Recapping Week 1 in the UFL: USFL sweeps XFL as Panthers win thriller

by 24USATVMarch 31, 2024, midnight 20
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Jake Bates drills a 64-yard field goal to win it for the Panthers on the road vs. the BattleHawks. (0:47)

The United Football League, the result of a merger between the XFL and USFL, kicked off on Saturday, as the UFL opened its 10-week season with two games that pit former XFL teams against former USFL squads.

Saturday started with the champions of each league facing off in Arlington, Texas, with the two-time defending USFL champion Birmingham Stallions prevailing over the defending XFL champion Arlington Renegades. The Michigan Panthers upped the ante in the second game, as Jake Bates hit a 64-yard field goal with three seconds left to topple the St. Louis Battlehawks and make the ex-USFL teams 2-0 against their ex-XFL counterparts.

ESPN will carry Sunday's action, starting with the San Antonio Brahmas hosting the D.C. Defenders at noon ET. Action concludes at 3 p.m. ET in Houston, as the Houston Roughnecks take on the Memphis Showboats.

Michigan kicker Jake Bates nailed a 64-yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Panthers a thrilling, last-minute win over the Battlehawks in a game that saw four lead changes in the final quarter. The Panthers drove 19 yards after St. Louis went ahead on a 5-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Marcell Ateman with 49 seconds left, followed by a extra-point conversion pass from McCarron to Jake Sutherland.

Bates' kick was his first regular-season field goal attempt since high school, as he was a soccer player and kickoff specialist in college. He nailed the kick after St. Louis (0-1) called timeout before his first attempt, which was also good. The Panthers (1-0) also got two rushing touchdowns from quarterback E.J. Perry, who shrugged off two first-half interceptions, and 85 yards rushing from Wes Hills.

McCarron completed 24 of 37 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns for the Battlehawks, with both touchdowns coming in the fourth quarter. Ateman had six receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown while Sutherland added three receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown for St. Louis.

Stallions quarterback Matt Corral, a former Ole Miss star and 2022 third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, threw for 201 yards on 12-of-21 passing and delivered a beautiful 39-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain right before halftime to lead Birmingham to victory in the battle of defending champions.

The Corral-Cain touchdown got the Stallions (1-0) even with the Renegades at 11-11 with three seconds left in the first half. The Stallions carried that momentum over into the second half with short touchdown runs by Ricky Person Jr. and C.J. Marable. Marable led all rushers with 67 yards on the ground to go with his touchdown run for Birmingham, which is now 22-3 over the past two-plus seasons.

Arlington (0-1) got in the end zone first, as Luis Perez hit Isaiah Winstead on a 51-yard touchdown pass with 9:01 left in the second quarter to give the Renegades an 11-3 lead. Perez threw for a game-high 214 yards on 19-of-28 passing but tossed a costly fourth-quarter interception to Birmingham cornerback Mark Gilbert to sabotage a comeback attempt.

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