Game Preview: Memphis Showboats at St. Louis Battlehawks, Saturday April 20, 2024

  • Memphis Showboats (1-2) at St. Louis Battlehawks (2-1)
  • Saturday, April 20, 2024 at 11:30PM CT (12:30PM ET)
  • The Dome at America’s Center, St. Louis, MO
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: ABC
  • Announcers: Lowell Galindo (Play-by-play), Tom Luginbill (Analyst), Kayla Burton (Field Reporter), Harry Douglas (Field Reporter)
  • Odds: St. Louis -7, O/U 45.5 (DraftKings)

The St. Louis Battlehawks will welcome the USFL Conference Memphis Showboats to The Dome at America’s Center for their first ever matchup.

This is the second interconference matchup of the season for Memphis, the first being a game where the Showboats fell to San Antonio in Week 2. It will be the second USFL Conference foe for St. Louis after losing its opener to Michigan. One team will leave this game with their first win over a team from the opposite conference.

The Showboats are coming off a 33-14 loss in Week 3 at Birmingham, while St. Louis traveled to San Antonio to beat the Brahmas, 31-24.

This will be the second home game for the Battlehawks, the first being an April 6 meeting with the Arlington Renegades, where 40,317 Battlehawks fans produced the largest crowd for a modern professional spring football league game. We anticipate a similar turnout for this matchup.

What do we know?

Memphis is 1-2, coming off a 33-14 loss at Birmingham. The Stallions scored 15 straight second-half points to pull away from the Showboats.

Memphis quarterback Case Cookus is 55-of-93 passing for 537 yards, 3 touchdowns, and one interception. He is also Memphis’ leading rusher. Cookus has rushed for 75 yards on 14 carries this season. His 612 yards of total offense currently ranks No. 6 in the UFL.

With Darius Victor seeing limited action due to an ankle injury last week, Titus Swen stepped into a larger role in the offense. Swen rushed five times for 10 yards last week at Birmingham, but he played a big role in the passing game. The former Wyoming Cowboy caught four passes for 37 yards against the Stallions.

Memphis’s Vinny Papale is one of just four UFL receivers with multiple touchdowns this season. Papale hit paydirt in the season opener at Houston and last week at Birmingham. He has a TD catch in each of the Showboats’ two road games this season.

Tight end Sage Surratt is No. 2 in the UFL among tight ends, with 110 yards receiving on 10 receptions, trailing only San Antonio’s Cody Latimer (156 yds). Surratt caught four balls for 40 yards at Birmingham last week.

The Showboats announced a pair of roster moves Monday. Memphis waived tackle Terry Poole and running back Trey Williams. In a corresponding move, Memphis added running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio and tackle Marcus Tatum. Habibi-Likio played college football at Boise State and Oregon, where he saw action in 43 games with 23 rushing touchdowns. Tatum played two seasons at UCF and was an Honorable Mention All-AAC performer. He transferred to UCF from Tennessee, where he started 11 games.

After dropping its opener, St. Louis has rebounded with a pair of wins over Arlington and San Antonio. Last week, in their first road victory of the season, the Battlehawks earned a 31-24 triumph over the San Antonio Brahmas at the Alamodome. The victory placed the Battlehawks in a three-way tie for the top spot in the XFL Conference with San Antonio and the D.C. Defenders.

The St. Louis defense prevented a comeback by the Brahmas when it forced an incompletion on 4th and 4 with 16 seconds to play. San Antonio had closed to within seven points, thanks to a touchdown with 2:10 left in the game. The Battlehawks, however, had built a 31-18 margin when RB Jacob Saylors scored on a 19-yard rush and converted a two-point conversion with a 5-yard catch.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron produced his third consecutive game with two touchdowns and no interceptions in Week 3, although this time he scored his first touchdown with his legs rather than his arm. McCarron ran 10 yards for his first rushing touchdown of the season and second of his Battlehawks career, giving St. Louis a 6-3 lead on its first possession. The 33-year-old Battlehawks pivot has not thrown an interception in six of his last seven games and currently ranks second in the league with a 66.7 completion percentage (min. 5 pass attempts), going 62-for-93 with 616 passing yards, which ranks third among UFL signal callers.

Battlehawks running back Jacob Saylors rushed seven times for a game-high 62 yards, including a 25-yard rush on the first play of the fourth quarter to set up a 46-yard field goal. Saylors scored the first touchdown of his Battlehawks career when he motored 19 yards into the end zone with 8:33 left in the fourth quarter.

Wide receiver Hakeem Butler found the end zone for the first time in 2023 with a 20-yard touchdown reception with 11:05 to play in the second quarter. Butler had a team-high six catches and 82 receiving yards, which were both season highs for him through three games in 2024.

Wide receiver Darrius Shepherd had a 43-yard kick return and 32-yard punt return and leads the UFL with 551 all-purpose yards, 177 more yards than the next closest player.

The Battlehawks activated wide receiver Jahcour Pearson from injured reserve Monday and placed WR Jeff Thomas on waivers in a corresponding move. Pearson missed the first three weeks of the season with a right knee injury. The 25-year-old was named to the 2023 All-XFL Team after he paced the league with 60 receptions, 670 receiving yards, and 32 catches for first down while playing for the Seattle Sea Dragons. The Battlehawks acquired Pearson with their first pick (2nd overall) in the 2024 UFL Dispersal Draft in January.

Kicker Andre Szmyt made a season-high three field goals Sunday at San Antonio. The 25-year-old kicker ended the first half with a 44-yard field goal that ran St. Louis’ lead to 17-9. He then hit a season-best 54-yarder with 11:29 left in the third quarter before a 46-yard field goal capped his day on the following drive and gave St. Louis a 23-18 advantage. This season, Szmyt is 6-for-7 on field goal attempts.

Linebackers Willie Harvey and Callahan O’Reilly combined for 24 tackles, with 12 each Sunday at San Antonio. The duo tied for the second-most tackles in a single game in franchise history, behind only Terrance Garvin’s 16 tackles in Week 5 of the 2020 season in Washington, D.C. Harvey holds the second position in the league with a team-high 24 tackles this season.

What should we expect?

The Battlehawks are ready to go, and they won’t miss a chance to put on a show for the home crowd. With Jachour Pearson returning, it will be interesting to see how A.J. McCarron spreads out his passes to all the offensive weapons that are available. If the Memphis defense lets McCarron have his way, it will be a long day for the Showboats.

Memphis is not as bad a team as the Birmingham Stallions made them out to be. A strong Stallions squad magnified the Showboats’ problems. Look for the Showboats to enter this matchup with fervor. They have a lot to prove in this game.

In this game, the oddsmakers have given the Battlehawks a 7-point advantage. Maybe it’s a good time to take the Showboats with the spread. Of course, they don’t call it gambling for nothing.

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