Philadelphia Stars Destroy Panthers to Punch Ticket to the USFL Playoffs

Philadelphia Stars Destroy Panthers to Punch Ticket to the USFL Playoffs

Kicking off the second half of USFL week 8 is the Philadelphia Stars looking to clinch their playoff appearance, but they’d need to defeat the Michigan Panthers first.

The last time the two played it was a close matchup, and ultimately came down to a last-second missed punt to give the Stars the edge. Coach Fisher has since signed Cole Murphy, which has given the team a proper kicker. In fact, up until yesterday, he held the league record with a 60-yard field goal. It all comes down to this game for Michigan. If they want a chance at the playoffs, they need to beat the Stars. Otherwise, they’ll join the Maulers in being eliminated.

1st Quarter

The Philadelphia Stars won the coin toss and decided to receive the kickoff to start out the matchup. Coach Andrus wanted to give his offense a shot to score early, hoping not to have as close as a matchup as the first time around.

Case Cookus continued to shine this season, starting the opening drive out hot. He was moving the ball well, and the offense was making it easy for him. They ultimately ended the drive with Cookus connecting with Matt Colburn to put the Stars on the board early.

After a strong showing from Josh Love last week which saw the Panthers take the Breakers to the leagues first overtime, Paxton his getting the start. Love is still reeling from a thumb injury, keeping him out of the game. Things seemed to start good for Lynch, but he went long only to be picked off giving Philadelphia the ball again with 11:18 left in the first quarter.

The Stars had a chance to extend their lead early, and they were coming out strong again on offense. Between Matt Colburn and Jordan Suell, they were firing on all cylinders. Cookus even took it into his own hands to run it for a fresh set of down and then some to bring them to first and goal.

At this point in the game, Philadelphia had already accrued 115 rushing yards.

Coach Andrus saw that the running game was working in their favor, so it kept it going. Cookus handed it off to Matt Colburn for his second touchdown of the afternoon. The extra-point gave Philla a 14-0 lead with 5:51 still left to go in the first.

Michigan would get another chance to get on the field, and Paxton Lynch would comeback in for the team. This is clearly not the start that Coach Fisher was hoping for, so they’d look to find their rhythm on this drive.

Lynch was slowing things down this time around, and it was working in their favor. He was getting consistent reception from Lance Lenoir, and between Corbin and Scott the running game was producing meaningful yards.

Lycnh would bring Michigan to the goal line to end out the first quarter.

2nd Quarter

Paxton Lynch finished off the long drive by securing the touchdown himself by sneaking it into the end-zone from the goal line to start the second.

After turning it over quick on their first drive, Michigan spent over 7-minutes on the field during their last drive. It looked as if Philadelphia may run away with this one, but we’re now at a one possession game with a lot of time to go.

Case Cookus and the Philadelphia offense continued to cook on the field. They were moving the ball convincingly and putting them in position to score once again.

Cookus made a solid read to find Rowland from 25-yards out to bring them within 4-yards of further extending their lead. After one failed attempt, the QB found Jordan Suell to make it a two possession game again.

The Michigan offense came on the field looking to continue the momentum they built up on the last drive. Luckily, they were doing just that. Lynch was playing where he left off in the last Panther win before he was injured. Their running and passing game was consistently connecting and moving the chains down the field.

They found themselves in the red-zone again, but were forced to call a timeout to get their strategy in order. In unfortunate news, the broadcast team announced the Reggie Corbin would be out for the rest of the game with an elbow injury.

After a few failed attempts at the end-zone, the Panthers were forced to settle for a field goal.

Philadelphia would take the field with plenty of time to form a solid drive and possibly grab some more points before the half.

When presented with third and long, Cookus found Bug Howard in traffic to keep the drive alive with 3:10 to go in the second. Michigan defense was trying to pick things up, and got lucky off a clear facemask which puts the Stars at third down with 23-yards needed to gain. Matt Colburn came in with a big run, but it wasn’t enough to move the chains.

Michigan would get the ball back with 1:34 remaining in the half, and a chance to chisel away at their opponents lead.

They wasted no time, moving the ball down the field quick. Paxton Lynch ultimately went long to find La’Michael Pettway in the end-zone to secure another score.

Coach Fisher opted to go for two, and they executed with Cameron Scarlett running it down the middle to make it a 21-18 game in Philadelphia’s favor with 1:06 remaining in the second.

