St. Louis Battlehawks Roll Past Houston Roughnecks at The Dome

St. Louis Battlehawks Roll Past Houston Roughnecks at The Dome

The Houston Roughnecks and St. Louis Battlehawks faced off at The Dome at America’s Center on Saturday in week six of the UFL season. The Roughnecks come into this game at 1-4 barely clinging onto any hope of sneaking into the USFL conference playoffs. They’re coming off a tough loss to the Stallions in Birmingham that they dropped 32-9. The Battlehawks are entering week six off a dominant win on the road against the DC Defenders that St. Louis won 45-12. Their 4-1 record has them in the conversation for the best team in the league and they’re looking to extend their lead in the XFL conference. Let’s look at what happened in this game.

Game Summary

Our first significant play of the game came after four straight punts to start the contest. The St. Louis Battlehawks appeared to be driving down the field well before an AJ McCarron interception occurred in the endzone on a deep ball. Safety Markel Roby picked the ball off and returned it out to the 18-yard line setting up the Houston offense for a drive of their own. We remained scoreless with time in the first quarter ticking down.

After a scoreless first quarter we finally saw points in the second. After a long 13-play, 75-yard drive that took nearly nine minutes, the Battlehawks got into the endzone. AJ McCarron found wide receiver Hakeem Butler down the sideline for a 17-yard touchdown that put St. Louis up 6-0. The two-point conversion was no good, so the score remained the same with 6:12 left in the half.

The Houston Roughnecks tried to respond with a score of their own after a good defensive stand and were moving the ball well on their two-minute drill. While in Battlehawks’ territory, running back Mark Thompson caught a dump-off pass from quarterback Reid Sinnett and was hit immediately by Battlehawks’ linebacker Mike Rose. The ball popped free, and St. Louis recovered with 50 seconds remaining, giving them one more chance to score before the half.

The Battlehawks did just that and capitalized on their defense’s takeaway to end the half. With the clock expiring, McCarron found wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. on a one-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the endzone. The fade route was an all-or-nothing play for head coach Anthony Becht’s squad with just four seconds left, and it paid off. The two-point conversion was good as well on a screen pass to tight end Jake Sutherland and the score was 14-0 heading into the half. The drive went 62 yards in eight plays and took up every second of the 50 remaining on the clock following the turnover.

We saw two punts to start the third quarter and the score remained 14-0 heading into the fourth. However, the Roughnecks were driving to end the third and scored at the beginning of the final quarter. A huge 18-yard third down catch set up a fourth and two play for the Houston Roughnecks. Running back Mark Thompson made a great move in the backfield and scored from 16 yards out. The two-point attempt was no good and the score was 14-6 with 13:05 left in the game. The drive took 12 plays and went 75 yards in nearly eight minutes. The Houston offense needed a big-time play like this all day and finally got one to cut the deficit to eight.

With 3:06 left in the game, the Battlehawks extended their lead after a terrific fourth down stand by their defense. It only took two minutes, four plays, and 67 yards to score and make it a 22-6 lead. McCarron found Hakeem Butler deep again for another touchdown from 36 yards out. It was a perfectly thrown ball that was followed up by another screen pass on the two-point conversion, this time to running back Jacob Saylors. This drive effectively ended the game and gave the Battlehawks their fifth victory of the season.

With ten seconds remaining in the game, the Battlehawks needed to run out the clock. Punter Sterling Hofrichter drained the rest of the clock and stepped out of bounds for a safety making the final 22-8, officially.

Standout Playmakers

QB AJ McCarron: McCarron played another great game on Saturday for the St. Louis Battlehawks. AJ was 24/37 passing for 255 yards and three touchdowns. He did have one bad interception early but still finished with a QBR of 100.6. He made several terrific throws – two of which resulted in a Hakeem Butler touchdown.

WR Hakeem Butler: Butler had a huge game for the second consecutive week. He followed up last week’s 6-147-2 stat line with 6-134-2 this week. He missed a portion of the game with an injury which he sustained trying to hurdle a Roughneck defender. He did return and score the game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter. He needs serious consideration for UFL Offensive Player of the Year.

WR Steven Mitchell Jr.: In his first action of the season, Mitchell impressed. He had four catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown was huge for St. Louis today given the situation. McCarron gave him a great ball and he held on through contact. If he drops that, we may be talking about a different final with eight less points on the board going into the half.

