By RJ Young
FOX Sports activities Author
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Birmingham Stallions quarterback J’Mar Smith hasn’t misplaced a recreation he performed in since November 2019, however that successful streak has not come straightforward. In reality, it has required a measure of heroics from the previous Louisiana Tech signal-caller.
For the second time in as many weeks, Smith did simply that, main the Stallions to a 33-28 win towards the Houston Gamblers on Saturday night time in entrance of their hometown crowd within the Double Down Derby.
USFL Highlights: Birmingham Stallions transfer to 2-0
The Birmingham Stallions beat the Houston Gamblers, 33-28, within the highest-scoring recreation of the season. It additionally included the longest landing of the season when J’Mar Smith related with Marlon Williams for a 65-yard landing.
The Stallions stay unbeaten and atop the standings within the South Division (2-0, 1-0). They are going to be tied with the winner of Sunday’s contest between their division rivals — the New Orleans Breakers and Tampa Bay Bandits.
Within the first half, the Stallions referred to as 18 move performs and got here away with 60 yards for his or her effort. Smith, who hadn’t performed in a recreation since he final led La. Tech to a win towards Miami within the 2019 Independence Bowl, stated he is nonetheless working himself again into kind.
“My fundamentals are out of whack,” Smith stated. “Simply gotta return to work this week.”
He threw for 214 yards, hitting 19 of 29 makes an attempt with two touchdowns and an interception. However 108 of these yards got here on his two TD passes.
Osirus Mitchell caps landing with daring celebration
After catching a landing move from J’Mar Smith, Osirus Mitchell drew a taunting penalty for his celebration.
With the additional level, the Stallions took a 19-18 lead with 13:26 left within the third quarter. After forcing Houston right into a three-and-out, Birmingham walked down the Gamblers within the subsequent sequence.
Behind an offensive line that discovered the Houston entrance seven movable for the primary time all night time, the Stallions went 78 yards on 11 performs — seven of which had been runs — to take a 26-18 lead with a dashing TD by former Coastal Carolina star C.J. Marable with 5:33 left within the third quarter.
Marable ended the night time with 76 yards on 16 rushes to guide the Stallions, who ended up with 169 yards on the bottom after working the ball simply 12 instances within the first half.
“Really,” Stallions coach Skip Holtz stated, “I got here out within the second half and stated we’re gonna begin working the ball. I am gonna attempt to sluggish the sport down.”
The Gamblers reduce the result in 26-21 late within the third quarter, however the Stallions would buck again.
J’Mar Smith connects with Marlon Williams for 65-yard TD
Birmingham Stallions quarterback J’Mar Smith connects with Marlon Williams for a 65-yard landing move down the center of the sector.
Smith hit an enormous move once more, this time discovering a streaking Marlon Williams for a 65-yard landing move to increase Birmingham’s result in 33-21 with 12:55 to play. Williams, who recorded his first catch towards the Gamblers, completed the night time with 89 receiving yards.
Thorson up and down, just like the Gamblers
Gamblers quarterback Clayton Thorson, in the meantime, personified the Gamblers’ streaky struggles. One of many most accomplished quarterbacks in Northwestern historical past, Thorson made each heroic performs and a few he’d wish to take again, ending 13 of 27 for 141 yards, two TDs and three interceptions.
Among the many good: Thorson made one play out of nothing, avoiding a sack, scrambling to his left and discovering wideout Tyler Simmons for a late, 44-yard rating — a play that introduced the Gamblers again to inside 5 and created the highest-scoring recreation in USFL historical past.
Among the many dangerous: He made two throws that felt rushed, compelled and with out management. A kind of was a move that killed a last-gasp drive when it was tipped and intercepted with 1:01 to play.
The defenses got here to play
The primary two touchdowns of the sport got here on explosive defensive performs.
Early within the first quarter, Stallions cornerback Brian Allen picked off Thorson and returned it 48 yards to the top zone.
Birmingham and Houston intercept one another for TDs
The Birmingham Stallions and the Houston Gamblers every notched a pick-six within the first quarter on Saturday night time.
Minutes later, Gamblers defensive again Will Likely picked off Smith and returned it 62 yards for a TD. The nickel again additionally added six tackles and a compelled fumble, and he even returned kicks and punts for the Gamblers.
“Will tells me each week that he desires to play offense,” Gamblers coach Kevin Sumlin stated.
If he retains catching passes like this, he may get his want.
Every protection acquitted itself effectively, answerable for a mixed 12 of the 53 factors scored. They accounted for 5 whole turnovers, too — together with 4 interceptions.
For a second consecutive recreation, Gamblers linebacker Donald Payne had a game-high in tackles with 15, giving him 33 by way of two video games. Former Tulsa standout Manny Bunch notched 12 tackles.
Gates, who joined Smith and Holtz within the postgame media convention, donned aviator shades and a floss choose after the session ended.
A kicker who can hit?
Stallions kicker Brandon Aubrey had by no means performed soccer earlier than April 16, having performed soccer at Notre Dame and later in Main League Soccer.
In simply his second recreation as a specialist for Birmingham, he stopped former standout Pac-12 returner Victor Bolden from working a sit back to the home, placing his head all the way down to make the primary sort out of his life.
Following the primary “actual” soccer play of his profession, Aubrey was requested by FOX Sports activities’ Brock Huard how he made the play.
“I simply form of blacked out and lowered my head,” he stated.
Holtz stated he did not know what he had in Aubrey, and he appreciated it that manner.
“I’ve realized to go away specialists alone,” Holtz stated. “And I’ve realized to not over-coach them. Don’t get of their head. Specialists are distinctive. And I stated this final week, I do not know what now we have proper now. In Brandon, I do not know. However I am watching them kick these discipline targets and watching him kick these additional factors, watching him go down and make a sort out. I feel he is a man I would like to simply proceed to go away alone. That’s my mindset originally. I’m gonna keep again.”
RJ Younger is a nationwide school soccer author and analyst for FOX Sports activities and the host of the podcast “The No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young.” Comply with him on Twitter at @RJ_Young, and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube. He isn’t on a StepMill.
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