Week nine in the USFL kicked off this afternoon, with the New Jersey Generals taking on the Michigan Panthers. At this point, these two teams were headed in complete opposite directions. Michigan sat at 1-7, while New Jersey controlled the North with a 7-1 record.
The last time these two teams played, it was an ugly dog fight in week two – with New Jersey coming out on top, 10-6. This actually began the Generals’ winning streak, as they have won seven straight heading into week nine.
Let’s take a look at what all happened in today’s game, as it was more competitive than the records would suggest.
New Jersey got the ball first, with DeAndre Johnson under center. Johnson had missed a couple of weeks due to an ankle injury, but was back in the lineup today. After a solid march down the field, a missed kick from Austin Jones resulted in zero points for the Generals.
Michigan had a similar situation. Josh Love, who got injured back in week seven, got the start for the Panthers. Things did not go too well for him on their first drive, however. A tipped pass at the line was intercepted by Toby Johnson, giving New Jersey the football right back.
After being gifted with the solid field position, the Generals took advantage. Luis Perez came in at QB, putting the team in a position to score. This time, Austin Jones knocked through the 36 yard attempt, and New Jersey took a 3-0 lead.
The Austin Jones field goal is true as the Generals own a 3-0 lead in the first quarter 🤝
Michigan wasn’t able to get anything going on their next possession, as Love missed his receivers a couple of times, leading to a punt. However, DeAndre Johnson was intercepted by Tino Ellis, giving Michigan’s offense another opportunity with the football. Heading into the second quarter, New Jersey led 3-0.
After a decent start to the drive, Michigan had to punt. Things went downhill quick for the Panthers, as KaVontae Turpin turned on the jets – taking it to the house for the first punt return TD of the USFL’s season.
Josh Love came back in at QB for the Panthers, and it turned out to be the right move for the drive. An excellent march down the field put Michigan in great position. On fourth and goal, Love threw a dart to Joe Walker, catching it in the back of the endzone to make it a 10-6 ball game.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any crazier in the quarter, they did. Josh Love found Joe Walker wide open deep, putting Michigan in a fantastic position to get right back into the game. Love then threw a perfect pass to Isaiah Hyman, who tight-roped the sidelines into the endzone.
While New Jersey put together a solid drive to end the second half, another missed field goal left points off the board. Heading into halftime, the Generals maintained a 16-14 lead.
Even though Michigan got off to another good start in the third quarter, turnovers proved to be an issue. Josh Love was hit on a throw, resulting in an interception by Tre Elston, which put New Jersey in outstanding field position.
Love had suffered an injury on the previous drive, meaning that Barriere once again returned to the game. On his second crack at it, Eric was exceptional. He made multiple big time plays, including a huge fourth down conversion. Barriere then connected with Joe Walker, throwing a dart to the endzone to give Michigan a 20-19 lead.
With fifteen minutes left to play in the game, it was a one point affair, due to a missed two point attempt by the Panthers.
Michigan’s defense continued to put pressure on New Jersey’s quarterbacks, making them uncomfortable in the pocket. While New Jersey had to punt the football, Michigan could not pull away, sending the ball right back to the Generals.
However, Michigan’s defensive unit continued to play at a very high level. The Panthers got the football back, and Barriere once again made smart decisions to march the team into scoring position. A stand from New Jersey’s defense made Michigan settle for three, taking a 23-19 lead.
🎯 @_ColeMurphy_ makes it a 4 point game with just over 6 minutes left to play
New Jersey’s offense finally found some life. Luis Perez led the team down the field, before dropping an absolute dime to Darius Shepherd in the endzone. Another missed XP kept it a two point game, and New Jersey led 25-23 with only a couple of minutes left.
Unfortunately for Michigan, things wouldn’t go necessarily as planned. On a fourth down attempt, Barriere was intercepted by Paris Ford, effectively ending the game. It seemed like Michigan would have a chance at taking the lead, but just missed on a couple of plays that would have given them the opportunity to do so.
Week nine in the USFL is off to a great start, as this game was quite entertaining from start to finish. We got to see some excellent quarterback play, as Luis Perez, Josh Love, and Eric Barriere all played quite well for their respective teams.
At the end of the day, New Jersey did what they have all year long: win. Meanwhile, Michigan lost in disappointing fashion once again, dropping to 1-8 on the year. New Jersey now clinches the North Division, improving to 8-1.