Game Preview: D.C. Defenders at Memphis Showboats, Sunday 26 May, 2024

  • D.C. Defenders (3-5) at Memphis Showboats (1-7)
  • Sunday May 26, 2024 1:30 PM CT (2:30 PM ET)
  • Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, Memphis, TN
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: FOX (Check local listings) (Streaming)
  • Announcers: Kevin Kugler (Play-by-play), Robert Smith (Analyst), Devin Gardner (Sideline Analyst)
  • Odds: D.C. -5, O/U 45.5 (DraftKings)

For the first time ever, the Memphis Showboats and D.C. Defenders square off in a game that means nothing to either team because they are both out of playoff contention.

Both teams have lost plenty of games lately. The Defenders have lost four of their last five games, while Memphis has suffered seven consecutive losses. For each of these teams, a win today would help them begin a season-ending winning streak. For Memphis, a win in this game would also give them a win at home in front of their faithful fans.

For this game, the Showboats will honor educators, healthcare professionals, first responders, and veterans with a “Hats Off to Heroes” theme and will donate $5 from every ticket sold to the aforementioned groups.

What do we know?

In their Week 8 game, the Memphis Showboats lost 24-18 to the Michigan Panthers in Detroit at Ford Field. Josh Love, a former Michigan Panther, almost led the Showboats to a comeback victory against his former team when he saw his first action of the season, entering the game with 13:42 left in the third quarter after starting quarterback Case Cookus left with an injury. Five plays and 34 yards later, Love found Daewood Davis for a 14-yard touchdown to pull the Showboats within three points, 18-15.

Following a missed Panther field goal, Memphis took over at its own 41-yard line with 5:28 left in the third period. Before the drive stalled, Love was 6-of-9 for 35 yards, leading the Showboats all the way to the Michigan 19-yard line. With 11:55 left in the game, Matt Coghlin knocked through a 37-yard field goal to tie the contest at 18-18. But that was as close as the Showboats got to victory.

Cookus was 10-of-16 for 179 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Love finished 9-of-12 for 56 yards and 1 touchdown in relief. Davis recorded 86 yards and two scores on his three receptions. Darius Victory led the way for the Showboats on the ground, with 33 yards on 11 carries. Lamont McPhatter paced the Showboats defense with 10 total tackles.

Memphis quarterbacks have struggled with injuries in the 2024 UFL season. Case Cookus left the Week 4 game at St. Louis with a shoulder injury, leading to Troy Williams’ first start in Week 5. Cookus returned to the lineup in Week 6. Williams started in Week 7 but suffered a rib and hand injury. Josh Love relieved Cookus after he sustained rib injuries during the contest in Week 8.

For this week’s game, the Showboats have released a depth chart showing they plan to start quarterback #11 Troy Williams with #15 Josh Love as a backup.

On the ground, Memphis’s Darius Victor is the No. 9 rusher in the UFL. He has tallied 239 yards on 82 carries with 1 touchdown this season. This season, Victor is averaging 29.9 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry. Titus Swen has 21 carries for 63 yards this season. But he has seen a large role on special teams. Swen has taken over as the Showboats’ top kick returner, averaging 26.2 yards per return with a long of 38.

Vinny Papale has four touchdown receptions this season. Memphis’ first four road games saw him score a touchdown, but Michigan kept him out of the end zone last week. Tight end Sage Surratt is averaging 10.2 yards per reception, with 23 catches for 235 yards and 2 TDs.

Defensive tackle John Atkins Sr. is the anchor for the Showboats’ defensive line. With 17 total tackles, Atkins leads all Memphis defensive linemen. He has also recovered from a fumble this season. Maximillian Roberts has been the Showboats’ most effective pass rusher from his outside linebacker spot. Roberts holds the team lead with four sacks, tallying Memphis’ lone sack against Michigan last week. In the secondary, Lamont McPhatter has quietly become one of the Showboats’ top defenders. He ranks No. 2 on the team with 37 total tackles in six games. His average of 6.2 tackles per game leads the team. He also had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Memphis is No. 6 in the United Football League in scoring offense, while D.C. is No. 7. On defense, the Showboats rank No. 8 in points allowed, while D.C. is No. 7.

Last week, the D.C. Defenders fell to the St. Louis Battlehawks 26-21, which unfortunately knocked the Defenders out of playoff contention.

Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu went 23-of-40 (57%) with 196 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs, for a passer rating of 105.2. He added five carries for 30 yards on the ground. Ta’amu is a force to be reckoned with, as he currently ranks No. 3 in the league in passing, No. 3 in total offense (193.3 ypg), but No. 13 in rushing.

D.C.’s offense outgained St. Louis in both total yards (298-235) and passing yards (209-94). Running back Darius Hagans led the team in both carries (8) and rushing yards (37), and wide receiver Ty Scott had a team-high six receptions for 69 yards, along with a touchdown.

D.C.’s defense had four sacks: DT T.J. Barnes, DE Malik Fisher, and SS Isaiah Johnson each had one. DE Andre Mintze and SS Santos Ramirez both had a half-sack. ILB Anthony Hines III had a team-high 7 tackles (3 solo, 4 assists), which was tied for the game-high.

What should we expect?

Ta’amu has been a consistent quarterback for the Defenders, and he will get things done in this game. Meanwhile, the Showboats have come into each week with a different situation at quarterback, and this game is no different with them going back to Troy Williams as a starter.

The Defenders came into the season with high expectations, but after last week’s 27-12 loss to the San Antonio Brahmas, they were eliminated from playoff contention. The only thing they can now look forward to is winning the last two games of the season and salvaging it with a 5-5 record. Hopefully they do not think winning this game against the Showboats is a given, as the Memphis squad is not ready to give in easily. They are eager for a win and probably hungrier than the Defenders.

The Defenders have a 5-point cushion, according to oddsmakers. If you are a true gambler, you might take the Showboats and the spread. However, you might be smarter to bet your money on the Defenders taking this game, or better yet, save your money and avoid this matchup.

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