Archive for the ‘USFL’ Category

The USFL will be back for its second season in 2023, Fox Sports CEO and Executive Producer Eric Shanks confirmed to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.

All eight teams in the league played their games in Birmingham, Alabama, this season but will play out of two-to-four markets next year, according to Shanks.

The goal is for each team to eventually play out of its home city, Shanks adds.

The number of teams will remain at eight for 2023, though there is a possibility of expansion in the following years.

“We’ve always had an expansion plan that could potentially come into play in Year 3 and beyond,” Shanks said.

Previous spring football leagues, including the Alliance of American Football and two incarnations of the XFL, failed to make it to a second season.

The USFL announced its intention to relaunch in 2021. The league is nearing the finish of its 2022 campaign, its first season since 1986. The Philadelphia Stars are set to take on the Birmingham Stallions in the championship game Sunday, July 3.

The Birmingham Stallions left town for the first time on Saturday night, after playing all 10 regular-season games in the town for which they’re named. And they managed to win their first ever game in Canton, Ohio.

The Stallions beat the New Orleans Breakers, 31-17, in the second of two semifinal contests.

Quarterback J’Mar Smith completed 17 of 27 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown, on seven attempts.

The game was in doubt until the Stallions scored a late touchdown to extend the lead to 14. After scoring the first touchdown of the game, New Orleans led 7-0. The game was tied at 14 in the first half.

For the Breakers, quarterback Kyle Sloter completed 22 of 40 passes for 327 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Tight end Sal Canella caught 12 passes for 154 yards.

The Stallions face the Philadelphia Stars next Sunday, July 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The Philadelphia Stars were the best team in the first iteration of the USFL, winning the league championship in two of the USFL’s three seasons. And now the Stars may win the title in the USFL 2.0 as well.

Philadelphia beat the New Jersey Generals 19-14 today to advance to next week’s USFL championship game.

Although the USFL hasn’t really caught on with football fans, averaging just 715,000 viewers per game on TV and playing in front of largely empty stands in Birmingham, the quality of play has been solid. Today’s game was an exciting, back-and-forth battle that was in doubt until the final minute.

Unlike the regular season, in which every game was played in Birmingham, the playoffs are in Canton, Ohio, which appeared to have a slightly larger crowd than the typical regular-season USFL games.

In next week’s championship game, Philadelphia will play the winner of tonight’s game between the New Orleans Breakers and Birmingham Stallions. Breakers-Stallions kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

The championship game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 3, on Fox.

The new USFL wrapped up its regular season last week and is now heading to the playoffs, so we now have full regular season TV numbers for them. Ben Fischer goes through those at Sports Business Journal, breaking down how the league’s average TV audience of 715,000 (for 36 of its 40 games across Fox, NBC, USA, and FS1; no numbers were available for its four Peacock-only broadcasts) viewers is ahead of the 556,000 the AAF averaged across 20 CBS, TNT and NFL Network telecasts in 2019 before it folded but behind the 1.9 million the XFL averaged across 20 telecasts on ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2 and FS1 in 2020.

It’s interesting that the USFL wound up in the middle of those leagues. Both the XFL and AAF beat it in premiere audience, and the USFL also saw a big Week 1 to Week 2 slide. But the USFL made it through a full regular season, unlike those past two leagues, and its Fox ownership meant it didn’t have the constant financial doom stories that followed the AAF. It’s also notable to see it surpass the AAF considering that the general sports rating environment we’ve seen in many cases lately is “rises from 2020 and 2021, below 2019 and 2018.”

There are some further significant ratings notes in there also. One is that the lowest-rated game of the season was Sunday’s regular-season finale on FS1, which only averaged 181,000 viewers. That’s not great. But it’s notable that there was a more than 3-to-1 edge for games on broadcast TV versus cable games (1 million average viewers for broadcast counting the Fox/NBC simulcast debut’s 3.1 million, 927,000 without that, 305,000 for cable). There’s usually some level of broadcast audience boost versus cable, both because of broadcast networks being in more homes and because of their increased primacy in program guides, but this is a larger split than what we see in most sports.

One possible explanation for that is that the USFL audience might be more casual than diehard. That’s perhaps especially true in a first season, and especially true in a season where teams’ associated cities were just names (with all games played in one location in Birmingham). That likely decreases the incentive for many to really care about a particular team and seek their games out. And that might change in a second season if they stick with the plans to have actual home games for teams then, which could perhaps narrow that broadcast-cable gap.

