Rounding out the USFL action this week is the Philadelphia Stars and the Pittsburgh Maulers in a rematch of the Keystone State Battle. Last week, Case Cookus and the Stars solidified their spot in the USLF Playoffs by dominating the Michigan Panthers. Pittsburgh has continued to struggle this season, and with two weeks to go it’s unlikely we’ll see any positive change.
At this point, it all comes down to pride. Coach Andrus is looking forward to Canton, and Coach Wilson is hoping to grab another win before the season caps off next week.
Philadelphia would start the game with the ball, giving Case Cookus a chance to continue where he left off last weekend. Unfortunately, the offense was stalling and had a quick three and outs before before punting it away.
For the first time since being pulled out of the game late in the fourth quarter two weeks ago, Vad Lee is back in for the Maulers. Lee holds the accomplishment of leading Pittsburgh to their lone victory this season. Although they’re out of playoff contention, you know the team will still be looking to pull off an upset.
Lee seemed to have a great start, but it didn’t last long. Channing Stribling ended their drive by picking him off, marking his seventh interception on the season.
.@C_Strib8 with his SEVENTH interception of the season‼️
Philadelphia now were in prime scoring position, giving them a chance to strike first. Cookus came back on the field, but still had issues moving the ball. Coach Andrus ultimately relied on his kicking unit to secure their first points of the night. Luis Aguilar came out and knocked it through the uprights to give them an early 3-0 lead.
Vad Lee came back out for the Maulers, and although they were down, it wasn’t by much and there was a lot of time to go. Early in the drive he found Hunter Thedford for a nice reception to move the chains and continue the drive.
🔥🎯 @_VL2 threaded the needle on this beautiful pass for a first down
The Maulers were marching down the field, but on third down it Lee fumbled the ball and luckily was able to recover. The bad news, they had to settle for a field goal attempt. Ramiz Ahmed, who tied the record last week from 61-yards, came out and secured the 59-yard attempt to tie it up.
A 59-yard field goal is easy work for Ramiz Ahmed 💪
With a little over two-minutes to go in the first quarter it was now a tie game. Cookus started much better this time around. Ending the quarter he connected with Bug Howard to move the chains and give them some substantial yards.
Enjoy this sick @thabugman catch from several different angles 👀
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, the quarter started with a fumble giving the Maulers possession and a chance to take the lead. This time around, Coach Wilson tapped Roland Rivers to come in to handle the ball.
That's Maulers ball! 🔨🔨🔨
Our defense is off to a strong start against the Stars 💪
The experiment didn’t last long. Vad Lee ended up coming back into the game after one play. It came down to third and five, but even after the completion they could find enough yard to keep the drive moving.
With nothing to love, Pittsburgh opted for a fake punt, with Max Duffy connecting with Hunter Thedford to grab the first down.
In a scary turn of events, Lee targeting Thedford again who took a big hit which took us to commercial break.
Thedford would end up staying in the game, and the Maulers continued marching down the field. It looked as if they connected at the goal line, but eh refs ruled it incomplete. They convert on third down, once again bringing out Ramiz Ahmed for the field goal attempt.
Once again the special teams excelled, this time with a fake field goal attempt ending with Ramiz Ahmed passing in the first touchdown of the night. He then stayed on the field and knocked in his own extra-point attempt.
A FAKE FIELD GOAL FOR THE TOUCHDOWN
The @USFLMaulers are pulling out all the tricks tonight. The first TD pass of the night belongs to Kicker @i_m_Ramiz 🔥
Philadelphia now trailed for the first time today, but there was plenty of game left to play. At first Cookus seemed to struggle, but ultimately found his rhythm. Although they were to get passed mid-field, they were stuffed at the 40. Luis Aguilar came out for the team, but went wide-right on the 54-yard field attempt keeping the score 10-3 in Pittsburgh’s favor.
Vad Lee and the Maulers would regain possession with 5:44 left in the first half. On the first play of the drive, Lee ended up giving it away with an interception. The Stars offense would come back on the field and have a chance to even things out before the team headed to the locker rooms.
Cookus was almost picked on his first pass of the drive, but luckily for Philadelphia they would drop the would be allowed to stay on the field. Case Cookus took a big hit though, bringing out KJ Castello. He would get one shot, handing it off to Paul Terry before Cookus came back in the game.
The Pittsburgh defense wasn’t playing around, clobbering Case Cookus again on his first play back in the game. This brought the team to fourth down, ultimately punting it away with under 4-minutes left in the half.
