing yet another fumble. This time Cory Rahman recovered the ball and ran it back 63-yards for another Panthers touchdown. The extra-point brings it to 14-0 with 2:45 left in the first quarter.

Pittsburgh was back in control of the ball, but so far nothing was working for them. Vad Lee seemed to be making some calls on his own here, to mixed success.

2nd Quarter

The good news, the Maulers didn’t turnover the ball on their latest drive. The bad news, they failed to get into coring position. The second quarter started out with the Panthers receiving the punt, getting a chance to extend their lead even further.

The Panthers came back out and continued like they have all afternoon. This time around we saw a great showing from Stevie Scott, which ultimately brought them to first and goal.

It didn’t take them long, on the next play Paxton Lynch connected with Lance Lenoir in the ed-zone to grab another TD. The extra-point gives them a 2-point lead over Pittsburgh with a lot of time left in the game.

Roland Rivers now came in for Pittsburgh, looking to get their offense moving.

It looks like it was going to be a quick set of downs, but the Panthers drew a flag on third down to move the chains for the Maulers.

They weren’t able to capitalize on the fresh set of downs. They ran into penalty problems of their own, pushing them back and ultimately leading to another punt.

Pittsburgh’s kicking unit pinned the Panthers deep in their own territory, which ultimately led to a fast set of downs. The Maulers offense would retake the field with 5-minutes to go in the half.

With Rivers back in the game at QB, for the first time today they seemed to get the ball down the field. Rivers was able to bring the Maulers into the red-zone

They still ended up creating their own problems. As they were finally moving into scoring position, they drew more penalties pushing them further from the goal line.

Rivers tried to fight back, but at the end of the drive they brought Ramiz Ahmed to get them on the board form 23-yards out.

The Panthers would have a little over a minute on the clock, giving them an opportunity to grab some more points before the half.

The team was doing very well managing the clock, moving out of bounds on almost every play. Beyond that, the clock stops after first downs when under two minutes. They found themselves at the 35 with 20-seconds left, and Lynch was looking to get them into field goal position.

Just when it seemed like everything was going well, the Maulers defense snagged an interception.

Pittsburgh now had the ball, but only 8-seconds to execute from the 50. They ran two plays, none of which brought anything of value taking us to the half.

3rd Quarter

Michigan would look to redeem their previous mistake with their drive, receiving the kickoff to start the half.

Ishmael Hyman came up big again, grabbing a solid pass for a 27-yard gain. Still, they found themselves on 4th and short, and Coach Wilson decided to go for it. The Maulers defense had other plans, sacking Lynch and regaining possession.

Pittsburgh now had their first chance of the half, and Roland Rivers would take the coaches challenge to try and turn it around. Still, they continued to struggle and found themselves getting pushed back big to punt away on 4th down.

Joe Walker continued where he left off last week, securing a big pass to bring the team to mid-field to start their drive.

Stevie Scott was now in the game for Reggie Corbin, and he was able to chisel away at the yards, to move the chains and keep the drive moving.

Now at the goal line, the Panther brought Corbin back in, who brought it just shy of another Panthers score. On the next try they gave it to Corbin again, who ended up taking an 8-yard loss.

Although it looked as if they would get into the end-zone, they had to settle for three from 35-yards out to put them up 24-3.

Roland Rivers was back out for Pittsburgh, and time was running out if they wanted to get back in this. After a few missed connections, Rivers went long, and found DelVon Hardaway to get them into enemy territory.

When on stuck on third and short Rivers took it into his own hands to run it in to make it first and goal to end out the third.

4th Quarter

The Maulers were now in prime scoring position to start out the final quarter of the game.

Vad Lee was supposed to come in to start the fourth, but Coach Wilson kept Rivers in to finish the drive. On the first plat he found Matt Seybert in the end-zone for the first Maulers touchdown of the afternoon. Still in the game, they opted for three; but could not convert.

Paxton Lynch came back out for Michigan, and at this point they were looking t close this out. There was an emphasis on running plays and they were taking their time in between each handoff. On third and short, they decided to pass only to go incomplete and forcing a punt.

The Maulers were on the hunt, and anted to get that first pick. Vad Lee marched the ball down the field and ended it with another Pittsburgh TD to Isiah Henne.

They could not convert the two, but are slowly chiseling away at the Panthers lead.

Michigan has the ball and 11:04 to run off the clock if they want to come out with the win.

Lynch was not messing around on this drive, connecting consistently to bring them to the enemy’s twenty. Pettway came up with a huge snag to bring them to first and goal on the next play.

It looked as if Stevie Scott had secured a touchdown, but after review it was ruled incomplete. On the next play, Lynch found Marcus Baugh to grab the score instead.

Vad Lee came back on the field with a mission, continue where he left off. He did just that and marched it down the field quickly. He ended the drive by findin Isiah Henne for his second touchdown of the day.

They tried again for two, but once again could not complete, but it was now a one-possession game. Rather than punt, Kirby Wilson opted to go for it on 4th an 12 instead to give them a chance to regain possession. Unfortunately, they could not covert; giving Michigan the ball at the 33-yard line.

With Michigan’s offense back in control, they were running the ball; forcing the Maulers to waste their timeouts. On third and eight Lynch handed it off to Scott, but he couldn’t get enough to move the chains. They opted to bring out Cole Murphy, who knocked it in from 44-yards out to make it a two-possession game.

Vad Lee now had potentially one last shot to get a quick score and keep their hopes alive. Unfortunately, a tipped pass get intercepted to give the Panthers the ball and likely the game.

Lynch came out and kneeled the time out, wasting the Maulers final timeouts and leaving 4-seconds on the clock. They brought out the punting team, which lead to the final play of the game.

This brings us down to one final game remaining to the inaugural USFL season. Later tonight the Houston Gamblers will look for their third win against the New Orleans Breakers. The Panthers have secured the first overall pick in the 2023 draft, so it’s on to scouting and planning for next year for Michigan. The Maulers have struggled all season, and have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to turn tings around next year.

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