Philadelphia Stars Take Out Houston Gamblers to Move to 4-3

Philadelphia Stars Take Out Houston Gamblers to Move to 4-3

This has been a wild week for the USFL. We’ve seen the New Jersey Generals and Birmingham Stallions clinch their playoff appearances, and that’s in addition to witnessing the first overtime matchup in USFL history. Looking towards the final game of the weekend, the Houston Gamblers have the opportunity to become the first team to be locked out of the playoffs.

Philadelphia comes into this came off a big win against the Tampa Bay Bandits, and a win could solidify their spot as the solid #2 spot in the north. Bryan Scott is still out nursing an injury, but Case Cookus has been performing solidly for the franchise since he started filling in.

1st Quarter

Case Cookus and the Philadelphia Stars would start out the game receiving the kickoff, putting the offence on the field first. Bug Howard continued to shine for the team, moving the chains for the first time of the game for the Stars.

They’re luck ended there, when a tipped pass was picked off by Donald Payne Jr. who was able to run it back for the early Gamblers touchdown. The extra-point gave them a 7-0 lead with 13:51 left to go in the first quarter.

Case Cookus would come on the field hoping to rebound from the previous play. The Houston defense continued to come on strong, Reggie Northup pushed them back on their first play of their second drive.

The Stars still struggled on offense, ending tings out by punting it away. Unfortunately for Coach Andrus, the punt was off giving the Gamblers great starting position.

Clayton Thorson would come on the field for the first time today, already holding a 7-point lead. Coach Sumlin mainly relied on his ground game, and it came up just a bit shy. On fourth down, they decided to go for it, with Thorson sneaking it in to grab the first down.

Houston continued to move it down the field, finding themselves within 20-yards of another score.

They tried to chisel away at the yards, but came up short. Nick Vogel came in and knocked it through the uprights from 28-yards to extend the Gamblers lead to 10-0.

Maurice Alexander would receive the kickoff right at their own goal line, but was able to bring in 30-yards.

Case Cookus came into this drive moving the ball better than he has so far this game. On second and short he found Devin Grey to move the chains plus some. Then, Mark Colburn came in on the running front to move them again, picking up where he left off last week.

Colburn then was the target on Cookus’ next pass, bringing them withing 20-yards of their first score.

The next few plays came up short. On third and long Cookus felt some heat and almost threw it away. Luis Agular ultimately came in to end the drive with a field goal to put them on the board with 34-seocnds left to go in the fist quarter.

Houston ran ran one play before letting the time run out, bringing the game to the second quarter.

2nd Quarter

Houston was pushed back to start out the second forcing them to give it back to Philadelphia.

The punt was blocked, giving the Stars a great shot to even things out with excellent field position.

Case Cookus just couldn’t find his footing, but the kicking unit came in to add some more points for the Stars.

Houston still had a 10-6 lead, but they’ve seen how a close lead can play out. This season they’ve had four games where they lost in the final 10-seconds.

Isaiah Zuber had a few good receptions, making him another option for Thorson to use today.

With the team now past mid-field they couldn’t find enough yards to continue the drive. They weren’t close enough to go for three, so had to punt it away to Philadelphia with 7:03 left in the half.

Jordan Suell brought the first movement of the drive, but the Stars didn’t wait long to move the chains again. After a 36-yard run from Holland they found themselves 12-yards from the end-zone.

After a couple failed attempts, Matt Colburn secures Philadelphia’s first touchdown of the matchup. The extra-point gives them a 13-10 lead over the Gamblers.

The gamblers had a chance to reclaim the lead to end out the half, but they’d need to step it up on offense. Although, there is something to the argument that they may not want to lead at the half. They’ve done so every game so far and only came out on top once.

Clayton Thorson ended up giving it away, after a tipped pass led to a fumble and recovery for the Stars.

Philadelphia now had a chance to add to their lead with two timeouts and 1:20 remaining in the half. On the second play of the drive, Case Cookus ended up getting intercepted by Donald Payne, giving the Gamblers another chance on the field.

Thorson wet long on his fist play, putting Houston at first and Goal with 38-seconds to go in the second.

Kenji Bahar now in for Houston found Brandon Barnes in the end-zone to give them the lead once more with 32-seconds remaining in the half.

Philadelphia would come on the field with a pair of timeouts, but not much time t execute. Rather than give Houston a chance to pick them off, they kneeled it out, letting allowing them to head to the locker room for adjustments.

3rd Quarter

Houston would start the second half receiving the kickoff, and JoJo Tillery had a nice return. Thorson was still being evaluated for an elbow injury, so Kenji Bahar would come back in for the team.