The really important part for the USFL’s future is how their broadcast partners feel about those ratings. On that front, Fischer spoke to both Fox executive Mike Mulvihill and NBC executive Jon Miller. And both had generally positive things to say, which is particularly notable from Miller considering that his network (unlike Fox) doesn’t have an ownership stake in the league. Here are the key parts of their comments to Fischer:

Mulvihill said “All we wanted to do is demonstrate that spring football can do viewership at the levels of Premier League, NHL regular season, Formula One or MLS. … We want to show we belong in that category, and I think that happened.”

…“The USFL worked for us on a bunch of fronts,” said NBC Sports exec Jon Miller. “Is it a profitable property? All things put together, I would say yes, it was a profitable property for us.”

Miller said NBC was happy with the product, the play quality, the joint production with Fox and the viewership. “It did what we hoped it would do, and we’re excited to begin planning, once this season is over, to talk about 2023.”

Miller does note concerns about the sparse in-person attendance: empty stands do impact the TV presentation. And some of that’s about all regular-season games being held in Birmingham this year and the city names on the franchises just being branding. But the one-location setup was done as a cost-saving move, and was only intended for one year. And Miller said they anticipated low attendance this year, and are working with Fox to address that for next year.

It’s not necessarily that surprising that Fox is fine with how this has played out so far. All their comments have been about being in this for a while, with stated commitments to fund the league for at least three years and a discussed plan of only selling franchises to local groups five to seven years down the road.  That might have evaporated if the league had been a complete ratings disaster, but it wasn’t; it may not have hit the highest possible heights, but as Mulvihill notes, it drew comparable viewership to some other sports, and let Fox and FS1 program new windows with live sports. So it makes sense that they’re carrying on.

But it’s even more notable that NBC looks like they still want to be involved. As they don’t have an ownership stake in the league, their read on the USFL as a TV property is a more objective one. For them to describe it as “profitable” for them is notable. (Of course, unlike Fox, NBC isn’t funding the league, so this doesn’t mean that the overall league was profitable; it means that NBC got more value out of it than they spent on production costs and/or possible rights fees, and we don’t know exactly what their arrangement there was.) And with Miller showing interest in bringing the USFL back to NBC in 2023, that means this property at least currently works for more than just the network that owns it.

Of course, there’s still part of the story to be written here, with the USFL playoffs getting underway in Canton, Ohio this week. The semifinals will air Saturday, with Fox broadcasting the Philadelphia Stars-New Jersey Generals game at 3 p.m. Eastern and NBC carrying the New Orleans Breakers-Birmingham Stallions game at 8 p.m. Eastern. The championship game will take place next Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. We’ll see how the ratings work out for those games, and if that adds to the case for both Fox and NBC to again carry the league in 2023.

With Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ allegation that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wanted him to lose games intentionally for better draft picks, the subject of tanking has gained renewed scrutiny in the NFL. But another professional football league has decided to take a simple step to prevent tanking at the end of its season.

The USFL changed its rules this week so that the team with the worst record will no longer get the first overall pick in the draft. Instead, it will be the winner of Sunday’s game between the two worst teams in the league — the Michigan Panthers and Pittsburgh Maulers — who gets the first pick in the 2023 USFL draft.

USFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Daryl Johnston explained that the rule change was put into place this week to ensure that both the Panthers and Maulers were playing to win.

“We’ve got an unusual situation in our final week of the regular season in the USFL. The 1-8 Michigan Panthers are playing the 1-8 Pittsburgh Maulers. Under normal circumstances, the loser of this game would be awarded the first draft pick in the upcoming draft. But we’re going to change the rules right here, so this weekend whoever wins the game actually gets not only the first pick in the 2023 draft but the first pick in every round of the 2023 draft,” Johnston said. “Making sure there’s no shenanigans going on.”

Of course, no one even knows yet whether there will be a 2023 USFL draft because the USFL may not even stay in business into 2023. So this is as much a marketing ploy to get people to watch the USFL this weekend as it is a real attempt at ensuring competitive integrity.

Still, the NFL should take notes: Incentivizing losing at the end of the season results in a lot of bad football games being played between two teams that are already out of playoff contention. If the NFL instead changed its draft order so that the non-playoff team that won the most games after being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs got the first overall pick, late-season games between losing teams would be a lot more meaningful, and a lot more exciting to watch. The USFL may be on to something.

Kaboom.

That’s the sound of the Tampa Bay Bandits imploding in 17-6 loss to the New Orleans Breakers.

