Backup quarterback leads Stallions to comeback playoff win

Published 10:43 am Monday, June 10, 2024

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The Birmingham Stallions are headed to the UFL Championship after rallying to beat the Michigan Panthers by a score of 31-18 in the USFL Conference Championship in Birmingham on Saturday.

Birmingham struggled in the first half – especially on offense – and trailed 18-3 late in the first half. The Stallions managed to cut the lead to 18-12 at halftime – converting on a 42-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining before halftime – but the Birmingham offense continued to struggle as the second half began. Birmingham turned the ball over three times in the first four drives of the second half.

Coming into the weekend, Stallion quarterback Adrian Martinez was the likely frontrunner for the UFL MVP Award but he struggled, completing 10-of-19 passes for 164 yards, one touchdown, an interception and two fumbles. Former Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral replaced Martinez in the third quarter but was promptly intercepted on his first pass of the game.

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The Stallion defense also struggled early on, giving up a touchdown and four field goals on Michigan’s first five drives. The Birmingham defense, however, forced four turnovers, two punts and blocked a field goal on Michigan’s seven drives in the second half.

The third quarter was one to remember for UFL fans as the two teams turned the ball over a combined six times, with Birmingham defender Daniel Isom turning an interception into a 41-yard touchdown return with 2:37 left in the third period to tie the score 18-18.

Corral then got hot for the Birmingham offense, marching the Stallions on back-to-back scoring drives to take control of the game.

Corral hit Amari Rodgers for a 7-yard touchdown pass to give Birmingham its first lead of the game 24-18 as the fourth quarter began. Corral then tossed a short pass to Ricky Person Jr., who dove into the end-zone for a 15-yard score. The PAT extended the Stallion lead to 31-18 with just over four minutes remaining. The Stallion defense sealed the win with an interception from Ike Brown.

Birmingham rolled up 365 yards of offense, while the Stallion defense held the Panthers to 253 yards, forced four turnovers, recorded seven tackles-for-loss and earned five sacks.

Corral completed 9-of-11 passes for 120 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. CJ Marable rushed for 77 yards on eight carries, while Mobile native Marlon Williams caught three passes for 50 yards.

Khahva Tezino led the Stallion defense with seven tackles, while Dondrea Tillman earned five tackles, three tackles-for-loss and two sacks. Damon Lloyd recovered a fumble, while Brown earned two interceptions and Isom earned one pick.

On Sunday, the San Antonio Brahmas knocked off the St. Louis Battlehawks 13-12 to win the XFL Conference Championship, leading to a rematch between Birmingham and San Antonio in the UFL Championship this weekend.

San Antonio handed Birmingham its only loss of the season back on May 25, by a score of 18-9. The two sides will clash in the league championship on June 16 at 4 p.m. in St. Louis, MO in a game that will air live on FOX.