Defenders Fall to Renegades In Season Finale, 32-31

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by  Luke Adams

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 2, 2024) –The D.C. Defenders (4-6, 2-4 XFL) came up just short versus the Arlington Renegades (3-7, 2-4 XFL) on Sunday afternoon at Audi Field, 32-31. The game had an attendance of 13,080.

With the Defenders on defense for the game’s first drive, Arlington went on a ten-play drive that led to a 27-yard field goal made by PK Jonathan Garibay. Trailing 3-0, WR Chris Rowland, who leads the UFL in kickoff return yards, exploded for a 55-yard return. With D.C.’s offense starting at the Renegades’ 33-yard line, the offense would have to settle for a 44-yard field goal by PK Matt McCrane. Later in the quarter, CB Gareon Conley would come up with a timely interception of QB Luis Perez, keeping the game tied at 3-3 after one quarter of play.


Following a turnover on downs by D.C. early in the second, Arlington’s Garibay converted on a 40-yard field goal, putting them up 6-3. Rowland wasn’t finished yet, as he took the ensuing kickoff 84 yards to the house, giving the Defenders their first lead of the game at 9-6. His touchdown is the first kickoff return for a score in the UFL this season. D.C. would follow this up on their next offensive possession with a quick 80-yard scoring drive that took just over three minutes. QB Jordan Ta’amu hit WR Vincynt Smith for a 43-yard touchdown, giving the Defenders their largest lead of the game at 15-6. Arlington responded with a scoring drive of their own, capped off by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Perez to WR Tyler Vaughns. After a two-point conversion, D.C. would lead 15-14 at halftime.


The Defenders stayed hot in the third quarter, as they would go on an eight-play scoring drive to begin the half, capped off with a 1-yard rushing touchdown by RB Cam’Ron Harris. Up 21-14, D.C. would hold Arlington to another field goal on the following possession, as Garibay was good from 36 yards out, trimming it to 21-17 going into the fourth quarter.


Arlington went back in front early in the fourth, as Perez hit Vaughns for a 34-yard touchdown. Following a successful two-point conversion, D.C. trailed 25-21. The Defenders responded with a 5-play, 69-yard scoring drive of their own, finished off with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Ta’amu to WR Brandon Smith. A successful two-point conversion from Ta’amu to TE Alex Ellis put D.C. back in front, 29-25. On the ensuing kickoff, Arlington WR Juwan Manigo gave himself up in his end zone, resulting in a wild safety forced by the Defenders.


Up 31-25, D.C. came up with another big takeaway as FS Montae Nicholson picked off Perez. McCrane would end up missing a 54-yard field goal attempt, keeping their advantage at six. Arlington capitalized on the miss, as they regained the lead thanks to a 7-yard touchdown pass from Perez to WR Deontay Burnett. A successful one-point conversion made the score 32-31, giving D.C. a loss in their season finale.

POSTGAME NOTES 


  • D.C. finished with 263 total yards (225 passing, 38 rushing) and 14 first downs. They won the takeaway battle, 2-0.
  • QB Jordan Ta’amu went 18-for-34 (53%) with 218 yards, 2 TD, and 0 INT, for a passer rating of 126.2. He added two carries for 9 yards.
  • WR Chris Rowland, who leads the UFL in all-purpose yards, finished with 316 all-purpose yards (274 kick return yards, 27 receiving yards, 15 punt return yards) and one kick return touchdown. 
  • WR Vincynt Smith had one reception for 43 yards and a TD. The touchdown was Smith’s first of the season.
  • WR Brandon Smith tallied two receptions for a team-high 51 yards and a TD. He finishes the season with two touchdowns.
  • CB Dareon Conley tallied a team-high 7 total tackles (6 solo, 1 assist), along with one tackle for loss, two pass breakups and an INT. The interception was Conley’s second of the season.
  • FS Montae Nicholson snagged a crucial fourth quarter interception, his second of the season. He added three tackles and one pass breakup.
  • PK Matt McCrane went 1-for-2 (50%) on the day, converting from 44 yards and missing from 54 yards.

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