Concluding the opening weekend of the XFL, the St. Louis Battlehawks edged the Dallas Renegades 15-9 in a competitive low-scoring affair.
The game took place at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. and was televised live on ESPN.
Defensive slugfest or offensive struggle, either way you put it, this game came down to the fourth quarter, and it was the Battlehawks (1-0) who moved the ball effectively enough to score the final nine points of the game and become the first winning road team of this XFL season.
With the Battlehawks down three in the fourth, quarterback Jordan Ta'amu scurried for a game-changing 37-yard gain on third down to set up his nine-yard touchdown pass to Alonzo Russell for the go-ahead score.
St. Louis wouldn't look back.
With their defense standing strong, Ta'amu made the necessary throws to extend drives and maintain possession long enough to suffocate the Renegades. Special teams was also a factor as kicker Taylor Russolino added three to their lead with a 48-yard field goal in the fourth, and punter Marquette King made the Renegades' field position tough on their final possession. Ta'amu would finish the night completing 20-of-27 passes for 207 yards and ran for 82 yards on 7 rushes. Running back Matt Jones had 85 yards on 21 attempts while Keith Ford bulldozed his way to the first touchdown of the game in the second quarter.
As for the Renegades (0-1), a knee injury to quarterback Landry Jones made him unavailable to start the first game of the year. Backup Philip Nelson got the nod but his limited arm made it tough for head coach Bob Stoops' offense to gain big chunks of yards. Running backs Lance Dunbar and Cameron Artis-Payne had their moments out of the backfield, but the Renegades netted only 267 yards of total offense, was 1 for 10 on third down, and three field goals from kicker Austin MacGinnis were their only scores.
Nelson completed 33-of-42 attempts for 209 yards, but most were short throws in gadget plays that didn't get the necessary blocks downfield to develop effectively. Nelson rarely aired it out long, and when he finally did late in the fourth down six, Battlehawks safety Will Hill picked him off to seal the victory.
New York Guardians 23, Tampa Bay Vipers 3
The New York Guardians (1-0) defense caused three turnovers en route to a dominant 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Vipers (0-1) to start their XFL season on Sunday afternoon.
The game took place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and was televised live on FOX.
By the end, the Vipers led the Guardians in nearly every offensive category including passing yards, rushing yards, offensive plays, first downs, and third-down efficiency, but New York shined in the red zone and caused turnovers that amounted to the most important offensive stat.
Led by a pass rush that hounded Vipers quarterback Aaron Murray, the Guardians' defense wreaked havoc when it mattered most and made up for their own deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball. Defensive ends Cavon Walker and Bunmi Rotimi, nose tackle Joey Mbu, and linebacker Ben Heeney all played a vital role in disrupting the Vipers' offense and that allowed the New York secondary to make plays for head coach Kevin Gilbride's defense.
Safety Andrew Soroh got the defense started with an interception on a deep ball in the first quarter, and cornerback Bryce Jones picked off another toward the end of the first half to prompt Murray's rough day. Jamar Summers returned a fumble for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to seal the game while safety Wesley Sutton recorded two sacks on the Vipers final drive to keep them from the end zone completely.
On the other side of the ball, Guardians QB Matt McGloin led his team to an opening drive touchdown, which came on his own sneak from the one, and early in the second quarter he hit a wide-open Colby Pearson for a 12-yard TD to secure a lead that only required proper game management the rest of the way.
Murray, who ended the game completing 16-of-34 passes for 231 yards and two interceptions, was pulled in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach, but not even the playmaking legs of backup Quinton Flowers could fix their red zone woes. On the heels of a 37-yard pass to Daniel Williams that put the Vipers on the one-yard-line with under two minutes to go, the Guardians' defense stifled several rushing attempts and ended the threat by producing their fourth and fifth sacks of the game on consecutive plays. Befittingly, that final defensive stop by the Guardians was the fourth red zone possession where the Vipers came up empty.