The Bandits played a mistake-filled game, laying the groundwork for a convincing win by the Breakers for the second time this season. The Breakers defeated the Bandits, 34-3, in Week 2.

With the win, New Orleans improved to 6-3 overall, grabbing the last berth into the USFL postseason.

The playoffs two weeks from now in Canton are set. The New Jersey Generals (8-1) will face the Philadelphia Stars (5-3) to determine the North Division champion, while the Birmingham Stallions (8-1) take on the Breakers to decide the South Division. 

Tampa Bay dropped to 4-5 on the season. A 30-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter from Jordan Ta’amu to Rashard Davis saved the Bandits from joining the Pittsburgh Maulers as the only teams held scoreless this season. 

The game was all but over after the first half, as the Breakers dominated on defense. New Orleans finished with four takeaways, three sacks and 14 tackles for loss.

Linebacker Jerod Fernandez led the charge, finishing with eight combined tackles (including two for a loss), a sack and two forced fumbles. 

“It feels great (to be going to Canton),” Fernandez said. “It’s an opportunity to play more games, and an opportunity to go out and try and win a championship. And that’s what we’re going to do.” 

In all, the Bandits were called for 13 penalties for 109 yards, including an unsportsmanlike penalty on Todd Haley when he threw his call sheet on the field after a roughing-the-passer call on New Orleans defensive lineman Kamilo Tongamoa was reversed.

“We just did too many things to beat ourselves in this football game,” Haley said. “That’s really what it comes down to.” 

Backup quarterback Zach Smith provided a spark for New Orleans, replacing an ineffective Kyle Sloter after two unproductive series. 

Smith promptly orchestrated a 14-play, 91-yard drive, capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Sal Canella. However, Taylor Bertolet missed the extra point and the Breakers led 6-0 with 7:27 left in the first half.

New Orleans head coach Larry Fedora replaced Sloter after he threw an interception to Tampa Bay linebacker Anthony Butler on the opening drive and on the next drive, fumbled the ball after getting drilled by defensive end Jeff McCulloch on a four-yard sack. Fortunately, New Orleans offensive lineman Jared Thomas recovered the loose ball.

The Bandits could not take advantage of New Orleans’ mistakes and had trouble with their own head-scratching errors. That included a roughing the punter call on Vinny Papale that extended New Orleans’ first scoring drive and a Rashard Davis fumble after a long catch near midfield. 

That turnover led to another score for the Breakers, a 26-yard field goal by Bertolet, extending the Breakers’ lead to 9-0.

Smith, however, suffered a left shoulder injury on an inside run and had to leave the game, leaving the door open for Sloter.

Ta’amu overthrew running back BJ Emmons in the flat on the ensuing possession. Derrick Jones caught the overthrown pass and almost returned it for a score. A play later, Jordan Ellis ran it in from three yards out, and a Sloter pass to tight end Sal Cannella gave the Breakers a commanding 17-0 lead. 

Just before halftime, Tampa Bay had a promising drive stalled by back-to-back unsportsmanlike calls on offensive tackle Jarron Jones, who had to be restrained from going after one of the coaches on the sideline. 

The Bandits finished with 352 total yards. But they turned the ball over on three consecutive drives, which led to 10 points for the Breakers, who staked out a 17-point lead they would never relinquish.

Breakers looking for clarity at QB

With two dinged-up quarterbacks, New Orleans head coach Larry Fedora will have a decision to make at starting quarterback next week.

Sloter finished 7-for-14 for 48 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked twice. Although Sloter leads the USFL in passing yards, he also has struggled with taking care of the football as he’s thrown a league-high 11 interceptions. 

Sloter suffered a right foot injury in the third quarter and continued to play. He was replaced in the first quarter by Smith, who seemed to give the offense a spark. Fedora said he planned to play Smith in the game, and that after the backup left the game with a left shoulder injury in the second quarter, he was healthy enough to return.

Smith finished 5-of-6 for 51 yards and a touchdown.

“Kyle’s our starter,” Fedora said. “We were going back with him. But Zach’s okay. He’s fine. He could have gone back in the game if we needed him to.”

So, in a meaningless game next week against the Houston Gamblers with the playoffs looming, who’s going to start at quarterback for New Orleans?

“That’s a good question,” Fedora said. “We’ll look at the film, talk about it and see who’s healthy. And who can help us win a game.”

Haley, Bandits shooting for .500

After an up-and-down first season as head coach of the Bandits, Haley said his team still has something to play for next week when they face the Stallions.

