Stallions fall to Gamblers at home
Published 12:49 pm Monday, May 15, 2023
The Birmingham Stallions (3-2) dropped a 27-20 loss to the Houston Gamblers (3-2) at home on Saturday.
The Stallions have now lost two of their last three games after starting out the season 2-0, and fall to third place in the South Division.
Birmingham was penalized 10 times in the loss, while Houston wasn’t penalized a single time, and despite Birmingham outgaining Houston 321-262, the Stallions struggled for much of the day. The penalties – and a lost fumble – doomed a number of Birmingham drives.
While the Stallion defense kept Birmingham in the game early, the Gamblers managed to get on the scoreboard first when Mark Thompson scored on a 3-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter to put the Gamblers up 7-0.
Birmingham cut the lead to 3-0 early in the second period and took its first lead of the game when quarterback Alex McGough threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to CJ Marable with just 20 seconds left in the half. The Stallions would take that 10-7 lead into halftime.
Unfortunately, the Stallions turned the ball over on the opening kickoff of the second half. The Birmingham defense, though, stood strong again and forced a turnover on downs deep in Stallion territory. Kicker Brandon Aubrey booted a 49-yard field goal to extend Birmingham’s lead to 13-7 with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
The Gamblers opened the fourth quarter by retaking the lead on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Terry Wilson to Anthony Ratliff-Williams to put Houston up 14-13. Aubrey missed a field goal on Birmingham’s ensuing drive and things continued to go down hill for the reigning USFL Champs.
First, Houston added to its lead when Thompson capped off an 11-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with just 3:24 left in the game. A two-point try failed but Houston still led 20-13. The Stallions then turned the ball over on downs, deep in their own territory, and Thompson cashed in an 8-yard score just one play later to give Houston a seemingly insurmountable 27-13 lead with 1:41 left.
The Stallions weren’t quite ready to pack it in just yet, though, as McGough threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to La’Michael Pettway with 18 seconds left to cut the lead to 27-20.
In the USFL, teams can opt to attempt a fourth-and-12 at their own 33-yard line rather than attempt an onside kick, but on Birmingham’s attempt, McGough was intercepted to bring the game to an end.
McGough finished the game 24-of-37 passing for 209 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 76 yards on six carries. Marable also added nine carries for 43 yards. Jace Sternberger caught four passes fro 41 yards for the Stallions.
On defense, Elijah Sullivan earned nine tackles and Christian McFarland tallied eight tackles. Birmingham was once again hit with injuries coming into the contest as linebacker Scooby Wright III – the defensive leader – was placed on injured reserve with a leg injury. The Stallions now have four returning starters from last year’s USFL Championship team on injured reserve. Starting defensive back JoJo Tillery, linebacker Rashad Smith and receiver Deon Cain also missed the Houston game with injuries.
For Houston, Thompson rushed for 78 yards and three scores on 16 carries, while Wilson completed 9-of-14 pass attempts for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Birmingham will try to get back on track this weekend on the road against the Michigan Panthers in Detroit, Mich., on May 20. The game will air on FOX at 3 p.m.