With Pittsburgh’s offense back on the field, the team started working with their running core. Grosheck was able to bring a few few downs to keep the drive going.
At the two-minute warning the Maulers were just shy of mid-field.
Coach Wilson continued to rely on their running team, and it was still working well for the team. But, bad penalties saw the team back 21-yards on third down. Grosheck made up some of the lost yard, but couldn’t grab another first down. They ultimately punted it away to the Stars with just over a minute remaining in the half.
On the first pass, Cookus tossed up a floater only to be intercepted giving Pittsburgh possession again with some time left to execute.
PICKED OFF@TButta_5 comes up with it and the defense continues to shut down the Stars in the first half 🔨🔒
Vad Lee was almost picked off on his first attempt, but they would end up running out the clock heading to the half with a seven point lead over the Stars.
The Maulers would receive the kickoff to start the second half, giving them an opportunity to extend their lead. Vad Lee was back in, but couldn’t get anything moving on offense. The drive was quick and they were ultimately forced to punt it away.
KJ Costello would come out to serve as QB to start the second half for Philadelphia. It looked like it was going to be a quick set of downs, but Philadelphia got lucky with a DPI to keep the drive going. The luck stopped there, Castello failed to get the ball moving forcing another punt.
The Maulers would go back to their running game, only to cough it up on the first play. Luckily, Grosheck was able to recover his own fumble to keep things moving. They couldn’t capitalize on this gift, failing to connect on the next few tries leading them to punt it back.
With Philadelphia’s offense back on the field, Coach Andrus was sticking with his running game. It was working good for the team, with Matt Colburn coming in clutch on a few occasions.
Costello lost the ball on second-down, almost giving up a turnover, but he was able to recover. On the next play, he went long to find Maurice Alexander to bring them to first and goal at the 1.
There were a few good attempts, but none were able to get them into the end-zone. They decided to go for it, and Paul Terry was able to punch it in to grab their first touchdown of the night. The Stars tied it up with the extra-point, and now it was anyone’s game.
Channing Stribling blocked the final passing attempt, forcing the Maulers to bring out the kicking unit. Once again, Coach Wilson went for a fake field goal and they were able to rush it in to move the chains.
It didn’t take much longer for Vad Lee to execute. He ultimately connected with Tre Walker to put the Maulers back in the lead. They couldn’t secure the extra-point, but they were now up 16-10 with 11:56 remaining.
When it looked like it would be a quick drive for Costello, Jordan Suell was able to bring it in to move the chains.
Costello continued to target Suell, and although they connected on third down, it wasn’t enough yards. Costello wanted to go for it on fourth-down, but Coach Andrus decided it was wise to punt it away.
With the Maulers offense back on the field, Coach Wilson was hoping to run as much time off the clock as possible. He was primarily relying on running plays, but it was a solid 18-yard pass that brought them 10-yards from mid-field.
This gave Madre London an opportunity to showcase his skills. He was keeping the team on the field and using up a lot of time.
Pittsburgh was able to get passed mid-field, but the Stars defense forced pressure and a fumble to give them the ball and a chance to event things out or take the lead. It only took one play, with Matt Colburn, taking it long and finding another Stars touchdown. The extra-point gave them a slim 17-16 lead with less then 5-minutes to go.
Just when things were looking on the up and up, Pittsburgh now finds themselves behind. They were still looking to run the clock, in hopes to end the game out with a score. On third and long, the ball was fumbled with Philadelphia recovering and giving them great field position.
Costello went for the touchdown a few times, but couldn’t find his receiver. The Stars ended up bringing out Luis Aguilar, but they were unable to extend their lead after his attempt went wide-right.
The Maulers would now potentially have their last shot to pull out a surprise. Lee would take the ball into his own hands to gran another first down on the first play after the two-minute warning.
Ramiz Ahmed is said to be able to make a 71-yard field goal, so the game was very much in Pittsburgh’s reach. On third down the Maulers drew a roughing call, giving them a fresh set of downs. The hit wasn’t as bad as it looked, but Hardaway went for the big sell to draw the flag. Even after review, Pereira gave them the call keeping the game open for them to win.
They were to draw the clock under a minute, but they had to send out Ramiz Ahmed to go for a long 49-yard field goal attempt. Unfortunately, the attempt was no good. This allowed the Stars to run out the clock and bring home the slim victory.
Heading into the final week of the inaugural USFL season all of the playoff spots are set, and everything will be about pride.
What was your favorite USFL matchup this week? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.