“It will feel a lot better to win, beat Birmingham and not have a losing record, than having a losing record,” Haley said. “That will be the message all week.” 

Haley’s Bandits had to deal with some emotion during the game, with former defensive players Reggie Howard Jr. and Christian Sam – they were released last week – now playing for the Breakers. 

And with all the players staying in the same hotel, it led to some awkward moments during the week and some chirping on the field.

“It’s a different deal,” Haley said. “You release a player, and then you’re standing on the elevator with him. It’s different. Then you’re out on the field. But the message all week was we can’t be the one to make a mental/emotional mistake.” 

Case Cookus needed some air after galloping 79 yards for a touchdown.

“In college or professional football that’s by far my farthest run,” Cookus said. 

His meandering run through a tired Michigan Panthers defense with 5:19 left put a stamp on a dominating performance in the Philadelphia Stars’ 46-24 victory on Sunday at Legion Field.

The win clinched a postseason berth and a trip to Canton, Ohio for the Stars, who improved to 5-3 on the year. The loss dropped the Panthers to 1-7 and eliminated them from postseason consideration. 

“Those kinds of moments, it’s why these guys play this game,” Stars head coach Bart Andrus said about his team’s celebration in the locker room after the game. “You have to hold onto those type of memories.” 

Cookus finished 20-for-26 passing for 247 yards and four touchdowns. He also totaled 118 rushing yards and a score. Even better, Cookus did not turn the ball over.

The 46 points by Philadelphia was the most scored in the USFL this season.

How hot was Cookus? Early in the fourth quarter, Cookus shook off a Michigan would-be pass rusher, stepped up in the pocket and hit tight end Pro Wells for a pretty, 51-yard strike between two Panthers for a touchdown. 

In seven games this season, Cookus has completed 65.4% of his passes for 1,028 yards and 10 touchdowns. Cookus also has just three interceptions. The way he’s played of late, Cookus could perhaps lay claim to being the top quarterback in the USFL at this point.

And he’ll get the chance to finish out the season as Philadelphia’s starting quarterback, with the Stars placing former starter Bryan Scott on the season-ending injured reserve with a knee issue. 

“He’s come in and in a professional manner learned what we are doing,” Andrus said about Cookus. “And if you play at this level, you’re going to be able to lead a team.” 

Running back Matt Colburn II also had a big day offensively for the Stars, totaling 97 scrimmage yards and two scores.

For the Panthers, a healthy Paxton Lynch returned to the starting lineup. The University of Memphis product finished 27-for-40 for 251 yards, with two touchdown passes and two interceptions. Lynch also lost a fumble at the goal line.

Another Channing Stribling INT

Stribling got another takeaway in the second half, on an out route intended for Michigan receiver Lance Lenoir Jr.

Stribling said his league-leading sixth interception was set up by film study during the week, as he baited Lynch into thinking the route was open. 

“Watching film, I noticed they like to run a lot of out routes,” Stribling said. “I was telling our players that you’ve got to let them catch a couple and get comfortable. So, I kind of let them catch a couple and get into a rhythm a little bit. And once I see a three-step and open up, I’m already up out of there.” 

Added Andrus: “He has one of the quickest first steps out of a back pedal that I’ve ever seen in football.” 

The Stars finished with two interceptions on the day, and Philadelphia’s offense turned both of those miscues into touchdowns.

Jeff Fisher encouraged by reports on condition of Tre Williams

Early in the third quarter, Michigan Panthers edge rusher Tre Williams lay motionless on the field for several minutes. He had to be taken off the field on a backboard and stretcher, and was transported to the University of Alabama-Birmingham medical center.

Panthers head coach Jeff Fisher said that Williams has movement and he’s encouraged by the reporters he’s heard about his condition.

“Regardless of who you are or where you’ve been — no matter how many years you’ve got or what level — the reality of that when that takes place before your eyes is hard to deal with,” Fisher said. “Nobody wants to see that. But our guys, and the defensive line especially, they were going to take the game in their hands on his behalf. So, we’re praying for Tre and hopefully we continue to hear good news.” 

In other injury news, Michigan safety Kieron Williams suffered a shoulder issue early in the second quarter and had to leave the game, but later returned. Panthers center Sean Pollard suffered a right ankle injury and had to leave the game. He did not return. 

And Michigan running back Reggie Corbin suffered an elbow injury in the first half and did not return. 

At the lectern, Mike Riley sat down between running back Darius Victor and cornerback Dravon Askew-Henry, and admired a blue envelope handed to him by a United States Football League official.