Philadelphia started deep in their own territory, so they had a long field ahead of them if they wanted to strike. After a few attempts that could have resulted in a turnover, Coach Andrus decided to run out the clock to head to the half.

3rd Quarter

Although Michigan started out with some mistakes, they’re now within three points of the Stars. They’ll have a chance to strike first, as they’ll receive the kickoff to start the second half.

Unfortunately for Coach Fisher, the momentum did not continue where they left off. The Philadelphia defense came out strong, forced a punt to bring their offense on the field.

Cookus would his first chance with the ball this half and came out hot again. In a scary turn of events, Tre Williams was hurt on the field and received medical attention during a few commercial breaks. They ended up taking off the field on a stretcher, putting his season in question.

The teams came back on the field, and the Stars picked up where they left off. On third and long, Case Cookus moved the chains himself to keep the drive moving.

The Panthers defense was really putting on the pressure now. Philadelphia was able to bring the ball near the 30-yard line, but they could get any further than that.

Coach Andrus opted to bring out the kicking unit in hopes to extend their slim lead. Luis Aguilar came out and knocked it through the upright from 38-yards out to make it a 24-18 game in Philadelphia’s favor.

Michigan’s offense would take the field again, this time with the opportunity to take their first lead.

Channing Stribling showed up big for his team, picking off Paxton Lynch to give the Stars possession and a chance to build on their slim lead.

Coach Andrus was heavily relying on his running core to start out this drive. It was effective in moving down the field and moving the clock down.

When suck on second and 20, Cookus went long to Maurice Alexander and brought them to first and goal at the 9. They couldn’t make it happen on the first try, but Cookus found Devin Gray on his second attempt for the score.

They decided to go for two, to give them some padding over the Panthers. Luckily for them, Matt Colburn was able to get the reception to give Philadelphia a 32-18 lead with 25-seconds left in the third.

Paxton Lynch would take one snap for short yards to close out the third quarter.

4th Quarter

One quarter ago it was a close game, since then Philadelphia has widened the gap. If Michigan wants a change to redeem their season, they’ll need to put it all on the line here.

Things just would not go their way. They put themselves in a position to go for it on fourth down and ultimately failed, giving the Stars a chance to build upon their lead.

Case Cookus wasted no time, on the second play of the drive he went long to Pro Wells in the end-zone for another Stars TD. This would turn out to be the longer pass for Philadelphia this season, clocking in at 51-yards. The extra-point puts them up 39-18.

Michigan was now down by three possessions, so they would need to score now if they wanted a chance. Paxton Lynch came in like the score didn’t phase him, marching the ball down the field quickly. With the team now in the red-zone, they relied on their running core to bring them closer to the end-zone.

Stevie Scott continued to produce meaningful plays, driving it to the goal line. The very next play saw Stevie Scott try to punch it it, but was stuffed. The third attempt had the Paxton Lynch coughing up the ball, giving the Stars the recovery and possession.

Philadelphia went back to their running game. With a three possession lead, they were looking to get as much time off the clock as possible.

Case Cookus ended up finding a gap and found himself running it 79-yards for a Philadelphia touchdown. This ultimately gave him over 100 rushing yards on the afternoon.

Michigan would come back on the field, at this point it was just about pride. It was very unlikely that they could find a path to victory now.

Lynch continued to play well, moving the ball down the field and bringing them in scoring position. Time was running out, but Michigan didn’t seemed concerned with that at this point.

They ended the drive with Lynch finding Cameron Scarlett for a touchdown, and Coach Fisher decided to go for three. Philadelphia’s defense was just too much for them, sacking Lynch and sealing the game.

Coach Fisher wasn’t done tinkering, he sent his offense out for the optional 4th & 12 instead of an onside kick. Lynch couldn’t find his receiver, turning it over on downs and letting the Stars run down the clock.

The Philadelphia Stars are now officially headed to Canton, OH and they’re set to meet their opponents in week 10 as well. The New Jersey Generals have been on a streak since week one, but if there’s any team that’s going to go toe-to-toe in the north, it’s Philadelphia.

Michigan now turns their attention to next year, where they’ll look to build upon what they’ve started with in this inaugural USFL season.

Have you been enjoying the USFL this weekend? What has been your favorite matchup so far? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.