Other | Apr 03, 2024

2024 UFL: Week 1 Recap & Highlights

By Harry Bazley

USATSI 22913999

The merger between the USFL and XFL has come to fruition with the first week of the 2024 UFL season officially in the books.

It all kicked off with a showdown between the reigning champs of the USFL, the Birmingham Stallions, and XFL, the Arlington Renegades. 3 more games followed to round off the first batch of matchups for the new league.

In this series, we’ll be recapping every week of the UFL this year, with highlights, players to watch and game recaps. Be prepared to put all your reservations aside, it’s only Week 1 and we’ve already seen exactly what the UFL has to offer - impressive athletes, close score lines and some of the best trick plays you'll find in any league.

Without further ado, let’s get into it…

Birmingham Stallions 27 - 14 Arlington Renegades

Stallions Head Coach Skip Holtz showcased exactly why his Stallions were so dominant last season - they are a team that rallies on both sides of the ball.

8-points down at the end of the first half and QB Matt Corral put together a two-minute drill that resulted in their most impressive score of the night.

After the break, the defense stepped up and held Arlington to just 3 points for the rest of the game, while Corral & Co. continued to put on the pressure.

Arlington had their moments too - with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Luis Perez to Isaiah Winstead - but a costly interception in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach.

From that point on, it was as simple as bleeding the clock for the back-to-back USFL champs. The Stallions managed to drain over minutes in the fourth quarter following the turnover, with running back CJ Marable leading the way.

Michigan Panthers 18 - 16 St. Louis Battlehawks

The closest matchup of Week 1 may not have had the biggest scoreline, but with three lead changes in the final quarter, it was anything but boring.

All credit to Panthers QB E.J, Perry for shrugging off two-first half picks and producing two rushing touchdowns to drive the comeback. But the real story in this matchup is kicker Jake Bates.

Before this game, Bates had not attempted a regular season field goal since playing in high school. Trailing by one point with eight seconds left in the game, Bates nailed a 64-yard field goal for the win with his first kick as a pro.

Battlehawks quarterback AJ McCarron did his part to secure the victory, with a touchdown pass to Marcell Ateman leaving just 49 seconds on the clock. But when you’re facing a kicker with the range and accuracy for 60+ yard conversions and an offense that can move the ball under pressure, that’s about 40 seconds too long.

San Antonio Brahmas 27 - 12 D.C. Defenders

The Brahmas certainly demonstrated the most confidence of any team in the league this weekend, delving deep into their bag of tricks to secure their first win.

Facing a fourth down midway through the second quarter, San Antonio lined up for a field goal attempt. But D.C. were caught flat-footed as they motioned out and snapped the ball to punter Brad Wing, who threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to center Alex Mollette.

I think I can safely say, we’ve already seen the best trick play of the year after just a few quarters of football.

Brahmas QB Ethan Garbers clearly has a connection with receiver Jontre Kirklin, who may just be the best receiver in this league - logging 8 receptions for 61 yards and a score.

And the defense found their rhythm too, with an 88-yard interception return that took away the Defenders chance to tie and set up Garbers touchdown run to increase the lead to 15.

Memphis Showboats 18 - 12 Houston Roughnecks

Fans at Rice Stadium witnessed a classic defensive clash as the Showboats put up just 228 total yards on offense and the Roughnecks logged a mere 174. But a quick start from Memphis is what sealed the victory.

An end zone trip for RB Christian McFarland and a touchdown pass from Case Cookus to Vinny Papale with a sweet toe-drag, put Memphis 15-0 up midway through the second quarter.

From then on, the defense stepped up to shut down hopes of a Houston comeback - sacking Roughnecks QB Jarrett Guarantano four times and recovering three fumbles, including a muffed punt with 35 seconds on the clock.

Guarantano rushed for Houston’s only touchdown of the night, after being held to just 2 field goals.

It may have been a struggle for the offense, but allowing only 228 yards and 18 points speaks to the defensive talent on the Roughneck roster. One standout player is a former Alabama star and 2017 1st Round Draft Pick for the San Francisco 49ers - Linebacker Reuben Foster - who secured an interception before leaving the game with an injury.

(Header Image Credit: Joseph Buvid - USA TODAY Sports)