Stallions Come Back, Top Panthers 31-18 to Win USFL Conference Championship Game

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by Andy Seeley

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (June 8, 2024) – The Birmingham Stallions scored 28 unanswered points and shut out the Michigan Panthers in the second half en route to a 31-18 victory in the USFL Conference Championship Game Saturday in front of 10,287 fans at Protective Stadium.


Michigan (7-4) was in control early, scoring on each of its first five possessions. But the Panthers settled for field goals on four of those possessions, building an 18-3 lead late in the second quarter that could have been larger. 


The fourth of those Jake Bates field goals for Michigan was followed by a kickoff that went out of bounds, giving Birmingham possession at the 50-yard line. On the next play, Stallions quarterback Adrian Martinez found tight end Jordan Thomas streaking down the seam for a 50-yard scoring strike to make it 18-9. Birmingham (10-1) added a field goal with 12 seconds remaining in the first half to pull within six, 18-12.


The third quarter featured six turnovers, with each team giving the ball away three times. However, the last of those six turnovers was a momentum-shifting play. Birmingham’s Daniel Isom picked off Michigan quarterback Danny Etling and returned it 48 yards for a score, tying the contest at 18-18.


Matt Corral, who took over in relief of Martinez in the third quarter, tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Amari Rodgers just over a minute into the fourth quarter to put Birmingham in front for the first time, 24-18. That score was set up by Corral’s 43-yard completion to Gary Jennings on the first play of the fourth quarter. 


Michigan was forced to settle for another field goal opportunity on its ensuing possession. But Bates’ 44-yard attempt was blocked by Armani Taylor-Prioleau. Corral then went back to work, passing for 51 yards on a 64-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Corral-to-Ricky Person 15-yard touchdown pass. A 1-point conversion pass from Corral to Thomas accounted for the final score of 31-18.


Birmingham outgained Michigan 365-253. Corral was 9-of-11 for 120 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Martinez finished 10-of-19 for 164 yards, one touchdown and one interception. C.J. Marable led the way for the Stallions on the ground, rushing for 77 yards on eight carries. Kyahva Tezino paced the Stallions’ defense with seven total tackles, while Ike Brown grabbed two interceptions to go along with Isom’s interception for a touchdown.


Etling was 18-of-29 for 182 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions for Michigan. Nate McCrary rushed 11 times for 62 yards for the Panthers. Siaosi Mariner caught four passes for 60 yards, including a 35-yard score on the first possession of the game for Michigan. Noah Dawkins led the Panthers defense with 8 total tackles, all of the solo variety, one sack and a forced fumble.


With the victory, Birmingham advances to the United Football League Championship Game, slated for June 16 at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis. The Stallions will face either the St. Louis Battlehawks or San Antonio Brahmas, who play the XFL Conference Championship Game Sunday in St. Louis.

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