RB Jacob Saylors: Saylors didn’t have a huge day for St. Louis, but he made a couple nice plays in big moments and didn’t hold the offense back by any means. He had 47 yards on 13 touches which includes five catches. One of which he fought hard for a first down that stopped the clock and saved every second prior to Mitchell’s touchdown.

LB Mike Rose: Rose has been great all year and kept that momentum up today. He had seven tackles and forced that key fumble on Mark Thompson near the end of the first half. The Battlehawk defense has been improving every week and Rose is a big part of that.

DB Kameron Kelly: Kelly had four tackles and a PBU that was nearly an interception. He also made a terrific tackle on Roughnecks’ wide receiver Justin Hall on a fourth down that kept him short of the sticks and got his offense the ball back.

Houston Roughnecks

QB Reid Sinnett: Sinnett didn’t have the best game on Saturday. He finished 19/34 passing for 135 yards and a QBR of 65.2. He missed a few throws and could’ve done more, but it was a fairly efficient game for him. He wasn’t helped by his receivers having multiple drops, either. With week one starter Jarrett Guarantano back from injury, we’ll have to wait to find out who will start next week against San Antonio.

RB Mark Thompson: Thompson scored the Houston Roughnecks lone touchdown and had his highest usage rate of the season. He carried the ball 13 times for 45 yards with that touchdown and added 14 yards on two receptions. Several times Thompson was caught in the backfield and managed to make something out of nothing. As he continues to get healthier, we’re going to see more of that going forward.

WR Justin Hall: Justin Hall played well catching six passes for 59 yards, but his issue today was drops. He had at least two that could’ve resulted in big plays for his team. Hall has had sure hands this season and he’ll continue to produce in the back half of the year, but he needs to make those plays.

S Markel Roby: Roby had a rare AJ McCarron interception along with four tackles today as he added to his team lead in that category. Roby has been one of the more consistent pieces of the Houston secondary this season and played solid again today.

DE Chris Odom: Odom was good against the run and pass today as we’ve come to expect. He finished with five tackles, three of which resulted in a loss, and a sack. We’ve watched Odom make big plays all year and he did again today. However, the secondary wasn’t able to hold up their end of the bargain.

Key Factors

For the Houston Roughnecks, a lot of the same issues continued to pop up. Untimely penalties, drops, and coverage breakdowns. However, their offense was able to run the ball for the first time all year. They finished with 83 yards compared to -5 for St. Louis. Officially, the Battlehawks finished with -5 yards rushing, but that’s only due to Hofrichter’s 37-yard loss for a safety on the final play of the game. Still, the Roughnecks were better on the ground and decent through the air. The offense struggled in critical third and fourth down situations which led to way too many punts and turnovers on downs. The defense played well again but this team has only played complimentary football once this season, their week four win over Arlington.

The defense was stout once again against the run, but the secondary was the issue in this loss. All three touchdowns were through the air and the defensive backs didn’t track the ball well enough on several occasions. Despite an interception, for the most part, McCarron picked apart this defense whether it be man or zone. They have another tough task against the Brahmas’ receivers next week.

The Battlehawks won yet again in front of 32,000+ fans with their fifth straight win. The offense was not as dominant as last week, but they had explosive plays and took shots when needed. The McCarron-Butler connection is the best in the league with another two touchdowns this week. The run game was shut down but that’s what makes this team so dangerous. They’re able to accel by taking whatever the defense gives them. Coach Becht and the Battlehawks trusted the defense at a few crucial points and the offense made the big plays when called upon.

The St. Louis defense continues to creep toward elite status and despite not going against a good offense, they still only allowed one score. With the offense they have supporting them, that’s a win 99% of the time. They’re peaking at the right time because next week they head into Birmingham to face off against quarterback Adrian Martinez and the Stallions.

Final Thoughts

The (5-1) St. Louis Battlehawks play in the biggest game of the UFL season next weekend and one that is more likely than not a championship game preview. They took care of business today and proved they can win in multiple ways. This could’ve been a spot where they looked ahead to next week’s game against a struggling team, but they didn’t. That’s a credit to Becht and his coaching staff.

The (1-5) Houston Roughnecks season is essentially over. Even a four-game winning streak to end the season at .500 likely won’t get them into the playoffs. Head coach CJ Johnson and his team have been unable to put it together and they’ll be looking ahead to 2025 fairly soon. If they want to turn it around, it starts next week against the San Antonio Brahmas at Rice Stadium.

Do you think we’ll see the St. Louis Battlehawks in the UFL Championship? What will the Houston Roughnecks final record look like? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.