“Would you look at that?” Riley told Victor. 

“That’s our invitation,” Victor said. 

“Our invitation to the playoffs,” Riley said. 

I walked up to the table where the trio was seated to examine it more closely, and Riley held the letter aloft. It was signed by Pro Football Hall of Fame Village President Operations Mike Levy.

The New Jersey Generals are bound for Canton.

“It’s a really fun team to coach,” Riley said. “They compete. I think they’re good teammates to one another. Really proud to be with them. And we are really proud to be the first team to make it to the first year of the USFL playoffs.” 

Despite playing without quarterback De’Andre Johnson for the first time this season, the Generals became the first team to secure a postseason spot in the inaugural USFL season. They did it with their sixth consecutive victory, 20-13, on Saturday against Todd Haley’s Tampa Bay Bandits at Protective Stadium.

New Jersey quarterback Luis Perez played the entire game, completing 19 of 25 pass attempts for 174 yards with a touchdown.  

But it was the defense that shined most for the Generals, creating three turnovers and harrying Bandits quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who completed just 17 of 37 pass attempts for 234 yards, with one TD and three interceptions. 

“[Ta’amu] was efficient,” Haley said. “He made some really big throws for us in critical situations. We just need to start faster.”

The Generals’ victory afforded them three weeks to get healthy ahead of the playoff push, which begins with the semifinals on June 25. It also opened the door for the Birmingham Stallions to clinch the second of four spots with a win Sunday against Pittsburgh.

The Stallions are the only team to defeat the Generals this season. 

In their first scoring drive, the Generals gained at least 10 yards on five of eight plays, including Victor’s 20-yard scoring run straight up the middle of Pepper Johnson’s defense. 

Victor finished with 72 rushing yards on 14 carries and the TD. 

Earlier this season, FOX Sports sideline reporter Brock Huard asked to measure Victor’s thighs. Victor said he consented because he wanted to know how large they were, too. Turns out they’re 30 inches around. 

“He [Huard] was like, ‘If I had a tape measure, would you let me measure them?’ I said, ‘Sure.’  The rest is history.” Victor said. “Thick thighs do save lives.”

He’s eligible

On fourth-and-3 with just 1:32 left in the first quarter, and his team on the New Jersey 48 yard-line, Haley called up an “Ah, damn” screen — where the defense ends the play saying, “Ah, damn.” 

After lining up just off the right tackle and reporting as eligible, offensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi sprinted across the field on a play-action flag route and made a stupendous catch-and-run for 32 yards. 

“Our secret weapon,” Haley joked. 

Kaufusi, a former basketball player at Brigham Young who stands 6-foot-9, looked like he’d been playing receiver most of his career. Bandits kicker Tyler Rausa converted a 34-yard field goal for Tampa’s first points of the ballgame. 

“That was awesome,” Kaufusi said on the TV broadcast immediately following the scoring drive. “We’d been planning it for a few weeks, but finally getting to do it was sweet.” 

But that was perhaps the only time the Generals’ defense was caught out of position in the first half. Chris Dishman’s defense held Tampa to 72 total yards — and just 21 on the ground.

Stealing from a Bandit

Askew-Henry picked off Ta’amu twice in the second quarter. The first came in Tampa territory, and Victor punched it into the end zone three plays later to give the Generals a double-digit lead. 

To make the Bandits’ chance worse, Ta’amu threw his third interception of the game — his last two coming on back-to-back passes — to Generals safety Shalom Luani

Luani has picked off four passes while playing in only five games. He’s tied for the league lead in INTs with Philadelphia Stars cornerback Channing Stribling and Houston Gamblers cornerback Will Likely, and first among safeties. 

Comeback falls short

Despite beginning the game with just seven completions along with those three interceptions on 21 passing attempts, Ta’amu completed a touchdown pass to John Franklin III for a Bandits touchdown that cut the Generals’ lead to 20-13.

After the Bandits’ defense held up, Ta’amu had the ball with five minutes to go and a chance to tie or take the lead. But, on fourth-and-14 from the Generals’ 46-yard line, Haley chose to punt, pinning New Jersey on its own 9-yard line with 4:53 left to play.

The gamble on his defense paid off, and Haley’s offense returned to the field with 1:54 left and two timeouts in what would have to be an 83-yard march. 