Philadelphia’s defense came into the half strong, forcing a quick three and outs and a Gamblers punt.

Case Cookus connected on all of his attempts, but couldn’t get 10-yards. They found the same fate as Houston, ultimately giving it back with a punt

Bahar was now back in for Houston, hoping to build upon their slim lead. Teo Redding came up with a huge reception, moving the ball way down the field, continuing the drive and putting them in great scoring position.

Mark Thompson was the next player up to make a big play for the team, finding a hole and moving the chains and bringing them within 20-yards of the end-zone.

Thompson wasn’t done showing off, after a couple plays he came up with a big run for another Gamblers touchdown. The extra-point extended their lead to 24-13 with 6:32 to go in the third.

Philadelphia was falling behind, but there was plenty of time left and they’ve been in this situation before.

Cookus started out with a solid pass to give them a fresh set of downs. From there, they struggled to get enough yards after reception to move the chains again. Coach Andrus decided to have the team go for it on fourth down, and they couldn’t make it happen.

Kenji Bahar and the Houston offense would come back on the field from their own 40.

Mark Thompson ended up coming out on this drive over concerns of an injury, and the Philadelphia defense capitalized. Could we be seeing another Gamblers collapse? the fourth quarter was looming, so we wouldn’t need to wait long to find out.

Houston was still on top, but the Stars were hoping history would repeat itself. At the same time, they were looking to change the trend of trading wins and losses.

Matt Colburn continues to showcase his skills on the field, bringing Philadelphia past mid-field with a fresh set of downs. Cookus faced some pressure on the next play, but had enough time to get the ball out of his hands to save the yards. Coach Andrus ultimately decided to run the time out and head to the final quarter of the game.

4th Quarter

Case Cookus didn’t waste any time to start out the fourth, finding Jordan Suell for another Philadelphia touchdown. It seemed to be some confusion on if the team would go for one or two, but Coach Andrus ended up going for the traditional extra-point. The attempt was good, bringing them within four of surpassing the Gamblers.

Bahar wanted to come into this drive to add some more points and close this game out.

There were moments where it looked as if this was going to be a productive attempt, but the were forced to settle for a field goal.

Nick Vogel would come back int the game to go for the 49-yarder, but couldn’t make it happen this time around keeping the score 24-20 in their favor with 12:23 left in the matchup.

The Stars had another opportunity to retake the lead, and it was Matt Colburn coming in hot again to move the chains to begin the run.

When it looks like things were stalling for Philadelphia, Case Cookus found a gap and ran it long to move the ball near the end-zone.

They felt pressure on third and short, but Darnell Holland found the ball and moved them within five. It was only natural that Cookus would hand it off to Holland again, this time for another Philly touchdown. The extra-point puts them back up over the Gamblers.

Kenji Bahar would come back in the game looking to get back in the lead. Unfortunately, he was picked off on the very first play by Channing Stribling. There were a few flags on the play, so Coach Sumlin would hope that it was in their favor. The touchdown ended up being negated, but Philadelphia would get the ball.

The Stars were hoping to capitalize on the Gamblers mis-step and potentially put the final nail in the coffin today. Coach Andrus opted to rely on his running game in hopes to run down the clock.

Houston would look to hold them to three, and keep it a one possession game. They were coming up big, calling their second time out to stop the clock after stopping them on third down.

It looked like they may have enough room to convert, but the Gamblers defense stopped the run forcing them to send in the kicking unit. Luis Aguilar came out and did his team well, extending their lead to 30-24 with 2:21 remaining in the game.

Kenjia Bahar would come back into the game, potentially for the last time today. They would hope to reverse the curse and win this at the end, rather than take a sixth consecutive loss.

But, luck still was not on their side. On the first play of the drive, the Philadelphia defense forced a fumble, giving them the ball and a chance to wind things down.

Case Cookus now had a chance to run down the clock with Houston using their final timeout. They would go for a few run plays before ultimately running it down and going for another field goal.

Aguilar came in and knocked it in again, this time from 41-yards. The Stars now lead by 9-points with 36-seconds remaining.

Kenji Bahar and the Houston offense would have one last chance to even things out, but it would be a tall order to execute. At the end of the day, they didn’t have enough in the tank to make it happen and lose their sixth consecutive game. The last play of the game saw the Philadelphia Stars add two more to their total off of a safety.

The Houston Gamblers continued to struggle in the second half, once again allowing their opponent to come out on top. The Philadelphia Stars win their second consecutive game for the first time this season to move to 4-3. This win could be enough to secure the second playoff spot in the north. They can clinch their appearance next week with another win and losses from the Panthers and Maulers.

What was your favorite USFL matchup of the weekend? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.

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