UFL 2024 Week 9 roundup: Brahmas throttle Stallions, snap 15-game win streak


by Eric Williams | FOXSports.com

Stallions head coach Skip Holtz knew that his team’s 15-game winning streak dating back to last season would come to an end

Birmingham Stallions head coach Skip Holtz knew that his team’s 15-game winning streak dating back to last season would come to an end at some point — and that's exactly what happened in Week 8.

After falling to the San Antonio Brahmas, 18-9, on Saturday at the Alamodome, the Stallions' setback will give them an opportunity to lick their wounds and regroup with one more game left before the start of the postseason.

"This will be a great challenge for us in the next two weeks to see how we’re going to rebound from a loss," Holtz said. "To see if we can get up, brush ourselves off and go play the game again. This was a tough day for the Stallions, but we’ve got some improvements we’ve got to make for sure. We’ve got to get better."

With the win, the Brahmas (7-2) now lead the XFL Conference and have a chance to host the XFL Championship Game if they can beat the Battlehawks (6-3) in St. Louis on Saturday (10 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) in the final game of the regular season.

The Stallions' loss was both the first of this season and the first in more than a calendar year; Birmingham's last loss was to the Houston Gamblers, 27-20, in the USFL last season on May 13, 2023.

The Stallions (8-1) host the Michigan Panthers (7-2) — comeback winners over the Houston Roughnecks (1-8) in Week 9 — on Saturday at Protective Stadium. The USFL Championship Game between the Stallions and Panthers will be hosted by Birmingham, so Week 10 will be a tune-up for both teams before the conference title game in two weeks.

Birmingham wasn't the only team to suffer a surprising defeat, as the Arlington Renegades (2-7) surged past the St. Louis Battlehawks, 36-22.

Here’s a closer look at some of the other storylines from Week 9.

Defense, run game key in San Antonio’s upset win

Brahmas head coach and longtime NFL defensive guru Wade Phillips credited the play of his defense for his team’s big victory over the Stallions.

Entering Saturday’s contest, Birmingham led the league in scoring and rushing. However, the Brahmas held the Stallions to season lows in points (nine) and rushing yards (78). San Antonio kept MVP favorite Adrian Martinez from wrecking the game, holding Birmingham's star signal-caller to 211 passing yards and 56 yards on the ground.

"I think we have the best defense in the league," Phillips said. "I’m prejudiced that way."

Phillips isn’t wrong. The Brahmas are holding teams to a league-low 15.6 points per game and lead the UFL with 29.0 sacks on the year.

San Antonio defensive back Teez Tabor picked off Martinez near the goal line with 33 seconds left to seal the victory.

The Brahmas finished 4-0 against the USFL teams this season. The XFL Conference now holds a 9-7 edge over the USFL Conference in head-to-head matchups this season.

Brahmas QB Chase Garbers replaced an injured Quinten Dormady (shoulder) after two series. Garbers showed little rust in his first action since a wrist injury on his non-throwing arm sidelined him after Week 3, finishing 16 of 23 for 139 passing yards and no turnovers.

"I played well enough to win," Garbers said, when asked about his performance. "But with everything, you want to clean some things up. There are some throws, some reads that you always want back."

San Antonio lost tight end Cody Latimer to a concussion on the opening drive of the game from a hit to the head by Birmingham safety Kenny Robinson, who received a personal foul penalty for the illegal hit.

Brahmas receiver Jontre Kirklin found Justin Smith for a 36-yard score on a double pass for the first touchdown of the game, a lead they'd never relinquish. San Antonio RB Anthony McFarland finished with 116 scrimmage yards but had to leave the game in the second half, appearing to reaggravate a shoulder injury.

Late-game meltdown leads to loss for Battlehawks

The Renegades received their XFL championship rings on Friday, and that provided a spark for this slumping team.

Late in the opening quarter, cornerback Myles Dorn forced a Blake Jackson fumble after a 5-yard reception. Arlington linebacker Will Clarke recovered the miscue, and the Renegades immediately capitalized on the turnover by executing a flea flicker, with QB Luis Perez connecting with tight end Sal Cannella for a 46-yard score.

That series led to a double-digit victory for the Renegades (2-7). Perez finished with 259 passing yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first UFL quarterback to surpass 2,000 passing yards this season (2,093).

St. Louis would battle back to take a 21-19 lead in the second half. However, QB Manny Wilkins imploded in the fourth quarter with three interceptions, including a 49-yard pick-six by Arlington safety Joe Powell with 1:31 remaining.

Head coach Anthony Becht said he's hopeful that starter AJ McCarron can return next week after missing two games with an ankle injury. However, Becht also wants to make sure the Alabama product is healthy for the postseason.

With St. Louis in the playoffs already, Becht has not decided if McCarron will play in Week 10 against the Brahmas.

"He is prolonging really well," Becht said. "I mean, heck, he wanted to play last week. He wanted to play this week, but we’ve got to be strategic in what we do. He’s a big part of why we’re here. He’s the guy we chose to lead this football team to where we want to be. He came back for a reason, and that’s the playoffs and to win a championship."

Breeland Speaks’ 3.0 sacks help Panthers topple Roughnecks

With the Stallions finally losing, Michigan is now the hottest team in the UFL.

Speaks finished with six combined tackles and 3.0 sacks, as the Panthers clawed back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take a 26-22 victory over the Roughnecks on Sunday.

Speaks now leads the UFL with 8.5 sacks after leading the USFL last season with 9.0. Michigan now has the longest winning streak in the UFL at five games after the Stallions' loss.

Panthers QB Danny Etling (hand) returned from a two-game absence and finished with 110 passing yards and an interception. However, with Etling on a limited snap count, he was replaced by backup Bryce Perkins in the second half. The Virginia product finished 12 of 15 for 121 passing yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

Perkins also ran for 76 yards and two scores. The Panthers have used four quarterbacks this season, and head coach Mike Nolan will have to decide who to start against Birmingham in the final game of the regular season.

Houston receiver Justin Hall finished with 109 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the loss.

Michigan kicker Jake Bates missed for the first time from inside 50 yards, pushing a 39-yard field goal wide right.

Jordan Ta’amu guides Defenders over Showboats

Ta’amu finished with 275 total yards and was responsible for three scores in leading the Defenders to a 36-21 victory over the Showboats (1-8). Ta’amu is second in the UFL in passing yards (1,627) and fourth in passing touchdowns (13).

The Defenders held the Showboats to 237 total yards defensively and forced two turnovers. Memphis lost a league-high eight games in a row. However, Showboats RB Darius Victor finished with a season-high 98 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

The Defenders (4-5) have a chance to get back to the .500 mark when they host the Renegades in Week 10.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him at @eric_d_williams.


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