Wideout Vinny Papale gave the Bandits life when he snagged a 15-yard catch on third-and-11 to move the sticks. Going fast, Ta’amu then found tight end Cheyenne O’Grady for 26 yards for another big gain. A pass interference call on the next play moved the Bandits to the Generals’ 29.

Tampa moved to the New Jersey 16 when De’Quan Hampton caught a pass on a crossing route. With the game on the line and 35 seconds left on fourth-and-7, corner Askew-Henry batted away what could’ve been a TD pass to Papale to seal the victory. 

“I put myself in uncomfortable situations in practice,” Askew-Henry said, “so when game time comes, it’s pretty much easy.” 

Or so he made it look in the most important game of the Generals’ season — yet. 

Week 6 of the USFL season came to a close Sunday with a thrilling matchup between the Houston Gamblers and the New Jersey Generals, with N.J. grabbing victory at the end.

Here are the top plays from Sunday’s game.

Houston Gamblers vs. New Jersey Generals

It didn’t take long for Houston to get started.

Just one minute and three plays into the game, the Gamblers’ Clayton Thorson connected with Teo Redding on a 48-yard touchdown reception to take a quick 7-0 lead.

But just a few minutes later, De’Andre Johnson drove the Generals 50 yards, resulting in a 19-yard touchdown pass to KaVontae Turpin, tying the game at seven. 

After the first, the game remained tied at seven. 

To start the second quarter, Thorson tossed a ball far down the right side of the field but was picked off by New Jersey’s De’Vante Bausby.

The Generals couldn’t capitalize on offense however and were forced to punt, pinning Houston deep in its own territory to start its next drive. 

The Generals then got the ball back on Houston’s 49-yard line and took advantage of good field position. 

New Jersey’s backup quarterback Luis Perez connected with Turpin on a 32-yard touchdown reception, extending the Generals’ lead to 14-7.

But the first-half scoring wasn’t over. 

At the end of the second quarter, Houston marched down the field, using an eight-play, 53-yard drive to score right before halftime, after Thorson completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Mark Thompson

Then, Chris Odom forced a fumble on Perez, and Tomasi Laulile recovered for Houston.

Houston, with great field position after the turnover, scored two plays later via another touchdown reception for Thompson from Thorson.

The Gamblers went into halftime leading 19-14. 

The second half kept up with the chaos. 

A 14-play, 59-yard drive ended with a field goal attempt for New Jersey, which was blocked by Houston’s Odom, recovered, and returned by Donald Payne, then fumbled and recovered by New Jersey’s Woody Brandom, thus giving New Jersey the ball right back, all within the same sequence.

New Jersey took advantage of its extra possession with a three-yard touchdown run by Trey Williams to start the fourth quarter. 

New Jersey took the lead at 20-19. 

After the New Jersey touchdown, Houston took possession and went on a long, well-sustained drive, only for Vogel to miss another field goal which would have given Houston a two-point lead. 

Odom and Laulile stayed busy around the quarterback, forcing another fumble on New Jersey’s Perez. 

This time, Laulile returned the fumble to the end zone, putting Houston back up 25-20 late in the fourth quarter. 

The last drive of the game featured New Jersey capping off a 14-play 79-yard drive that ate up 5:46. 

Perez then made up for his most recent turnover and won the game for the Generals with a one-yard quarterback sneak to close the show.

Houston suffered yet another devastating loss, falling to 1-5 on the season, while New Jersey improved to 5-1 with the 26-25 win. 

A week after earning their first USFL victory of the season, the Pittsburgh Maulers couldn’t maintain that winning momentum Sunday in a 26-16 loss to New Orleans Breakers at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala.

Vad Lee completed 17 of 34 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown, as well as two interceptions for the Maulers (1-5). He also ran for a score.

New Orleans (4-2) opened up a 10-0 halftime lead after Anthony Jones ran for a 1-yard TD, and Taylor Bertolet kicked a 22-yard field goal.

In the third quarter, Ramiz Ahmed booted a 37-yard field goal for the Maulers to make it 10-3, but the Breakers answered when Jordan Ellis scored on a 5-yard run with 1:35 left in the quarter.

The Maulers made it 23-9 early in the fourth quarter when Lee found Bailey Gaither on a 22-yard touchdown pass to cap a six-play, 45-yard drive.

The Maulers then marched 58 yards in 10 plays on their next drive, punctuated by Lee’s 4-yard scoring scamper to make it 23-16.

A New Orleans field goal made it 26-16, and the Maulers were unable to score on their final possession before time ran out.

The Maulers will return to action May 29 against the Birmingham Stallions (6-0).